Editor's blog: How the Top 50 works

Assuming it actually does, obviously.

Back when we launched the "Editor's blog", I planned to put up a series of posts talking about how we do things at Eurogamer. As any fule know, there's no shortage of games journalists writing about games journalism on the internet, but the discussion usually focuses on things like the balance between controls and innovation, or between objectivity and subjectivity, or between XBOXES and PLAEYSTATIONS. You don't often hear about the actual mechanics of games journalism unless it's an amazing public relations catastrophe, or someone's been caught out.

But transparency needn't be alarming or upsetting, for us or for you, so after eight months of not getting round to it, let's give it a proper go and begin with one of our traditionally contentious annual features: the Eurogamer Top 50 Games.

The Top 50 has thrown up some interesting results in the years since we started doing it, not least with Psychonauts in 2005, so people often tell us it's completely wrong and stupid every time we do it. But as we've sometimes pointed out, and sometimes cheekily left people to guess, it's a ruthlessly democratic poll of Eurogamer's staff and contributors that reflects what everyone involved likes and - often crucially - has had the time and inclination to play.

It works like this: every year at around this time, I send a mail round to our panel - all the editorial staff and most of our contributors - and ask them to send over their top ten games of the year. As long as it's been released somewhere in the world in the previous 12 months, it's a valid inclusion, and there are no "required playing" lists or anything to bias the result other than individuals' personal preference, so the lists I get back are enormously varied. Mine's often stuffed full of racing and puzzle games (although less of the latter this year - sort it out, Japan), Kristan favours shooters and platformers, the Rock, Paper, Shotgun contingent draws our attention to neglected PC treasures, and Simon Parkin champions RPGs.

When the lists are in, we tot up the totals, weighting the value of each game's position in each list using a secret formula (it's not that exciting), and then do that thing with the spreadsheet that makes it reorder them by the total on the far right. Then we stare, and gawp, and distribute the list to everyone who chipped in so they can add their own exclamations and recollections. Then you end up with pages like this, where everyone says Halo 3's rubbish and wonders aloud how it made it to seventh - and that's just us lot.

The secret is that a game a lot of people have chosen to play, and count among their ten best, stands up very favourably - and often more so - than something cherished above all else by only a few. As such, the naysayers are right: the Top 50 is often an indictment of Eurogamer's staff and contributors, because it shows up those of us who don't work hard enough to stay on top of our hobby, and shames us into working harder at it over the next 12 months.

And then your list - based on your votes, compiled with the same system and far more respondents - comes out, and BioShock wins. Man, and we're supposed to be populist!

Tom.

Eurogamer's Top 50 Games of 2008 will be going up over the Christmas break, starting on 27th December with the games ranked from 50 to 41.

P.S. Assuming you're up for hearing more about how we work, feel free to plant suggested topics in the comments thread and I'll try and get round to them - especially if you think we're evil and wrong and want to hear us explain things like who gets to review what, how the hell we can ever justify a 10 and the relationship between editorial and advertising. I promise to try and deal with the thorniest ones as often as the fun ones, and not to sugarcoat. With any luck, as you get to know us better you'll be able to help us do more of the things you want. Or perhaps I'll get sacked, but it'll be fun either way!

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