Unpopular Opinions-Why I hate Tier Lists

Tier lists. Chances are you haven’t even heard of them. If you’re primarily or exclusively a single player gamer then it’s understandable if you haven’t heard of them as they’re associated with multiplayer, particularly competitive games. So before I tear them apart, let’s define what they are. Tier lists first originated in the competitive fighting game Super Smash Brothers all the way back in October 8th 2002. The definition given by the SSB wiki is “a tier list is a list that ranks all characters based on the strength of their fighting abilities and their potential to win matches under tournament conditions, assuming equal skill on the part of each player.” Basically, they are a widely agreed upon ranking of all the playable characters in a competitive multiplayer game. So, now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s go over why I despise them with every fibre of my being. Keep in mind that this is just my opinion and it’s completely fine to disagree with me! Just be sure to respect mine and each other’s opinion.

My primary problem with tier lists is that-even if they don’t intend to-they discourage players from playing certain characters. “No, don’t play that character, they suck!” “You should only play these characters because they are the best and no amount of personal skills can change that.” Although they may not mean to convey them, these are the messages I and many other people take away from them. Tier lists may draw players away from certain characters and possibly persuade them to stop playing some characters entirely even if they may be better at characters that are considered ‘Low tier’. In my opinion, people should be able to do good with any character if they are skilled enough but tier lists seem to treat competitive games as if they are simply a battle of numbers. Just because a character has a 85% win rate in tournaments doesn’t mean they are better than all the other characters and should always be picked.

What surprises me the most about tier lists is where they originated in the first place: Super Smash Bros. If you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know, Super Smash Bros is a game where you pick a character from a video game, primarily Nintendo games, and duke it out against your friends or AI or strangers online. It doesn’t really seem like a game that would be taken 100% seriously and get lot’s of competitive attention right? But strangely, it is. Pretty much since its conception, Super Smash Bros. has got just as much competitive spotlight as more serious games like Street Fighter, if not more. That’s not to say I have a problem with it. To each their own but it is quite hard for me to understand being someone who grew up playing it as a casual bit of fun to have with my friends and sometimes family. Super Smash Bros. never seemed like it was intended to be competitive which is why it’s so odd to me. I don’t understand how people get fun out of turning off all the items that spice up the game with their crazy flair.

Over time however, tier lists have grown past SSB’s and have expanded to a number of different games, mainly in the fighting genre. One of these games is one I play quite often so I’ve seen what the effects of tier lists can be. If you’ve been following my blog for a while now then you’ll know the game I’m referring to is SMITE. Quite a few of the gods I love to play such as Xing Tian, Zhong Kui and Sun Wukong are generally considered ‘Low tier” in the community and as a result, I almost never see them being played. Of course, this can’t be completely attributed to tier lists. People naturally flock to popular and easy-to-play characters but nevertheless, I feel it has had some effect. They also seem to be based a lot less on just tournament competitiveness than SSB’s. Heck, if you search SMITE tier list and click on the first result it brings you to a page which says right at the top “Welcome to the Smite Tier List every god in order from strongest to weakest.”. Some of the SMITE guides I’ve seen on Steam even say “Please don’t play these gods” just because they have a low win rate in ranked. Again, simply ranking gods from best to worst may not have been the original intention of tier lists but people are definitely interpreting it that way which I think rules some gods/characters out as taboo or even plain bad.

You may be asking then, if you remember a “Legends of the Internet” post I did a while ago, why I’m completely fine with tiers in Saltybet. The reason why is because it’s a completely different case altogether. Saltybet is about AI battling it out against each other, not actual people, so in that case statistics do play a large part in the outcome of a match. Even then however, there are still cases when chance or one characters’ advantage over the other can affect the outcome. My point is that I think the skill of a person, the amount of practice they have and their knowledge over a character can still overcome pure stats any day.

So, in summary, I don’t like tier lists because I think they encourage people to play certain characters forcing ‘Low tier’ characters to the sideline even though they may have a playstyle the player likes and is skilled with. Anyway, that’s just my take on tier lists. It’s completely fine to disagree with me, I’m not really all that competitive so maybe you know more about tier lists than me but I just generally don’t like the idea of them. If I made any mistake then comment down below and I’ll be sure to rectify them as soon as I can. Thanks for listening to me ramble about tier lists for over 1000 words!


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