Simply the Best

Truth be told, I love best-of lists. They are irresistible if stupid, like supermodels or Seth Rogen movies. Best-of lists are like Lite FM stations, embarrassing to be caught listening to but so achingly easy to sing along with. There is nothing, I dare say nothing, that can’t be made into a fun and entertaining best-of list, and I intend to put that to the test.

As a primer for creating a good best of list, I present the best numbers between 0 and 10. Enjoy!

#10 — The Number 9 — Classically known as the number of circles populating Signore Alighieri’s mythic hell, 9 suffered a recent and largely unrecognized demotion when the anti-9 movement conspired with the IAU to strip poor, mistreated Pluto of planethood. But let’s face it, there’s just something tedious and dull about 9 . Really it's just an upside down 6, and as we'll soon see there's nothing that great about 6 either. It just seems old and at the precipice of something new and better, as anyone who has ever watched the odometer switch over to 100k knows.

Best-of lists are roundly criticized and recreationally dismissed as subjectivist tripe. Cynically speaking they are automatically assumed to be full of artificial controversy couched in the pointless dissertation of usually faulty knowledge.

In fact, they are essential platforms of discussion, a point from which deep and meaningful arguments can be launched in a form that is nutritional and easy to digest — like trail mix.

#9 — The Number 6 — 6 gets low placement largely for being achingly boring. It is the numerical equivalent to a rest-stop where the vending machines are stocked with confections from the late seventies of questionable freshness. 6-packs and Tricia Helfer are basically all the number has going for it, but up against the taboo of the number of the beast, even beer and attractive Canadians can’t overcome that stigma.

Are best-of lists about the competition or the controversy? A little of both, I suppose. Certainly there’s value in being able to announce that Blogger X recognized your achievement for creating the third Hottest Character Dressed as a Badger or named you as among the Top Ten Developers With Fuzzy Goatees. That’s the sort of thing that automatically makes the family Christmas newsletter.

Being controversial, though. That’s where the big money is at.

#8 — The Number 3 — Eat it, 3 fanbois. While loved by “the masses” and prepubescent boys dreaming of a ménage a trois with the prom queen and that girl with the tattoos working the 7-12 shift at the convenience store, anyone in the know understands that 3 is waaaay overrated. Two words — Third Reich. I win.

That’s not to say that best-of lists don’t have their problems, not the least of which being specificity. It can be painfully difficult to tell what exactly best means even with comprehensive consideration of all values and some kind of empirical methodology, which I think we can all agree never happens on the internet. Best is one of those terms that doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone, and even if it did we still wouldn’t be able to agree on its implementation.

#7 — The Number 8 — What has 8 done for you lately? Let me save you some time … nothing. 8 just kind of sits there, all curvy and vuluptuous but with little practical use. Though let’s be honest, 8 could really use a little Jenny Craig if ya know what I mean -- am I right? You know what 8, call me when you’re an R and then we’ll talk.

Considering that “best” fails so utterly to actually describe anything in a practical or accurate sense, one could use highly dubious logic to conclude that all methodologies in a format that requires infinite data for accuracy are equally flawed. Ergo, a best-of list regardless of effort involved is, by the nature of its inescapable shortcomings, automatically as good as every other such list. Who wouldn’t then want to write something that is equally as good as everything that has come before?

#6 & 5 — TIE: The Numbers 4 and 5 — 5 fingers. 4 leaf clovers. 5 days of the work week. 4 horsemen of the apocalypse. 5 by 5. 4 on the floor. A perfect fifth. 4 basic elements of nature. The Pentium, Pentagon and Pentagram. 4-letter words, 4 seasons and 4-wheel drive. An odd and unexpected yin and yang.

But what is the real purpose of these efforts? Is it truly to create an accurate representation of rank, or to create controversy? For example, many would simply assume that the numbers between 0 and 10 would be best ranked in their existing order. This is, of course, unimaginative and stupid. After all, aren’t there wonderful and completely artificial arguments to be made to the contrary?

#4 — The Number 1 — Perhaps the most controversial ranking on our list, 1 started out as the defacto winner but slowly slipped down the list. True, 1 is often used to refer to the highest possible rank achievable, but as anyone who has ever taken a marketing survey can attest, it can also describe the worst. As scores go, a 1 rarely wins, and let us not forget that 1 is the loneliest number.

