The subtle joy of making lists

Yesterday I saw Brandon's list of favorite games and instantly thought, “wow that looks FUN, I want to do it too” so I just went and did!

One of my gentler and most pleasant safe spaces through 2020 was discovering the quiet joy of making lists. I have made lists of things my whole life when needed because that's how things usually go, we think of lists as something useful you just do when you need to, but last year marked the time when I started making them because they are FUN.

Suddenly, I realized how satisfying and soothing it is to just sit down and to organize your thoughts, estabilishing some criteria and trying to come with interesting ideas within the frame you have given yourself. Simply just stopping doing stuff and sitting with a cup of tea or coffee to put time into this silly activity that serves no purpose other than treating yourself to a nice moment.

In a year full of stress, weirdness and uncertainty doing something that I had absolute control over was, if nothing else, therapeutic. And turns out to my surprise that this is something that has actually been researched and documented! Lists do help your brain to unload, reduce stress and focus.

At some point I started doing them on paper and revisiting them after has also been really fun in a "wow yeah I was thinking about that" sort of way, surprising myself while also helping putting things in perspective.


Some other times I did them like "maps"


We tend to treat lists as productivity oriented tools when in reality they don't need to be. I feel like in insert credit we DO LIKE making lists a lot and I wonder if it's because it clicks with our videogame shaped brains. After all, understading and working within the context of rules established previously by the game design is what we like to do most of the time. I encourage you to discover the joy of making lists if you haven't already, just find some time and have fun with them.

Though not quite a pleasure list, I am making a shopping list right now! Taking the time to enjoy it.

I like making lists by year or decade or console generation because you can see styles and genres evolving and changing and breaking and reviving.

Here's one I made for my favorite shoot em ups from each year:

1978: Space Invaders
1979: Galaxian
1980: Defender
1981: Scramble
1982: Robotron 2084
1983: Xevious
1984: Star Force
1985: Gradius
1986: Fantasy Zone
1987: R-Type
1988: Tatsujin
1989: Omega Fighter
1990: Same! Same! Same!
1991: Detana!! TwinBee
1992: Dogyuun
1993: Batsugun
1994: Darius Gaiden
1995: DonPachi
1996: Battle Garegga
1997: Strikers 1945 II
1998: Armed Police Batrider
1999: Guwange
2000: Dragon Blaze
2001: Ikaruga
2002: DoDonPachi DaiOuJou
2003: Ketsui
2004: Mushihimesama
2005: Ibara
2006: Mushihimesama Futari
2007: Deathsmiles
2008: DoDonPachi DaiFukkatsu
2009: DARIUSBURST Chronicle Saviours
2010: Akai Katana
2011: Crimzon Clover
2012: Sine Mora
2013: DoDonPachi SaiDaiOuJou
2014: Astebreed
2015: ZenoHell
2016: Blue Revolver
2017: Super Hydorah
2018: ZeroRanger
2019: Devil Engine
2020: GG Aleste 3

I started this reply only thinking digitally because that‘s I guess what I do, and I realized I do keep a physical journal for my mini painting. Keeping the painting log helps me replicate the color scheme I did potentially years ago and in a physical form. I use a watercolor notebook (minis are generally painted with acrylics, but are behave like water colors), and can paint swatches, etc. It’s neat!


(Pre-edit - I'll go take a photo and put it here...)

If you're more of a digital note and list taker (like I am except for the above) you've got some options too. I've alluded to this in some other threads, but I really like OneNote. It's a Microsoft product and integrates across Windows, web, and mobile. I know there are other competitors (Evernote), but I'm just not familiar with them.

I like being able to write something down (which helps me remember it in the first place) and be able to search for it who knows how long later. I transcribe recipes into OneNote. I use it to keep track of project designs and ideas. I use it to store painting references for the minis I paint for table-top games. I use it as a more involved offline bookmark repository where I can keep some of the content, etc. etc.

In conclusion, _The City & the City_ was only OK, _Perdido Street Station_ was pretty good and _The Scar_ was excellent. There's my free list for you @JoJoestar#13301!

Oh yeah here was my list!

Pretty boring dinner!

Some friends and I have two different list spreadsheets going—one for movies, one for video games—where, you know, we drop our top-whatever lists and compare and contrast them.

I do like the exercise of list-making, although I would say there is a point when you start to take it too seriously, and where the social element of it makes it more frustrating—I think that's where I'm at. Part of it has to do with the specifics of the list: the movie spreadsheet also has numeric scores for each movie, which is awful because I end up just thinking about what number I'm going to give a movie _while_ I'm still watching it. It's also a frustrating way to organize the list, at least for me, because it suggests there's some kind of 1-10 metric of quality that we can measure everything by. The video game sheet isn't like that, though, and—surprise—I like working on that one a lot more.

