The Ranking Economy

America is no longer a manufacturing economy, or even a service economy -– it’s a ranking economy. We rank things. You need something ranked, you come to us. If the editors of “Cat Fancy” magazine haven’t yet published their special “Top 100 Cats of All Time” issue, don’t worry – they will.

So said Bill Maher back in September 2003. Unfortunately, I can’t find the original quote (he took his old blog down) – just expired 3rd party links.

He’s right – a major sector in our economy is buying and selling “top 5/10/20/50/100” lists. The New York Times (via Slashdot) reports on a group that made a list of “The Ten Most Important Games”. Why?

“Creating this list is an assertion that digital games have a cultural significance and a historical significance,” Mr. Lowood said in an interview. And if that is acknowledged, he said, “maybe we should do something about preserving them.”

Or maybe you just wanted to make a list so people could fight about it (the list seems designed to antagonize) and get you lots of publicity. The fact is that no one needs to “preserve” Warcraft 3 or any of the Super Mario Bros. games – they’re doing fine, thank you (and none of the games are out of copyright – they’re very much preserved in that sense).

What we need is for people to do real work and make real things (even real games), not sit around and discuss what the most important games of all time are. That’s just a cynical attempt to monetize a frivolous discussion, like almost every ranking scheme out there. Listing other people’s stuff off is a great way to fall behind.

–YY

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