Every games website is full of top 5, top 10 and top 100 lists right now. Whether ranking the best or the worst of the previous or coming year, lists like this are a great way to generate controversy and discussion as well as page views. For every well written list that’s considered and original there’s a great many lists that are made up of old copy with one entry on each page to maximise site traffic and advertiser revenue.
This list is a little different. Its a list of the best performing games websites over the past year. For this completely subjective list my judging criteria will be the web sites that have improved the most, created thriving communities, released the most interesting and regularly updated content and have been unbiased, honest and fearless in their opinions pieces and editorials. Oh, and bonus points if they were writing good lists.
Although it periodically gets in trouble for stealing articles and failing to attribute sources, Kotaku generally does a good job of aggregating anything interesting, relevant or funny to gamers. While it has peculiar fascinations that probably say more about the contributors than the readers (someone there is really into cosplay), it has a unique personality and as a result its sometimes overly-quirky writing style is more forgiveable.
While they still feature the embarrassingly awful “Girls of Gaming” section, Gametrailers nonetheless remains the best place to get new media for upcoming games. As well as trailers, they also host Screwattacks content which is infantile and amusing videos by passionate idiots and the AVGN‘s videos which are an acquired taste but which I can’t get enough of due to the endearing mania of main man James Rolfe. Of note is the particularly strong video reviews which have provided the most objective and detailed looks at gameplay for 2010 of any of the games review sites.
3. Penny Arcade
The two patron saints of gamers, Gabe and Tycho entertain and amuse us for another year. While Tycho turns pretentious prose into an art-form with increasingly dense and ridiculous posts, Gabe has created some of his best and funniest comic strips this year. As well as their reliably amusing site content, their real world alter-egos Mike and Jerry do great work for charity and as a result make all gamers look good by association.
Every website needs to refresh its content and design regularly to stay fresh, and most of Eurogamer’s additions this year have been a little disappointing. The “first 15 minutes” section have been a mixed blessing as they often showcase interesting games, but contain no commentary and are often played by laughably inept players making them a frustrating viewing experience. The screenshot viewer is frustrating and badly designed, dimming your whole screen and only allowing you to scroll through images rather than having a more intuitive, gallery style interface. Finally, the Face-offs in the Digital Foundry take pedantry to new levels and have become completely redundant in that they almost all provide the same information, rephrased in slightly different ways almost thirty times. The strengths of Eurogamer remain though. The contributors are likeable, the podcast is funny, the reviews are still amongst the best on-line and the Digital Foundry is unmatched in technical rigour. Finally, the comments are full of as many sarcastic pretend-idiots as actual idiots.
Not much needs to be said about these guys. The reviews are short, succinct and fair. The quick looks are interesting, informal and useful. The podcast is the best thing on the internet. Another good year for Brad, Ryan, Jeff and Vinnie. Go there when you’re not here!