You can consider this blog post a filler. I just needed something to talk about, so I started writing a draft for this while watching YouTube videos when I realized just about everyone is making a tier list for everything under the sun. I then came to a realization that it’s an excellent form of curation that anyone can get into.
Take a look at TierMaker, YouTube, and social media to see just about everyone making their own tier list for categories you haven’t even thought of yet. There’s tier lists for soda, condoms, diseases, prescription medication, whatever the hell you want. It has been used for fighting games since forever, and then bled into other games, and now it’s fodder for YouTubers. Whatever it is, you can make a tier list out of it.
What is a Tier List?
In video games, a tier list is a subjective ranking of playable characters or other elements (like units in StarCraft, weapon types in Monster Hunter: World, etc.) to classify their performative viability in high-level play. People make tier lists to show how they feel about the current state of the game and its metagame, detailing what is good, bad, or overpowered.
They’re commonly associated with competitive online multiplayer games like fighting games, MOBAs, and so on. Once the making of tier lists caught on, especially with websites like TierMaker, people started making tier lists of stuff outside of gaming, like movies, anime, food, and so on. Nowadays, tier lists are just another way to rank things in a certain category.
The phrase “subjective ranking” is even more applicable to the latter context. With its traditional use in competitive gaming, there are always hints of objective truth in the context of a game’s meta as regular patch updates from developers regularly tweak gameplay in an endless effort to “balance” it. The truth is as long as a game is still being played by a large audience, there’s no one time when a game becomes truly balanced.
But when it comes to making tier lists about other things that rely more on personal preferences, it becomes truly subjective. Tier lists on games made by different people will likely have more similarities with each other than tier lists on most other things. Perhaps that’s what makes tier lists fun as you can compare your tier list with that of your friends.
You can sing praises about your S-tier, shit on your D-tier, scoff at other people’s tier lists and admonish their trash tastes, and so on. Unlike reviews that focus on one thing at a time, tier lists rank different things in a specific category in one go, making them a fun resource for expanding your horizons and perhaps even talking mad trash about other people’s preferences.
As long as they’re done in the spirit of fun without slipping into toxicity, tier lists are a great way to explore experiences, both of your own and of other people. It’s fun to overanalyze things sometimes, and tier lists are a great device for “objectifying subjective experiences.”
Purpose for Tier Lists
It can be said that tier lists are the most accessible form of curation on the Internet today. I think making tier lists on your own is a great way to review what you’ve experienced and how much you liked them.
Every scuffed thing you can think of, you can make a tier list out of it. If you’re into making lists (because you have OCD and you have nothing else better to do in life), classifying them into tiers is a great way to organize them.
Tiers vs. Scores
Like anyone who grew up in Asia, including the Philippines, the first time I ever heard of this style of classification was in Yu Yu Hakusho during the Chapter Black Saga.
Sensui was hyped up as an S-class enemy, while Younger Toguro was actually only a high B. That made him instantly scary, although that made the arc feel like it was the Cell Saga in Dragon Ball Z all over again. Shounen manga has always been beset by the drawbacks of power creep, like video games.
How are letters different from numbers or stars? Nothing much, really. But it makes more sense for people who grew up with anime or video games as a lot of them have had that kind of tier system in some way. Anyone familiar with Devil May Cry knows what I’m talking about.
Personally, I still stand by the 10-point scoring system and being strict about having 5 as the median. But in a world where everything average is given a score of 7, perhaps I have to rethink how I rank the stuff I review.
For instance, what most mainstream reviewers rank as a 7, Irank as a 6, which is “fair,” a score that makes a lot more sense to me. The main reason why a lot of video games get ranked a 7 out of 10 in mainstream outlets is explained here by former IGN writer Alanah Pearce.
It’s because a lot of those games are well-made. They have good graphics, good sound, fun gameplay, and so on. They’re the sort of games you’d enjoy over a weekend, and that makes them pretty good. They’re not the most excellent titles out there, but you wouldn’t think of them as wastes of money. They’re quite alright.
But that sort of scoring has then shaped how their audience view scores. Whenever they rank something lower than a 7, most people would assume it’s below average. The prevalence of that in sites like Metacritic has diminished the power of review scores over time, to the point that more and more review sites like Eurogamer are now doing away with scores altogether.
The great thing with tier lists is that you’re comparing different things in a specific category against each other instead of ranking one thing by itself. The former is often done in hindsight, while the latter has become a marketing device. The only reviews that truly matter tend to be those of newly-released things, with financial stakes involved within the first two weeks.
Meanwhile, there really isn’t any good way to use tier lists for marketing a specific thing without making it blatantly biased. Tier lists are all about having fun in justifying one’s bias while also letting them have a wider look at their preferences. Making them automatically turns on “fan mode” and it becomes more about curation than critique (although it’ll still be there).
My Tier List
Here are my own definitions for each tier, which should be easy to remember. I don’t have E and F because I want it to be as simple as possible. Besides, I think once you get to D, going lower is like discerning between different flavors of excrement.
The absolute best of the best. Everyone likes these in every way. They’re the pinnacle of their medium, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. If your days are ever numbered, you should spend your remaining time experiencing these before you leave this earth.
Not as good as S-tier, but still great. Everyone should still be able to like these, despite some minor misgivings.They can fulfill your senses and make your day. If all you ever experienced were from this tier, you still lived a pretty good life and no one can tell you otherwise.
Benchmark. Basic. Borderline good or bad. Bargain bin. They’re still alright, but not great. Whatever is in here can be considered filler. They have a purpose, which is to populate their medium, and that’s it. They’re not masterpieces, but they still have a right to exist.
C: Crude (Crap)
These did not make the cut. They’re below average, so they have a good bit of stink. They may have a couple of redeeming qualities, but they’re not enough to save them from damnation. They’re a warning to creators to avoid the mistakes that made these things less than good.
D: Dreadful (Dogshit)
The worst of its class. Don’t waste your time on them unless you’re trying to investigate what makes something bad. You then try one, get the idea, and never touch them again. If a friend gave this to you, it’s a breach of trust and you should question the quality of your friends.
(Optional) F: FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK
EDIT (18APR2021@8:30AM): Added F tier just for kicks.
Implementing a Tier System in This Blog
I’m alright with doing so to better quantify the quality of the stuff I review. I still believe in having my own scoring system, and having a tier system will help rank things better. While the score rates the overall quality of the thing, the tier rank compares it to everything else in its category.
Perhaps I should just have a 5-star system instead to make it easier and not have a convoluted system with two rankings to make sense of reviews, but I’m a convoluted man with convoluted ideas. I think this fits me just fine, and I’m willing to make it even more complicated by having category scores for each type of review. I plan to make it as batshit insane as possible.
I’ll have to sit down and really learn PHP to do that.
If I can work out the kinks in the review plugin I paid $30 long ago, I can add category scores. The problem with this is that it’ll be a lot of work. Each different medium will require its own theme as they have their own set of three categories. For instance, video games have “story, presentation, gameplay,” while films have “story, characters, direction,” and so on.
With that said, I should definitely write a lot more reviews.
Have something to say? Do you agree or am I off-base? Did I miss a crucial detail or get something wrong? Please leave whatever reactions, questions, or suggestions you may have on the comment section below.
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