How To Top 10 (Like What We Do)

One of the greater pleasures of working for GeekOut has been the weekly Top 10s. They’re shamelessly pandering, entirely subjective, and we did them for the consistently high views they brought in, at least to start with. It turned into one of our greatest collaborative projects, not a difficult thing in terms of a writing challenge, but as a matter of cooperation, deliberation and debate it has been something that Tim and I have loved and hated, not quite in equal measure, but enough to motivate us week by week to produce something that many of you came back to us to read regularly.

So how do we do it?

GeekOut Top 10s

Thursday – Discuss

I’m frequently out on a Thursday night gaming at a local pub, and I frequently stand up to leave saying “Right, I’m going home to have an argument” which is only slightly hyperbolic. When we began the list it was purely via chat, constant recapping of our content and order, and it would take hours. When we made the move to a google doc it dramatically reduced the time this section took, dependent on how well we’d agree on definitions as they pertain to the heading of the list, or how well certain entries qualify. Some weeks, astonishingly simple and smooth, others infuriatingly long and filled with torturously long and granular deliberation.

It’s a simple process of positing a candidate. Many are self explanatory, some may require explanation if one or other of us are unfamiliar, or if the link to the title is not wholly obvious. Last week’s Suspiciously Cheerful Tunes as a prime example, my first suggestion for the list was Candy Man in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Little needed to be said, and despite it being my suggestion, Tim took the reigns of writing the entry, only missing the deific qualities of Willy Wonka ascribed to him by the song, otherwise capturing its essence, promise, a lure to damnation. Conversely, Tim had to give a quick summary of Porky Means Business, as I’ve never played Earthbound, and we had something of a debate between Drs. Horrible and Steel.

After we have sufficient entries, and maybe a few too many if it’s been a particularly fruitful topic. We’ll argue the merits of one entry over another, often earmarking certain outstanding entrants as going straight to the top three, or pushing them to the bottom for little consideration, with only a few changes made until we’re done. Finally we divide up the list between us to write, and call it an evening.

Friday – Write

The writing process often drives us to research more deeply than we initially intend. While some subjects we’re more than knowledgeable to spit out a couple of paragraphs, or perhaps having to kerb our enthusiasm and restrict how deep our explanation goes.

Sometimes we’ll add something that we know only as “common knowledge”, those things that you absorb as part of being part of the culture. Occasionally we are driven to extensive googling on the matter, sometimes cribbing off the compiled lists of others or simply delving into a topic until we uncover something. It makes the process of writing a matter of learning, and hugely beneficial. Courtesy of recent lists I now know a surprising amount about Pikmin for someone who has never played a single title in the series, the same with the Pink Panther, various mythologies, and Robin Williams.

Usually Tim takes command of the framing work, the introduction, and those intermediary paragraphs between sections, what we refer to as “the spiel”, although I take up the duty from time to time, especially if I’m light on entries I can viably write adequately, or if I have a particularly quiet Friday to look forward to.

Saturday – Publish

Once the blue button has been pressed on a Friday night there’s little left to do. The final product is complete with relevant screen captures, images, or videos for each entry, and finally the vote for the following week.

Once it was the case that Saturdays would see a discernible spike in viewership, these days we’ve attracted a high enough number of regular readers that Saturdays aren’t much more than a wiggle in our day-to-day viewership, and while it’s not so noticeable a thing as to ascribe entirely to the work we put into each and every Top 10, I for one consider the work we’ve put in over the years of collaboration on our lists a key factor in our own improvements as writers… or at least my own.

Honourable Mentions

It’s been a strange transformation over the years, but the honourables list began in our first list because we had too many bears that we couldn’t bear to omit. Over time we made adding a couple of extras to the ten mandatory, and over time that part of the list became a place for entries that were not quite right for the list but had some quality that expanded the definitions, thinking outside the box, but thinking about the box as it were.

You might say that we began riffing off WatchMojo, I’d like to think that these days we produce a more compelling list than they do, but now that we’re only a couple of days from our penultimate list, it feels right to reflect for a moment on the strangest highlight of our time on the internet.

Beginner’s Cosplay Guide #4: Bringing It Together (Planning)

Cosplay is a crazy craft; cosplayers all begin somewhere and the question is where? How does someone start cosplaying comfortably? Who can cosplay? What are the etiquettes behind cosplay and what does a cosplayer need to know? Can someone with an unsteady hand become a cosplayer? Can someone who has never sewn-up a hole create stunning works of art? What do you need to get started? In a series of mini-guides, I hope to quell some of these questions and more – And today, we’re looking at bringing a costume together, in the planning stage.

