The dreaded backlog, an all-too-familiar term, and not in reference to hearth fires. Every gamer that I know has one, whether it's a massive digital library or a physical stack of games (for me it's a combination of both.) They loom ominously over us, weighing upon our minds every time we disregard them and boot up the same old games again and again. With every big sale they seem to grow. Depending on your platforms and memberships, you may be receiving several 'free' games every month. And with the amount of time needed to complete a game steadily increasing over time, it seems we are doomed to drown in our own desire to experience the ever-growing array of great games available to us. Fear not, because I am here to tell you: There. Is. Hope. I have made a huge dent in my personal backlog over the last couple of years, and perhaps more importantly, I feel a sense of progress, and I'm actually enjoying what I'm playing rather than stressing about what I'm not. So, I'm here to share a few tips about what I've done to change the way I tackle my backlog. And we're off!
...or at least slow it down. The reality is, if you're buying five games a month but only completing one, you're never going to get anywhere. I'm not saying to stop buying games, but to at least think differently about how you go about it. Personally, it's somewhat rare for me to buy a game at launch these days. Sales and price drops are so frequent that you don't really have to ever pay full price for a game. I tend to only do so when it's something I'm VERY excited about or from a developer that I really want to support. For anything else, I ask myself: Will I even play this before it's $20 off in a couple months? The answer if often no, especially when I look at the games I already own and haven't played yet. However, the main culprit of backlog-filler typically isn't new full priced games, it's sale games. For me, it used to be the Steam Summer Sale, but now it feels like every console and store has a new limited time sale every couple of weeks. The logic for these is generally the same, but there are some taller psychological hurdles to overcome here. We like to buy things that are on sale. That goes for everyone, and it applies to everything. The idea of saving money feels good, so when we see a game that was $60 a year ago on sale for $12.99 our instinct is to buy it right away, especially if it's something we're interested in. This feeling is made more severe by things like flash sales with big ticking timers that induce a panic response to buy before it's too late. It's important to remember that these are all careful strategies used by People Who Sell Things to make us buy things we probably don't actually need. The next time you're eyeing up a game that's on sale, ask yourself these questions: Will I play this game before all the games I already have? Would I buy it if it wasn't on sale? Will I play this game before it's on sale again for the same price/cheaper? If you can get past those questions, buy it. Too many times have I purchased a game for $30 thinking I was getting a great deal, only to find I haven't played it three months later and it's down to $15. Do this, and you'll already start to see your backlog shrink (or at least grow more slowly) and your bank account swell. Not a bad start, eh?
This next one might seem rather obvious, but it requires quite a bit of determination. It boils down to this: choose one game at a time, and finish it. Decide carefully, and once you do, commit to playing that game until you're finished. Is that the ONLY game you're allowed to play? No, but also kind of yes. Most backlogs are made up of single-player(sometimes co-op) games. PVP-based online games and live services don't really count, seeing as they can't really be "finished" and are often time-sensitive. You don't have to drop all those games to just play the one game you chose. In fact, during weekdays I have a morning ritual of playing an hour or so of an online game like Apex Legends with a friend before we head off to our respective jobs. That said, if you decided you're finally going to finish Red Dead Redemption 2, then you shouldn't be starting a new game in Bloodborne the next day. I know it sounds simple, but you can't underestimate the allure of a fresh new save file. But, when you ping-pong around between too many games, I find that you end up losing track and abandoning some along the way. If you stick to just one single player game at a time, even if you're still playing various multiplayer games, I think you're more likely to see that game through to the end, and probably enjoy it more in the process.
Sometimes you buy a game, maybe you were hyped on the marketing and pre-ordered, or maybe you picked it up for $10 in a sale, but, for one reason or another, you just can't get through it. You like it, but maybe it's just a little too long, too grindy, too difficult, whatever. You've dumped some time into it, trailed off, tried again, etc. Sometimes it just doesn't work out, and you have to move on. As someone with obsessive completionist tendencies, this can be difficult for me. Whether it's a game, tv show, or book, I like to finish things, even if they're not very good. I (re)played every game in the Kingdom Hearts series in order. I'm currently doing the same with every mainline Final Fantasy game(about to start V). But, I was about 20 hours into The Witcher when my save file got corrupted. I was enjoying the game, but mostly just plodding through to enjoy the lore of the series. So, once that happened, I accepted that I probably won't ever go back and start again. More recently, I picked up Horizon: Zero Dawn on a deep discount and was having a great time with it for a while. But, it's a long game with a lot of content, and eventually I drifted away from it. There's nothing wrong with it, but I just felt satisfied to move on without completing it entirely. I don't consider it to be part of my backlog, and I can happily play other games. If it helps, maybe give each game a little "thank you" before uninstalling, the way Marie Kondo would a shirt before disposing it. Closure is important.
This last tip sounds cheesy and it mostly is, but it also ties all of the other tips together and reiterates the grand purpose: having fun. Backlogs can often be a major source of stress and anxiety. Maybe it's the money spent or the feeling of wasted time, but they inspire a strange sense of guilt over a hobby that brings millions of people joy and comfort every day. So that's the tip, just play games that are fun for you. If any of the prior tips prevent you from doing that, please disregard them. The point of this article is to relieve some of the pressure associated with backlogs. You don't have to complete every game you buy, just like you don't have to like every game you play.
That's all that I've got. Hopefully something here helps you manage your backlog a bit. Maybe you have a game you can't bring yourself to abandon, but can't get through either. I've got at least one that comes to mind right away. Let me know if you have any particular tricks or habits that help you. I know a guy that once his storage is full will not allow himself to uninstall a game unless he's beat it already. A bit harsh for me, but it works for him. Let's chat about it in the comments.
Otherwise, until next time...