Single axis of favorites (or, why I don’t like making “favorite ___” lists)

Many of us, at some point, have been asked what’s our favorite song, favorite musician, favorite game, favorite film. etc. Or a list of favorites in a particular category, which is an extension of that concept.

I don’t like to list what my favorite whatever is, because it would require me to put things I like on a single axis of quality.

Let’s take games for example. Two of my favorite games are Ketsui and Gradius Gaiden; if you made me compile a top 5 shmups list at gunpoint, they would be in that list. I love the former because playing it competitively encourages fun but risky point-blank attacks, but won’t cripple the player completely just because they died or fired a bomb (unless they were going for the ura loop), and the latter because it provides a wonderful selection of ships that are all balanced yet stand out on their own and a vibrant, diverse collection of stages. But that doesn’t mean these two games are better than everything else in every way; no one game is going to be perfect. Another game I play, Eschatos, is something I wouldn’t consider one of my favorites because of a few qualities that make playing it seriously a bit of a joke, but its wave-based stage progression and emphasis on speedkilling in Original and Time Attack modes are two things I really like because they don’t show up enough in 2D shooters. Every game is different, and even if I don’t get as much enjoyment out of one game over another, I can still find some things to appreciate in the game I enjoy less.

Another example would be music. For the most part I have no single favorite song or favorite musician, or even favorite genre. It’s hard to call a single song my favorite, or even a small collection of songs my favorites because what I enjoy listening to depends on my mood and what context I’m in. For example, eurobeat and trance sound better for driving on a highway, but when I’m driving around the suburbs at around 11 PM coming home, my musical mood may shift more towards Asian pop or chillout. Doing repetitive tasks? Game music, particularly music from 2D shooters, often keeps me going. Studying, or doing something that requires me to think? Ambient music, or no music at all. I think of my enjoyment of music as something that’s multidimensional, not just "this is my favorite track, this is my second favorite track, etc."

Because of this way of thinking about the things I enjoy, for me to put down a favorite _____ would not only disregard the individual merits of each item, but would also take a lot of time because I’d have to spend a lot of time mentally processing which items I enjoy overall before coming to my conclusions, to the point where I’ll just say "I like thing A, thing B, and thing C, among other things I also enjoy".

Some can easily state what their favorites are down to single all-time favorite items in each category. But I don’t have a mindset like that.