Cosplay is a crazy craft; cosplayers all begin somewhere and the question is where? How does someone start cosplaying comfortably? Who can cosplay? What are the etiquettes behind cosplay and what does a cosplayer need to know? Can someone with an unsteady hand become a cosplayer? Can someone who has never sewn-up a hole create stunning works of art? What do you need to get started? In a series of mini-guides, I hope to quell some of these questions and more.

Continue reading “Beginner’s Cosplay Guide #4: Bringing It Together (Planning)”

Lists & The Basics of Sci Fi and Fantasy

I’ve been trying some list writing lately, a means of putting dozens of idle and fragmented ideas into some kind of order, and aiming for a nice round number gives me the drive to come up with something new. Things like:

10 Mimics

  1. Ladder leading to a trap door, the mimic strikes when a creature is halfway up.
  2. Corpse with a gleaming sword in the back.
  3. Freestanding mirror that gives slightly inaccurate reflections.
  4. Chest in a shipwreck. Because who’s going to check while holding their breath? AHAHAHAHAHAA ~cough~
  5. Writing desk with locked pigeon holes, or possibly with a map spread across it.
  6. Vault door embedded in a stone wall.
  7. Table or shelf stocked with fresh food.
  8. Shovel stuck in a freshly turned over mound of soil.
  9. Music box with key, it chimes intermittently to coax creatures closer.
  10. Velvet upholstered throne occupying a low plinth.

You get the idea (and feel free to use those by the way). I’ve been spurred on by people like Raging Swan Press or the Hyper Halfling’s Book of Lists, as they’re immensely useful and a great inspiration for any fantasy based game. I’m also trying to write some for sci-fi based games as I can’t seem to find many free resources that aren’t bound to a particular universe – and I have a Borderlands RP under way – and here’s where I’m coming undone.

It’s actually amazingly easy to write for generic fantasy compared to how difficult it is to write for generic sci-fi because there is no generic sci-fi. Fantasy draws from various mythology and the Tolkein stereotypes wrought from old Norse mythology, elves and dwarves, dragons, giants, demons, the gothic horror classics like vampires and werewolves, mages and witches, knights and brigands. Science fiction is broadly missing these fundamentals to fall upon, with every new sci-fi writer bringing in their own interpretations and semi-original concepts.

We covered a few of the old sci-fi stereotypes a few years ago, and I can build upon this a little with the observations of other students of the genre. We tend towards a human-centric universe with common races either representing some aspect of human society, or being copies of fantasy stereotypes. Minbari, asari, vulcans, and eldar can all be accused of being space elves, narn, krogan, and klingons are space orcs, and Warhammer has abandoned pretence and given us actual Orkz. Fall-back phrases to use when creating generic sci-fi resources might include the use of robots, technology, the advanced aliens, the ancient aliens, the militaristic aliens, any form of descriptor that might set a species apart, but even then it leaves you with little to work with, a very narrow foundation on which to build.

For example, I’ve been attempting to write a fairly common list type, 100 trinkets. Now this can’t include anything that might give a character a major advantage, nothing that can be used as a weapon, but perhaps a curio that highlights some of their backstory, or carries its own story. Something that can easily be shoved into a pocket or doesn’t take up too much space in a backpack. Shouldn’t be too hard right? For fantasy it’s not a problem, there are thousands of items between the various lists on my computer or on my bookshelves:

8. A small sea conch with the words “From the beginning” painted on the lip. – Elemental Evil: Trinkets; Dragon+ Magazine, Wizards of the Coast
51. (Dr) Blood and Laughter, author’s name is an unintelligible symbol. A terrifying collection of scenes involving torture victims and gruesome deaths. It is difficult to tell whether the volume is historical or fictional. – Books; The Hyper Halfling’s book of Lists
6. The red flowers painted on this ceramic vase bloom, wilt and die over the course of a day. – 20 things to find in a bag of holding; Raging Swan Press

Well so far I have forty sci-fi trinkets. In the mean time my collected encounter tables, unique treasures, and cruel encounters all keep getting expanded upon. Despite a dearth of sci-fi properties to inspire and steal from I find myself falling back upon tiny single-purpose robots, holograms, galactic curios, and assorted technojunk. Still I persevere because little projects like this encourage creative thought and give me something geeky to moan about.