Writing it out on paper just for yourself is great. It's less rigid. And it is ultimately something pleasurable to do, which is a helpful thing to remind myself of every now and then. :)

I write a lot of lists, but I am mostly digital and somewhat utilitarian with it! I have been using the app Notion a lot recently, it's powerful and flexible but also falls short in a few areas.


@captain#13313 the movie spreadsheet also has numeric scores for each movie, which is awful because I end up just thinking about what number I’m going to give a movie while I’m still watching it. It’s also a frustrating way to organize the list, at least for me, because it suggests there’s some kind of 1-10 metric of quality that we can measure everything by.

I have been doing this for about a year now! To me there is something about a rating system that makes me want to be more objective.. Like there are some 3s I like more than some 4s but those are still the numbers that felt right. I think it can be partially addressed by making some actual notes to go along with it.

When I was younger and worked as a piano salesman, I used to carry one of those little 2.5x4" notepads everywhere in my pocket. It was initially to write down customers and sales leads but also cute girls‘ phone numbers, records I wanted to buy, and films I wanted to see. Then smart phones came along and terraformed our brains and sucked the fun out of everything. List-making is fun but I’m not super into this new social media gamification of personal inventories (goodreads, letterboxd, etc).

About once a month, I make a new notepad file on my desktop and begin scribbling random things down -- vocabulary, songs I heard on WFMU, topics to look up at some later point. Then I toss it in a folder, promptly forget everything within, and never look at it ever again.


@MichaelDMcGrath#13309 I‘m assuming you made this one because you saw mine at the beginning of my post? There’s a fair amount of these in there! I agree with all of your choices, very good taste thank you.

@antillese#13310 It pains me to admit I'm the kind of asshole that uses gmail drafts and docs (as seen on my post) AND super vintage old school regular plain txt to keep notes on the PC. Gonna give OneNote a try to see if I like it, and I since liked _The City & The City_ quite a lot I'm guessing I'm gonna lose my pants over Perdido and The Scar when I get to them!

@captain#13313 I do this too, mostly with games but also with movies. In fact I shared my list of the games I played through 2020 in another thread, but might as well paste it here too! (some of them are replays, mind you)

  • - Final Fantasy XIV Heavensward - [9]
  • - Disco Elysium - [10]
  • - Vanquish - [8]
  • - Gothic - [9]
  • - Stasis - [5]
  • - Ape Out - [7]
  • - Beautiful Desolation
  • - Doom Eternal - [9]
  • - Streets of Rage 4 - [7]
  • - Ninja Saviors - [9]
  • - The Silver Case - [8]
  • - OFF - [7]
  • - BLACK BIRD - [7]
  • - Death Come True - [6]
  • - A Short Hike - [8]
  • - PAGAN autogeny - [sin nota]
  • - Flower Sun and Rain - [sin nota]
  • - The Last of Us Part II - [8'5]
  • - SUPERHOT - [8]
  • - The Room - [7]
  • - The Last of Us - [6]
  • - Beyond Good and Evil - [6]
  • - Shinsekai: Into the depths - [7]
  • - Doom 64 - [9]
  • - Black Mesa - [9 como juego, 10 como actualización de Half-Life]
  • - Donut County - [7]
  • - Layers of Fear - [5]
  • - Layers of Fear: Inheritance - [4]
  • - Statik: Institute of Retention - [8]
  • - Marginalia - [sin nota]
  • - Psychonauts: Rhombus of Ruin - [7]
  • - Hades - [9]
  • - 13 Sentinels - [8'5]
  • - Half-Life Alyx - [8'5]
  • - Resident Evil 5 - [4]
  • - Halo: Combat Evolved - [8]
  • - The Firemen - [9]
  • I have too experienced that score overdose fever with movies and my advice would be: don't put the scores when you add the movies. Do just the name and add the scores later, when you have a bunch of them pending or just when you feel like it really, it'll help you relax and stop thinking on the damn number while you are watching the film. Also don't take the score too seriously, and allow yourself to change it later if you feel like a reassestment is needed.

    It's strange because I guess this should have happened to me with videogames too also but I think games tend to be longer and allow more space to let your mind wander without focusing or demanding for your atention as wholly as a book or a movie does. Not that bad to reflect how are you liking the thing while farming experience or in the middle of a race in a circuit you have already memorized.

    @Kez#13318 It's okay to be utilitarian with them! Lists are after all very useful, my message was more about trying to encourage people to consider the possibility of thinking outside the box but sometimes you do want to use lists that way!