The best best-of lists always have a surprise entry. It is often the surprise entry that goes on to define the list sometimes becoming traffic-rich headlines on aggregate news sites that replace actual information with a rough facsimilie thereof. Local Man Names Portal Difficult -- Internet Enraged! These entries seemingly run completely counter to the idea at hand. The easy game that gets listed among the most difficult. The homely scientist counted among People’s Most Beautiful. Glen Campbell showing up in Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Rock Songs.

#3 — The Number 3.14 — In a list of the best numbers between 0 and 10 it’s important to realize the 0 and 10 aren’t included. Pi may not be an integer, but it should be. Actually that would have made calculating the circumference of a circle in fifth grade a lot easier, but I digress. Few numbers carry the same pure mathematical value as 3.14, opening entire worlds of geometry. Even in its aching and infinite irrationality, no list would be complete without a slice of pi.

Ultimately the most difficult task in the list is to maintain a narrative arc and a sense of tension. Best of lists aren’t really about giving out kudos. They are about the story of the thing you are describing. And, at no point is this more palpable than when you reach the penultimate position, the silver place prize that no one remembers. There are countless methodologies to determining second place, but I’ve always felt this is the place for the fan favorite. After all, popularity automatically disqualifies an entrant from victory in any self-respecting list, because no one likes to see the obvious at number one.

#2 — The Number 7 — Lucky as this number may be, it’s not quite lucky enough to take the pole position in our ranking. I can hear the cry from the message boards even now, the claims of an even number bias, the accusations of anti-7 mentality, even the disparaging comments about my heritage. You know what this is, though? This is objectivity, something sorely lacking in increasingly amateurish number-punditry. This is about being a good journalist. 7 is simply second best.

Best. It’s such an easy word to use, and ultimately so meaningless. It is sanctimonious and arrogant, an active dismissal of counter opinion and a gauntlet thrown down before the world. “Mine is the one true opinion,” best says, “the unequivocal mandate by which all shall be led.”

Best demands a response. It dares questions. The losers tell the story of best, and all the previous entries are just the justifications to prove authority to hand out grand gestures. In truth, you can tell the mark of a great man when he tells you what is good and what is not.

#1 — The Number 2 — Union, love, the destruction of isolation, these are just a few of the ways to think about the number 2. Mathematically, philosophically, socially and culturally 2 is a symbol for all that is good. Just ask anyone who is alone how awesome 2 would be.

Some might call this exercise folly, dare I even say satirical. Please don’t misinterpret its sincerity; I do truly love digesting total subjectivity in list form. It’s like drinking concentrated orange juice straight out of the frozen container, except instead of orange juice it is liquid awesome laced with heroin. I’m sure after reading this list you agree.

Comments

This list is completely useless without the inclusion of the number 11.

Good job Godwin-ing the thread before it even gets started. Move along, nothing to see here...

While I enjoy talking about "Top 5 games" or "Top 5 records" with my friends and so on, I can't say I've ever seen a great conversation full of meaningful arguments evolve from a "Best of" list posted on the internet. Can someone point me to one?

This is the best article ever. I'm serious.

At least, it would be if I didn't accidentally double post.

Ahh yeah I have been working too hard and I'm kinda of sick on top of that. I will revisit this post later.

Great article, Elysium. It's in my Top Ten Favorite Articles on GWJ.

More sincerely, there's a lot here to think about, but it's going to take me awhile to digest it. Thanks for the food for thought.

This list is clearly generationally skewed. Some more recent numbers would have been nice.

Everybody knows that 3 is a magic number.

6 at 9? Ludicrous! Only possible reason is to combine them and get 69. Still, unforgivable. You will be hearing from my attorneys.

Best article ever. However 3.14 != pi. If you're going to make jokes about an irrational number, you should just call it pi throughout the blurb.

And I prefer perfect fourths over perfect fifths. Maybe that's because I play guitar much better than I play violin.

Astounding. Best of Elysium.

Best article ever. However 3.14 != pi. If you're going to make jokes about an irrational number, you should just call it pi throughout the blurb.

Oh how cleanly you've fallen into my 'factual inaccuracies in a satiracal post about the factual inaccuracies of best-of list' trap.

*** stealth edits ***
*** 5% more comedy now available ***

You know what 8, call me when you’re an R and then we’ll talk.


This article just moved to the #1 spot on my Top Ten Top Ten Lists List.

