Time's '50 best video games of all time' list has broken me


Are you mom enough to rank games?

Time Magazine is a tabloid, clickbait before internet teens learned to sling the word at anything that didn't mesh with their ideology, but because it has a veneer of respectability owed to its near 100-year run, it continues to make bolder and bolder claims about the world to try and stir its decreasing magazine circulation. I can't speak to 100 years of Time, but the last decade plus has been a mess.

Sometimes it leads to fun, like an ill-advised cover featuring a goofy virtual reality founder the internet can photoshop into oblivion.

Most of the time it just pisses people off. In 2013 Time led with, The Me Me Me Generation: Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents. Why they'll save us all., which more thoughtful minds took to task. The Atlantic Wire's Elspeth Reeve found a carbon-copy 1976 New York article called "The 'Me' Decade." Hell, Time itself already shat on Generation X (of which the Me Me Me Time writer is a member) with 1990s twentysomething, writing:

They have trouble making decisions. They would rather hike in the Himalayas than climb a corporate ladder… They crave entertainment, but their attention span is as short as one zap of a TV dial… They postpone marriage because they dread divorce.

Double hell, in 2007 Time's cover story was "It's all about me" about "China's twentysomethings." It's just decades of lazily scaring the olds with the rehashed campfire tales of the depravity of the youngs. "Millennial" just rolls off the tongue better than "twentysomethings," which is why Time continues to beat the drum with hard-hitting articles like last week's, It’s the Millennials’ Fault You Can’t Take a Vacation. Time isn't alone, mind. It's its own genre. See:

Uhm, how about because everyone under 35 is scared and poor as moneyed interests fuck over regular-ass people? Here's Martin Jacques at The Guardian offering a much more thoughtful answer to the question than, "young people are inherently worse."  

In the period 1948-1972, every section of the American population experienced very similar and sizable increases in their standard of living; between 1972-2013, the bottom 10% experienced falling real income while the top 10% did far better than everyone else. In the US, the median real income for full-time male workers is now lower than it was four decades ago: the income of the bottom 90% of the population has stagnated for over 30 years.

Over 30 years, you say? Hmm, when is the most-agreed upon "millenial" cutoff? 1981? Why, that's [pulling out comically large calculator] over 30 years ago, by gum!

Meanwhile, Time:

Time won't stop. This is what Time is. Here's a slideshow with 10 reasons why the '00s are "the worst decade ever." Ever! Number five is, "Tsunami, December 2004." Please cop this beautiful wording:

Amid the U.S.'s debacles, Mother Nature decided to shrug, and an earthquake off Sumatra sent enormous waves all across the Indian Ocean. Perhaps 200,000 people were killed in a matter of hours.

Perhaps! Perhapsies!

Remember when a Time cover insisted you owed $42,998.12 to the United States' national debt? LA Times remembers: Time's debt scare cover story is a journalistic — and economic — train wreck. The Washington Post remembers: Time magazine’s national debt cover story isn’t just misleading. It’s most likely ineffective too., and A guide to one of the most sensational claims Time magazine has ever made.



I admit this was a long wind up, even for me, and the Palmer Luckey/Oculus VR cover story probably wasn't enough to tip the preceding ratio of "video game related" to "ah hell, loony 'ol Hansen's on one again, innit?" in my favor and that's fine.

But honestly, this is how thrown I was by Time's The 50 Best Video Games of All Time (all time, hahaha!) list.

Lists are already kind of stupid, but they can make sense in a localized context. 10 cheapest beers relative to alcohol percentage I can buy in this particular liquor store right now, for example. That's a good, useful list. Sometimes it's a fair framing device for disparate, abstract ideas, like, The best ideas for the Call of Duty: Ghosts sequel. Sometimes they can take the piss out of online publishing, like, Great alternative hamburger toppings that wouldn't go so well in a first-person shooter. Sometimes they aren't really lists at all and that's never addressed, haha, fooled you into reading! (22 (probably) games that are way harder than Dark Souls). None of us are free from sin and sometimes arguing why Final Fantasy XII kicks Final Fantasy VII's dumb ass is fun, if pointless.

Lists get especially grating and content mill-y when their scope expands too far. Or when list as format overrides content. I'd read a "The 100 Greatest Films of All Time" book with short essays by great film writers or filmmakers. At that point it's less about a list and more about reading a collection of good writing about good movies. But Time gives each game a paragraph of flavor text, treading much closer to the diminutive "listicle" that serves nothing, aside from "content."

Here is Time's innocuous intro to the subject:

For some, it’s hard to imagine a world without video games—the chup-chup-boop of an arcade legend like Space Invaders or the growling "Finish Him!" in Mortal Kombat can be as evocative as a Michael Jackson or Beatles tune.

I've never seen Space Invaders' onomatopoeic representation typed as chup-chup-boop and already I am inconsolable. 

A "7 favorite films" chain letter was circulating Twitter earlier this month and Andy Levy nailed the quasi-performative format people default to when quickly reducing such scope into digestible form. I think it has a lot to do with recency bias ("what are some recent things I really like?") and then a sudden fear of, "Oh, man, I look like an uncultured ass! What are some canonically Good Things!?" followed by, "Uh, crap, this is the default create-a-character Good List, I look like a tool!" and so on and so forth.

Of course a "50 Greatest Games" list by a mainstream publication, then, will look like a stuffy, established literary canon (Tetris, #1!) pockmarked by the modern (Dota 2 #49, Angry Birds #48), with no real internal logic driving the thing. Greatest on its own merits (GoldenEye 007 is #22, Perfect Dark doesn't rank, Halo: Combat Evolved is #25)? Greatest for its cultural significance and progeny? This list isn't too concerned. Here's a paragraph on each, slightly longer than a Netflix plot synopsis.

Tetris is #1, but Pong is #40. Castlevania (#39) rates, but Symphony of the Night doesn't. No Metroid game makes it. The Legend of Zelda is #7, but Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64 are numbers 3 and 2, which really just feels like pandering to those dang Me Me Me millenials.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is the 18th greatest video game of all Time.


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Steven Hansen
Steven HansenContributor   gamer profile

Steven watches anime & sports, buys meat out of trucks, dates a Muppet, and is only good at cooking. He stands before you bereft of solace and well on the road to perdition. ('^ω^) more + disclosures



Filed under... #Destructoid Originals #Listmania! #Top Stories



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