There is a certain allure to Steam sales - an affliction of the mind that plagues all PC gamers. Call it consumerism, or call it gluttony, the effects are the same every year. Gamers find that they have purchased enough titles to seemingly last them a lifetime. With so many new games in their library, it is expected that some degree of buyer's remorse will settle in, but this is not the case. Those games were cheap! For the same price as a new AAA release, gamers might find they have nearly 20 new games to play, and that instead of buyer’s remorse, they feel a sense of foreboding. “Which game should I play first?” quickly turns into, “How will I ever find the time to play them all?” Well, fear not! I have composited a few tips and tricks to help you tackle that infinite-scrolling list of games like a true champ.
The first step to eliminating your backlog is to pick one game and stick to it. Not two games. Not three games. One game. When you are taking on a foe as imposing as a pile of beckoning video games, you need to start with one game, play it to completion, and put it on the shelf before starting the next one. But why not two? Why not three? So here’s the thing: when you are playing multiple games, it becomes very easy to say, “What’s one more?” Before long, you have seven to ten games started and unfinished, and your backlog of games has turned into a ravenous hydra. Cutting off one head does not eradicate the stress of the other nine snapping and biting for your attention. Before long, you will be enjoying the feeling of moving onto the next game more than the feeling of playing a game in the first place. That’s no way to play! Choose one game. Move onto the next. Simple as that.
Those of you who are obsessive-compulsive, like me, will love this next one: When you pick the game you are going to play, play it until you can put it on the shelf and say, “I don’t need to play this game until years from now.” (Of course, multiplayer games are the exception here, but more on those later.) It becomes difficult to tackle that backlog one game at a time when a game you played previously constantly beckons for you to come back to it. Sounds almost like a siren, right? Well kill it. If you don’t beat a game in its entirety, it becomes ten times easier for you to fall into the playing-more-than-one-game-at-a-time mentality. Find as many achievements as you can until you are content, play through New Game +, and complete any side-missions you haven’t already. The more thorough you are while playing, the easier it will be to shelf a game when you are ready to move onto the next one.
If DLC is available for a game while you are playing it, buy it and play it now. And if you are playing a game with DLC that has yet to come out, be thorough when it does. Treat it as its own title. I regret just blinking through Dishonored’s Brigmore Witches DLC, because now that I have moved onto other games, I still suffer from the pull to go back and play that expansion until I am fully satisfied. It truly does weaken the enjoyment of moving onto another game, and replaces that enjoyment with a sense of obligation rather than a sense of anticipation.
Games which offer multiplayer modes are beasts in and of themselves. But if you are following this guide, then these games should look no tougher to tackle than the final boss in Fable 2. (That was ridiculous, by the way.) So this is how you approach a multiplayer game: Start by setting a goals. These can be anything from prestiging X-amount of times to becoming a beast at a particular map or mode, to mastering your favorite weapon. When you have clearly-established goals, it is so much easier to move onto another game when you have achieved them. Many developers release new maps and modes for their games throughout the year; if this is the case, treat them like you would treat DLC. Treat it as its own title. Set goals. Achieve them. Brag to your friends. Move on.
The biggest challenge a gamer with a library of un-played games can make is starting an MMO. MMO’s are the vampires of the backlog. They unyieldingly sink their teeth into your time (and your wallet) until chances of ever getting to those other games become as slim as Sarah Michelle Gellar knocking on your door, cross and holy water in-hand. You have a few options in handling these beasts. First, don’t start an MMO. You might find it easier to reward yourself with an MMO after getting through, say, half of your backlog or X-number of games. However, if you are up to the challenge, treat one character as its own title. Set your goals. They might be something like, “I’m going to push Daenerys Hordemaster to Level 70, then stop.” Or, “I’m just going to play through the main campaign.” Or, “This character will just be PVP-focused. I’ll play until I’ve earned the Golden Armor of Awesomeness, and then I’ll stop.” This way, you can play the MMO until you have completed a character, start and beat two new games, then pick up the MMO again.
Another tip I find extremely useful is to alternate to a different genre when you finish a game. Beating Final Fantasy XIII and moving onto Final Fantasy XIII-2 will leave your mind exhausted, and as a result, you become less likely to destroy your backlog before the next Steam sale. Assassin’s Creed to Fez. Dark Souls II to Rayman: Origins. Keep your palette clean, and you’ll be through that library in no time.
If you have a commute to work, or need a new method to tick off your significant other, pick up a handheld title, be it Pokémon or Candy Crush Saga. This will increase the rate at which you pump out those games, and gives you an excuse to escape reality a little while longer. But if you plan on trying to “catch em’ all,” don’t do it at home. Leave your handheld games to your commute. If you don’t, you will be violating the first rule (choosing ONE game at a time), and you can rightly give up on ever seeing the bottom of your backlog.
Whether you are the latest victim to fall prey to Steam Sale Syndrome, or you have just been busy with work/school, this guide should provide enough structure and rules for you to get through all of those titles that are gathering dust, and breeze through them with maximum pleasure.