Looks like someone doesn't want to work at Future Publishing, IGN, Kotaku, Gamespot...

There's goddamned badassery in the works. At a certain point there, my mind blew off.

What a really cool article.

Elysium wrote:
Best article ever. However 3.14 != pi. If you're going to make jokes about an irrational number, you should just call it pi throughout the blurb.

Oh how cleanly you've fallen into my 'factual inaccuracies in a satiracal post about the factual inaccuracies of best-of list' trap.

How delightfully you fell into my baiting-you-into-showing-your-deceptive-and-evil-trap...trap. You have been revealed, sir!

Ah, but because I am so meta, I was trying to be baited into the exposure so that I could expose the nature of the process of this article. You have clearly now fallen into my recursive loop trap. Die in the infinity of eternity, fool!

Great article. Very funny and a great way to poke some fun at the list makers, list readers, and those too busy to read the lists.

Elysium wrote:

Ah, but because I am so meta, I was trying to be baited into the exposure so that I could expose the nature of the process of this article. You have clearly now fallen into my recursive loop trap. Die in the infinity of eternity, fool!

That almost makes me want to get totally baked and say "Dude" a lot. Like, whoah.

I am a Strange Loop.

This is the #2 thing I've read today. Huzzah!

Really, you should've at least put every number on a different page, so we would then have to click on the 'next' button or some teeny little arrow that blends in extremely well with the background to read the complete article.

Amateur.

[size=10]PS: Great article![/size]

Dysplastic wrote:

While I enjoy talking about "Top 5 games" or "Top 5 records" with my friends and so on, I can't say I've ever seen a great conversation full of meaningful arguments evolve from a "Best of" list posted on the internet. Can someone point me to one?

In a futile attempt to add something to the conversation other than snark, I offer the fact that for a while, when a group of my friends would get together (in meat space) we would invariably play this conversation game we called "Over or Under" — where we would debate the merits of ANYthing — and if they were over- or under-rated. It, surprisingly, rarely decended into chaotic shouting, regardless of the number of empty beer bottles on the tables before us. (Although bringing up Quentin Tarrantino was like Godwinning the game. And you can always get me shouting about Neil LuButte.)

Dysplastic wrote:

While I enjoy talking about "Top 5 games" or "Top 5 records" with my friends and so on, I can't say I've ever seen a great conversation full of meaningful arguments evolve from a "Best of" list posted on the internet. Can someone point me to one?

There are a lot of meaningful arguments about quality that come about on this site and others when discussing whether or not an individual game is "Game of the Year" material. That would be a conversation revolving around an implicit "Best of" list.

Elysium wrote:

Ah, but because I am so meta, I was trying to be baited into the exposure so that I could expose the nature of the process of this article. You have clearly now fallen into my recursive loop trap. Die in the infinity of eternity, fool!

It's like some kind of messed-up Escher drawing. There are layers there I can't even begin to comprehend.

I just want to complain that you have fallen into the same irrational number bias as every other poster on the Internet. You give all the credit to pi but nothing to e.

Pi is the irrational number for the masses; the true elite know that e is where it's at.

adam.greenbrier wrote:

There are a lot of meaningful arguments about quality that come about on this site and others when discussing whether or not an individual game is "Game of the Year" material. That would be a conversation revolving around an implicit "Best of" list.

But honestly, anything is an implicit best of list. If I say "Far Cry 2 was one of my favorite shooters of last year", I'm implying a best of list of shooters I liked in 2008. Hell, if I say "I really liked Far Cr 2", I'm implying a "best of" list of games that I like. So sure, I'll grant that any kind of implied statement like that can lead to meaningful conversation - but I'm talking about (and I understood the article to be talking about) the kind of structured, click-driving "Best of" lists you find at for-profit websites.

dhaelis wrote:

Really, you should've at least put every number on a different page, so we would then have to click on the 'next' button or some teeny little arrow that blends in extremely well with the background to read the complete article.

Amateur.

[size=10]PS: Great article![/size]

I wanted to second this suggestion as well. Would have put this article even more over the top. Great job, I look forward to the "worst of" list where the imaginary number ' i ' gets his due.

Awesome article as usual. I was oddly pleased to see my favorite number (2) come in as your #1. I do agree that there were not enough "click-for-next-page-so-we-can-reload-our-ads-and-get-another-penny" arrows.