Alasdair Duncan is that bearded, bespectacled Scotsman that covers PC gaming that is not Fraser Brown. A long time Destructoid community member and forum moderator, he covers adventure, puzzle, FPS and all kinds of games on the PC. Watch, as he adds more games to his Steam library with only the vaguest hope of ever playing most of his games.
Alasdair has been gaming since his mother bought a Commodore 64 back in the early 1980's. He adores Deus Ex, GTA Vice City, Team Fortress 2, Borderlands, Super Mario Brothers 3 and all those weird indie titles on Steam.
You can meet Alasdair at places like PAX where he tries to convince people he isn't a) drunk or b) Irish.
So this year, Iíve decided to make a concentrated effort to play more games and significantly reduce my backlog of games. Now moving from Australia back to Scotland has meant that my X-box 360 collection has shrunk to a total of two games. However, my Steam collection is of course still intact and frankly fucking huge. Some loose spending during the annual sales has left me with a frankly overwhelming backlog of games, some of which have never been touched. So, after a fairly decent start Iíve decided to outline some tips that are helping me beat my backlog. This isnít ďAli Dís guide to how you should all play gamesĒ but just ideas that I find are helping me play, enjoy and finish titles that Iíve bought.
1. Stick to normal
Beating my backlog has been about finishing games, not about setting myself an unreasonable challenge. Iím not very good at videogames, so jumping into a game on hard mode or higher is setting myself up for frustration and failure. Iím not suggesting that everyone do that, if youíre good at a genre of game like FPS or action games, then going straight into hard probably isnít going to trouble you. Some games will also let you bump the difficulty up mid-game, so if a game is insultingly easy to you, then thereís no reason not to give yourself a challenge.
The bottom line here is getting games completed; thereís nothing to stop you going back and playing the game again on a harder setting. No oneís gonna be all over you, claiming the validity of you only finishing a game on normal. And if they are, theyíre a dick.
2. Know your weaknesses
As I said above, Iím not good at videogames but thereís games that I just suck at. As such, Iím not going to play them. As happy as I am to see Marvel Vs Capcom 3 come out, Iím gonna suck at it. Iím gonna have my ass handed to me by that game so hard, I wouldnít be able to sit down. So Iím gonna give it a miss. Now, thereís reasons why I would buy it, like if I had friends and they would come round to my place, MvC3 would be a great game to bust out and have some fun with. Same with things like Rock Band, NBA Jam or You Donít Know Jack, but they wouldnít necessarily be Backlog games; theyíd be actual social games, titles you play when youíve got friends round.
So as much as Iíd like to be an all round gamer and play all the acclaimed titles that come out, I know that thereís some Iím just going to suck at and not complete and as such, Iím gonna have to give them a miss.
3. Resist temptation
The reason Iíve got such a big backlog can be attributed to one thing: Steam Sales. As a Scotsman, the idea of being tight with my money is bred into me, but stepping back for a moment, surely spending money on games I donít play is stupid. So from here on in, Iím resisting Steam sales. This week, thereís been a Square Enix daily sale, with a new game on offer each day. These titles have looked pretty appealing, but Iíve not bought any; with my bank account the way it is, spending £5 on Just Cause 2, no matter the quality of the game, would be stupid if Iím not going to get around to playing it. The thing with Steam is that the titles arenít going to disappear and you know that these games are gonna go on special offer at some point, reduced to some crazy price. Hold on until your backlog is less imposing, then make the jump.
Also, take care with pre-orders and special offers; I know Iíve bought plenty of games because itís looked interesting and I can save a few quid if I purchase beforehand. Madness. Wait until itís out, check reviews and ask yourself are you really going to play this game. TF2 hats and pre-order savings be dammed. Something else that Iíve found helpful with Steam is that Iím not installing all the games I have; that just leads to too many distractions. Right now, Iím using my parentís Mac to play a few games, but Iíve only installed the ones that Iím actually going to play. Having a library of over 100 games a click away, doesnít help me focus on the task at hand.
4. Donít ignore your favourites
For all the catching up I intend to do from previous years titles, thereís a load of games coming out this year that Iím really pumped for: Portal 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Mass Effect 3, LA Noire, Batman: Arkham City.... the list of AAA titles that Iím anxiously awaiting is pretty big and to be honest, Iím snapping those games up on launch day. Surely this is anathema to the idea of clearing your backlog, but ignoring the prize picks of the videogaming year isnít a fun option.
Yes, get the games that youíre excited about, but work them into your schedule. Find out the release date and use that as a deadline to finish a title on your backlog. We all know that the middle of the year is a dry period in the run-up to the usual October madness, so use this time as your attack on your Backlog. And when you do buy your earely anticipated, AAA title, then actually finish it. You know if itís good youíll return again.
5. Trim the fat
Looking at my backlog, I realised that thereís lot of games I just donít want to play. Thereís some loose purchases, gifts from well meaning friends (I had someone gift me two games and said ďIíve never really played these, so they might be crapĒ), games that held promise but never delivered...
Well, Iím striking them from the list. Itís harsh, but I probably donít need God knows how many indie puzzle games on my list, taunting my lack of intellect with their uncompleted status. Iím sticking to games with a story or at least an ending, so that I can get a sense of closure when I play them. I will come back to these puzzle games, but theyíre not what Iím looking to finish here. Same with gifted titles; my friends and I rather awkwardly gifted each other titles for Christmas and birthdays without really thinking about whether we would all like them or not.
Bottom line again is, if youíre never really going to give a videogame a proper go, then strike it from the list. At lest for now...
6. Forget multiplayer
It might be hard, but Iíve shaken my Team Fortress 2 addiction. Ok, it took moving to a different country without access to my favourite servers and *cough*...... no actual PC to play on, but Iím not starting up again. Not for casual play anyway, there will be no more popping on for an hour and watching an entire night disappear. This too might alter what youíre going to buy, as playing a Call Of Duty game just for the single player doesnít seem like good value.
However, donít overlook the social aspects; jumping into a regular Friday Night Fight session with your Dtoid buddies is always fun and itís something I feel I should be making more time for. But donít let it stop your momentum in finishing your single player games.
So there we go, hereís the ideas that Iím trying to stick with to finish more games. Iím using my Backoggery as a tool to mark down my progress. Iím also using a list on my Giant Bomb profile to show what Iíve completed so far. In 2010 I only played 10 games to completetion. In 2011 so far, Iím up to 6. Iím setting myself a target of playing and finishing at least 20 titles this year and reducing my Backlog of uncompleted games from 64 % to around 50%. Now bear in mind, I donít have an actual PC to play titles on, but Iím hoping to remedy that soon. Wish me luck, and remember, weíre all counting on you.