Categorization Consumes Me

Making lists and categorizing things is something I’ve always loved. Even as a kid, when all I had was a meager selection of GBA games, I constantly made lists ranking my favorite ones. I never cared that much about the numeric scores assigned to things: it was always about the fun of making the list itself. I read other peoples’ lists as well, but the joy of making my own was always the main appeal for me.

I can’t say why it is that I started to do this. I’ve never thought that these lists gave any deep understanding of my thoughts, and I’ve always maintained the idea that they’re actually kind of pointless. And yet, I kept making them anyways, changing them whenever I got a new game and making more once I had seen enough TV to rank my favorite shows.

This drive to make lists only expanded as I got into anime. Obviously I made a MAL account early on, but that’s more of a database than a true list-making service. No, what really grabbed me was the 3×3. I spent most of my early time in the anime fandom on /a/, and 3x3s are incredibly popular there. I very quickly started making my own, toying with formats and seeing what I could do to make them more interesting. Eventually this expanded into other mediums, as I started making 3x3s for all kinds of things. I’d make game 3x3s, YouTube channel 3x3s, and food 3x3s. If it could be ranked, I had a 3×3 for it, or at least plans of making one.

And I didn’t stop there. After rediscovering Digibro I quickly found that he too was a fan of making lists. And while I had only made lists of mediums, he had gone much further. Digi had lists of his favorite directors, character designers, composers, and other such positions. He had Top 100 lists for music, and massive charts explaining how to get into such-and-such genre. This inspired me to go even deeper, and now I’m permanently stuck in this categorization mindset.

I spend tons of time on list-making and categorization nowadays. Much like Digi, I make 3x3s and top 10s for all kinds of stuff, despite the fact that I almost never share any of them with others.

And I hardly do this stuff on the side. Oh no, everything I make needs to be perfect. Everything needs to be symmetrical and the graphics need to be perfect, with all of the text and images aligned. It needs to have fantastic images — preferably fanart — and those images need to be arranged in an aesthetically pleasing way. I put lots of effort into this stuff, in spite of the fact that there’s practically no pay-off for any of it. I’m definitely wasting my time when I do this; it’s enjoyable to make these things, but without anyone to observe any of it, it’s entirely for self-satisfaction, and I can’t say that’s worth it on its own.

And yet, I have no way of stopping. Even if I could stop, I’m not sure that I would. Just the fact that I enjoy it should be enough justification for continuing this practice, but I also find my behavior here to be incredibly interesting from an outside perspective. I’m someone who’s firmly against the idea that categorizations are anything but poor generalizations, and while I have a somewhat innate urge to rank things, I think doing so is ultimately somewhat silly and reductive. Sure, I might say that I rank Aria higher than K-On, but that doesn’t tell me anything about either show, or about why I’m interested in each one. So why do I enjoy doing it? I don’t know, but I kind of want to find out, and that desire to find out is part of what drives me to keep going.

Fortunately for me, this is a vice that I can easily keep up with. It doesn’t cause any harm — outside of aiding my procrastination — and there are elements to it that have other bits of value. It’s helped me to find a ton of great fanart, and I’ve gotten better at using Photoshop because of it. It also gives me a hobby that I can actually do while listening to podcasts, something I’m very grateful for. It’s ultimately a bit of a dumb hobby, but it’s my dumb hobby, and I’m not really interested in giving it up. I might eventually post some of the stuff I make if I get some interest from others, but I’d have to update everything to do that, so let me know if you’d want to see that kind of stuff. Right now I just want to get around to finishing my character designer list.

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