As a gamer, you’ll face many enemies. Evil scientists craving world domination, lizards who kidnap princesses, corrupt government agents, just to name a few. However, there is one gaming enemy we all battle against and inevitably lose to.
That’s right, I’m talking about your video games backlog. Every gamer has one. It can be a few games you picked up in a sale from Game. It can be that pile of Sega Saturn RPGs you’ve managed to get from eBay. Either way, most gamers have a collection of games that they want to complete, but they are stuck on a shelf or a hard drive, waiting for the mythical day when there is finally time to play them.
You might be reading this and nodding your head because you recognize that feeling of resigned frustration. That’s cool, I reckon everyone knows that feeling. The question is, how can we make that feeling go away? I’m no expert but I’ve tried a few things that have definitely helped…
Trim your backlog
When looking at ways to make my backlog more manageable, the first thing I did was get rid of any games that weren’t important to me. I had lots of games that I didn’t feel passionate about playing or games that didn’t fit in with the types of games I liked. Anything that didn’t appeal to me was removed from my backlog.
I also monitored what games I was adding to my backlog, in order to try and keep it manageable. It’s easy to acquire games and add them to my collection to play on a rainy day, but when I look at them, do I really need them? I’ve acquired lots of games via PSN’s free monthly games that are now part of my backlog, but are they games I would chose to play? Do I have any desire to play Zombi or Deus Ex to completion? It’s great to get free games, but they can be a backlog burden. Getting three or four games a month is too many for most gamers never mind me, so in order to trim my backlog I stopped downloading every free game and just picked the ones I wanted to play at some point. I also cut down on browsing through sales, as I kept buying games based on price as opposed to actually wanting to play them.
Also, there were a lot of games in my backlog that I wanted to play again, but didn’t need to. For example, I bought EA Play on the PSP to play Road Rash 2 again, but after hearing EA’s replacement music tracks (seriously EA? Seriously?) I realized that I didn’t need to play Road Rash 2 again. I’d played it to death in my teens and playing it now was stopping me playing the other games in my backlog.
I went about removing the games I wasn’t keen on from the backlog too. Sometimes you have a game that you just can’t get into. Everyone seems to love The Witcher 3, but I knew I wasn’t enjoying it and I had to get rid of it to ensure I could keep moving through my backlog. I think everyone has experienced that at some point – stuck with the critical darling that you feel compelled to play, but isn’t inspiring you. I always find that I stop playing games when I’m in that position, causing me to fall even further behind with the backlog. I’ve learned that, if a game isn’t inspiring me, then I need to get rid of it, otherwise I end up in gaming limbo.
Finally, I got rid of the unrealistic games in my backlog. Some games like Oblivion for example are great, but far too long and immersive. I knew that I simply didn’t have the time to justify playing it. There are games that tempt me into letting them join my backlog, but I simply look at them and make an honest decision as to whether I’m going to be able to dedicate time to them or not. If not, I simply move on. It’s hard, but sometimes you have to be ruthless.
Organizing the backlog into a list
I’m a big fan of books on life coaching and one of the main ideas for improving the quality of your life is to make a list of any outstanding tasks. The theory is, if you can visualize what you need to do, you can begin to plan how to do it, therefore making you more efficient and reducing your stress levels. A backlog list would work the same way in my eyes – you can begin to devise a way of playing through all your games once you see how many you have.
Recently, I devised a spreadsheet to see how many games I wanted to blog about. My spreadsheet contained a list of games I wanted to buy as well, just to give me some direction when I go game shopping. There were around 190 games on the list, which is pretty daunting but I feel happier. I know what I’m up against now and can plan how I’m going to proceed. I know how many games I own and need to finish and how many I need to buy.
Another suggestion is to maybe set up your backlog on a backlog site. I’ve done this myself in the past and though it can be a chore to maintain, I did find it quite useful. Sites like The Backloggery are great for planning what game is best to play next and seeing which formats you need to dedicate the most time to. I like how the site turns beating your backlog into a game in itself, with stats and figures you can track. I’m tempted to set a profile up again to be honest – it’s more fun than trying to manually update a Google spreadsheet!
Sticking to just one game from the backlog
This can be tricky! I think this is the downfall of most gamers to be honest. I know it’s an issue with me – I always insist on having a few games on the go. I find it easy to get distracted from one game though if I’m enjoying another game more though. Then if I get stuck or bored on the second game? Well, that’s two games that are holding up my attempt to play through my backlog.
I would always advise never playing more than one ‘story’ game at a time. Maybe it’s just me, but I find it hard to keep track of more than one story. My tactic now is to have two games on the go, my ‘main’ game, usually a long term game with a story and a ‘second’ game, usually a sports game or a retro game that doesn’t demand as much concentration. Sometimes, I want to play games but am too tired to focus on a story and just want to play something simple, something that will scratch my gaming itch. Sometimes, I haven’t got time to invest in story. If I only have twenty minutes and need a gaming fix, I can just play Pac-Man or a game of Pro Evolution Soccer. If you have a deep in-depth game and a simpler game, it might not be a bad idea to pair them up.
Reconsidering the term ‘Completion’ when it comes to the backlog
I used to always worry about completing games. I had a fear that, if I didn’t fully complete every game I owned, I was terrible at games. It’s something that’s bothered me over the years and affected my confidence when it’s come to playing games. I reckon it’s part of the reason I’ve missed out on loads of great games…I simply didn’t have the confidence to try them. I always remember playing the demo of Tomb Raider 2 and really struggling. My immediate thought was simply “Well, I’m not good enough to play this game” and I missed out on arguably one of the defining games of a generation.
I don’t want this fear to rule my backlog so I decided to look at every game and see what I want from it. I like being invested in games enough to complete them, but I don’t have to get every collectible or secret. For most games, I simply want to complete the story, as that’s always been the reason I play games; to experience an adventure. However for other games, I have a certain goal for them. I don’t need to complete them to remove them from my backlog, I just need to play them to satisfy my reason to play them.
The best example of this is The Crew. This is a game that has sat on my PS4 hard drive for years and in the past this would have stressed me out. However, now I’ve looked at The Crew and realised that I don’t want to complete the story, I just want to try and drive across America. This has benefited me in two ways. Firstly, it’s taken the stress off me in that, it’s one less big game I need to complete, which gives me time to play other games. Secondly, because it’s such a frivolous challenge, it allows me to prioritize and play more important games first.
Stop treating your backlog like a bad thing
This is the big one for me, but it’s something I’ve tried recently and I’m finding it really works. In the past, I’ve treated my backlog as if it is a curse, something that will haunt me to the end of time. However, now I try and see the backlog as a positive. Sure it’s intimidating, but I like video games and want to play them…surely a guide of what games to play would help me? What better guide of what games to play than a list of games you already own? Games that are available to you right now? No saving up, no renting – those games are ready to play right now. If you don’t like the games you own, well, then trade them in! As I alluded to earlier, anything you don’t like shouldn’t be in your backlog.
Maybe it’s just my personality, but I like being busy. Having a list of games I need to play or pick up inspires me – I like having direction and knowing what I’m playing next. My worst nightmare is heading to the games shop with £50 and no idea of what to buy. I know me, I’d end up dithering and wasting my money….or worse, buying Watchdogs 2.
That’s my tips anyway…if even one of them helps one person, then I’d be pretty happy about that. I know what a burden backlogs can be, but they can be managed and enjoyed.
If anyone else has any tips, I’d love to hear them. Any help in defeating the backlog is always appreciated