    @bodydouble#13324 Hey this is cool. As I said, I'm a monster who uses email drafts as portable notes because until now I hadn't bothered to use specialized apps. I also have these kind of freeflow miscelaneous notes, here's an example, I even dare to throw pictures in there sometimes.


    I saved that image because it's hilarious to me, the text box translates as: "JORGE: wants to be hardcore and his mom doesn't let him". My real name is also Jorge and that's the reason why I saved it.

    My version of this is that I make spreadsheets. As a kid, I used to write out giant tables tracking hockey statistics that I would find in almanacs on the shelves at grocery stores checkouts. I would just write out the stats for hours, and make up narratives as I went along. I didn't actually know anything about the history of hockey, so I just analyzed the statistics myself and made up my own stories.

    As a teen, I started making spreadsheets. I've never really learned how to use Excel/Sheets, I just sorta make it up as I go, and learn as I go along. I make really stupid spreadsheets, about information that I have no use for. It is important to note that I have never had a job that involves spreadsheets in any way at all.

    Anyway, [this is probably my most insane one yet.]( (I recommend tabbing over to the "2013-2020" tab for the highest level of incomprehensibility.) This spreadsheet documents the performance of every player during every season of a Starcraft II league that has been ongoing for over a decade. That's 200 players over almost 30 seasons. Took me a couple of days. I made this only for myself, and have not showed it to anyone who would ever care. Actually, I tried posting it on Reddit once, and someone got mad at me because it showed that his favourite player wasn't the best, lol.

    I have a whole folder of things like this. I love it. I have one that tracks the publication date of every book I read, one in which I manually transfer the data from my iTunes library in order to figure out which bands I listened to most each year (I know there are apps that do this but I like doing it myself,) etc etc.

    @JoJoestar#13330 Delaying the number grading until well after watching the movie has certainly helped quiet the number-screaming going on in my head, but it does still happen sometimes, usually when what I‘m watching just isn’t grabbing my attention very much (something that‘s been happening a lot this year in particular, hmm, watching lots of movies and never seeing people outside, why would I ever have a hard time getting absorbed in fiction???). I change scores all the time! Honestly what makes it more frustrating is rules being imposed by other members of the List Club, so I’ll probably just stop following those.

    And yes! The increased length of video games definitely allows thoughts to percolate longer, which is only ever a good thing.

    @Kez#13318 Liking a 3 more than a 4 makes total sense, honestly. I probably should start taking some notes... especially with long or more complicated stuff notes can make thinking about the thing a lot more fruitful. I also like the idea of differentiating between the "good 7" and the "bad 7" (or really it can be any number); sometimes you know something is well-made and not offensive to your sensibilities, so it's a 7, but thinking about it doesn't get you out of bed in the morning or anything. The good 7 is flawed as heck but god does it scratch an itch you love having scratched.

    @bodydouble#13324 Fellow vocabulary-on-notepad-files-writer-downer! I suggest you take up selling 2.5×4" notepads too, because I want to buy one now.
    P.S. "When I was younger and worked as a piano salesman" is the most romantic beginning to any comment I've read on this forum.

    I also catalogued the games I played this year but instead of scores I wrote down when I finished them and how long each took to complete.

  • - Metal Gear Solid 3 [replay] - 14 Jan / 14 hours
  • - Final Fantasy VI [re] - 23 Feb / 30 hours
  • - Baba Is You - 28 Mar / 17 hours
  • - Chrono Trigger [re] - 5 Apr / 20 hours (+2 hours DS bonus content)
  • - Persona 4 Golden [re] - 17 May (started sometime 2013) / 65 hours total, 20 this year
  • - DOOM (2016) - 31 May / 16 hours
  • - Final Fantasy VII Remake - 19 June / 43 hours
  • - Super Mario Sunshine [re] - 23 June / 4.5 hours
  • - Celeste: Farewell - 19 July / 7.5 hours
  • - The Last of Us Part II - 10 Aug / 30 hours
  • - Metal Gear Solid 2 [re] - 29 Aug / 8.5 hours
  • - Silent Hill 3 - 1 Oct / final 30 minutes (preceding 5.5 hours in 2014)
  • - Untitled Goose Game - 3 Oct / 3 hours
  • - Relic Hunters Zero - 10 Oct / 3 hours
  • - Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour - somewhere in Oct / 8 hours
  • - Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 - 21 Oct / 15 hours
  • - Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker [re] - 31 Oct / 18.5 hours
  • - Shadow of the Colossus 2018 [re, sort of] - 13 Nov / 4.5 hours
  • - Abzû - 26 Nov / 1.75 hours
  • - Death Stranding - 4 Dec / 63 hours
  • - Resident Evil 2 (2019) - 17 Dec / 8.5 hours
  • When I was 14 or 15 my older brother one day told me “The way to become smart is to make lots of lists.” So I bought a pocket-sized notebook that I carried around with me and filled it with lists.

