This February, the annual games writing jam took the theme of Lists! I chose it for two reasons, first of all that it’s obviously been a hell of a year since the last writing jam, and I wanted to choose a theme or format that would allow people to easily scope their contributions as big or as small as they were comfortable working with. But secondly, I’ve noticed over the past few years that people have been getting increasingly meta and critical within the year end list period (Into The Spine’s massive guest list is a great example of the variety you can find). It made me think about the types and uses of lists in general… are they really just for ranking the commercial must-plays of another year, to entice people to only consume more and more? Or can we do something else with them?
The answer to that ended up being a resounding “we can do PLENTY of things with lists!” You can check out my contribution here, but to get a real sense of the variety and ground covered throughout the jam, read on…
Rather than just churning through the year’s hype cycle or trying to establish gamer cred hierarchy, these entries really wrestled with what it means to put videogames in a list, how we sort, order and select gaming history, and even the readings that can help us make sense of it.
- A SERIES OF INCREASINGLY FRANTIC CRIES FOR HELP IN THE FORM OF TANGENTIAL VIDEO GAME LISTS by Aristaeus890
- Congeries (or, THE ACTUAL TOP TEN VIDEOGAMES OF ALL TIME) by Rowan Crawford
- A Games-As-Art Reading List For the Undergraduate Artist by Cynan Juniper Orton
- Regrets 1961-1983 by Arcade Idea
On the other hand, a lot of approaches to list-making can come across as rather impersonal, trying to make an objective ranking that necessarily just “speaks for itself” these contributions instead dug into their own memories, preferences and ways of thinking to create lists that are a refreshing personal alternative.
- A personal taxonomy of video games by Archiloque
- A list of scattered memories about video-games by slowpress
- A Subjective Ranking Of The Mario Games by Cyanotetyphas
- List of all Significant video games by Em
- some sort of videogame history by quasiotter
Similarly, these entries use the list format to explore and highlight moments of realization, strategies and reflection in their own moment-to-moment play of games, highlighting that as much as we analyze videogames as a designed artifact, we ultimately don’t have any special insight into what players actually end up doing unless we ask.
- List of Mods I Have Installed In My Current Stardew Save by dumplingsquid
- An Incomplete List of Games that made me Trans by moniker ersatz
- A Non-Exhaustive List Of Video Game Deaths (That Just Happens To Be Ten) by Velcro Cyborg
- Top 10 Times I Quit Playing Online Games by Shadsy
- The History of a Relationship in 30-Odd Games (and Counting) by Oleg
Instead of a list oriented around the best or most historic things, these lists took the approach of gathering examples to focus a specific critique, of representation, aesthetics or concepts circulating widely in the videogames space. In this case, a list sharpens an argument for what is overlooked and what we should be paying attention to in our discussions of games.
- [Standing up with a gun] All right, everybody be cool, this is a robbery! by Skullkid18
- Things I would like to do in video games (David Cage not allowed) by No Escape
- Cursed List of Jungle Tilesets as Narrated by Werner Herzog by spiders and krisekrise
- Genre Games by Nate Kiernan
- 200 Games I Won’t Play by BLA?
- THE FIVE WORST GAMES TO HAVE SEX IN by DEEPHELLDOTCOM
The format of a list, regardless of its purpose, can also tell its own stories. This set of entries tells a story as a list of steps, or items, or uses the form of a list to examine how narrative emerges in videogames.
- Death in Video Games by Tess Leiman
- Housekeeping For New Recruits by somewhere with stories
- Hostile Conversations by 7puppies
- The Diegetic Manifesto by Eelstork
The characters you can play and the characters you encounter in games can also be read as an inventory of possibilities and themes in the game world. These entries investigate character creation, enemy archetypes, dialogue interactions, and even invent some new classes to think about protagonists and NPCs alike.
- Select examples from the most detailed character creator EVER by laughingpineapple
- a complete list of classes in dragon quest by nilson
- Five creatures from Persona 5 Royal which tickled my pickle by mystifiedbulb22
- Two lists of things that are not in games (but perhaps should be) by sargoth
Spaces and Places
What can a list convey about a place? Quite a lot! From naming and remembering places to cataloguing the things found there, lists have always been tools for making sense of space. These entries offer a peek into mental landscapes, water levels, controversial islands, the frontier of space and a strange museum in the form of a list.
- On Recursive Islands by communistsister
- Swimmy Levels by balm_bomb
- vestiges by Ludonaut
- Shelves, or: an Incomplete list of things which make this room a Home by Rosequartzklein
- a list of things my brain has said to me or existence is the brainchild of a fucked up cosmic game dev by jewlw
I’m always excited when people connect the critical writing component of the writing jams to their own practice making art or games. These entries used the form of a list specifically to inspire, reflect, or iterate on their creative practice, work they’d like to do, or work they’d like to see someday.
- Plausible Art by Pol Clarissou
- Accessibility List 1 by gisbrecht
- Games I’d Like to Play and/or Make by notapipe
- List from my journal 2020 by Wlab
The best game walk-throughs are like an animated list of tasks, letting you envision how to get from place to place, or piece together a dungeon based on the enemies or items within. Using the format of lists to capture the moment-to-moment experience of gameplay (or the moment you put the controller down) is the focus of these lists.
- Prologue Looot by HARDHEAD11
- MACHINE PARTS by kafkaesc
- invading another world… by fotocopiadora
- a list of games I didn’t finish even though they are acclaimed because they were boring, annoying or too hard. by AfterglowGames
And of course, some entries (quite a lot, actually) used the theme to contemplate the structural form and purpose of the list in general, to stretch it to its conceptual limits, or to see if it could function as a game mechanic in its own right. Here’s a thought-provoking set to wrap up the round-up!
- every list .txt on my laptop by Everest Pipkin
- average list enjoyer by mark wonnacott
- exploring a dualist foundation by Sean
- A Game, Perhaps by vagrant ludology
- Random Encounters – In Quarantine – by Emma Dee
- List of the top 100 videogames by thecatamites
- A list of Lines by BigHandInSky
Thanks again to all participants for contributing to another annual writing jam!