    I don't really remember what the lists were!

    I think I generally just picked some random attribute and listed things that had that attribute. Like "Anime connected to baseball in some way" with entries such as "FLCL" and "Paranoia agent."

    Maybe I was doing it wrong, but none of those lists seemed to make me any smarter.

    I guess I still make lists, but they are more of the aspirational variety. Like books I want to read or things I should write about. Rather than writing the lists down on actual paper in a notebook, I just use the Notes app on macOS and iOS, since it automatically syncs between my computer and phone without any setup.

    I just looked through what I have, and here's the list that seems not quite as idiotic as the rest (they're all pretty idiotic) so I might as well share:


    This was in the context of me feeling the games I makes all follow more or less the same formula (platformers with weird unintuitive physics), so as an exercise, I wanted to try coming up with my own reinventions of different subgenres and at least prototyping them. Well... I haven't done that yet. But maybe someday!

    @saddleblasters#13345 I really wonder what your brother meant by that, or where he got it from. That's such an odd yet evocative piece of advice.

    @wickedcestus#13349 yeah, i have no idea. i always had an instinctual deference to everything he said, since he (at the time at least) seemed so much smarter than me. i definitely took his advice to heart. maybe i'll ask him the next time i get the chance if he remembers saying this.

    anyways, mentioning him just now ended up inspiring me to start a whole thread about siblings



    Baba Is You - 28 Mar / 17 hours

    Me: ...Completed Baba Is You?! Must be some kinda genius.



    “The way to become smart is to make lots of lists.”

    Me: Theory checks out.

    @captain#13340 @Kez#13318 I totally agree with this line of thinking scores as a reference more than a monolithic statement. In fact you‘ll see that I played Flower Sun and Rain last year and while I gave it a 7 and still added it to my favorite videogames list because even though it has very obvious flaws and incredibly cumbersome design choices its setting, story, structure and characters were so absolutely memorable that it has despite its mistakes left a very strong mark on me. Same thing with Shinsekai, it’s a very pedestrian Metroidvania regarding overall structure but the traversal and friction with the play space is so phenomenal it deserves a spot there for doing something very different and well executed.

    @saddleblasters#13345 Hey that's a cool anecdote, thanks for sharing! I'm glad it inspired you to open a thread about siblings because I too have a brother! Although I'm the older one.

    You seem to take lists the same way I do! I also like to write down ideas. It's funny because sometimes I imagine a videogame I'd like to make and write it down even though I have absolute zero knowledge about programming and development in general. The last idea I wrote down after playing Raw Danger for the first time was "Raw Danger but it's a Godzilla game", now THAT would be awesome. Somehow, I keep writing Study on top of all my to-do lists, as in study philosophy, which is my real career but somehow I keep not doing that and working on the stuff that gives me money, weird!


    @wickedcestus#13338 I have a whole folder of things like this. I love it. I have one that tracks the publication date of every book I read, one in which I manually transfer the data from my iTunes library in order to figure out which bands I listened to most each year (I know there are apps that do this but I like doing it myself,) etc etc.

    The Notion app I mentioned above very much lends itself to this sort of approach to things. It is a sort of combination of database/spreadsheet but also with a lot of freeform editing and flexibility. I use it for tracking movies I want to watch, also for rating how much my SO and I would like to watch a given movie and then prioritizing it in our "To Watch" list, also prompts us to rate a movie once I have checked it as being watched. I have also created an ever growing table containing my groceries, which is linked to my list of recipes. So I can for example look at a recipe, see which ingredients I don't have and check a box there that will automatically add them to my shopping list.

    I am currently working on getting it to prompt me when it thinks an ingredient I recently updated should be used up soon.

    Weird thing: making lists makes me anxious in a deeply existential way. I hate the accumulation of things of any kind at all. Watching stuff pile up fills me both with a sense of being burdened and with the unpleasant knowledge that all these little edifices of things will eventually crumble or be forgotten. I can't help but feel, when making a list, that I am chiselling an epitaph on my own abandoned tombstone.

    @JoJoestar#13383 The way I see things, coming up with game ideas is practice for thinking. You have to come up with a framework for how a world different from our own works and then imagine the consequences of different actions in this made up world. So I feel like it's a worthwhile thing to do, even if you never actually make the games.

    Anyways, feel free to write about your brother when you get a chance!