Feature Friday: The Dreaded Backlog

Is there such a thing as too many video games?

Hi. My name’s Kyle, and I have a video game backlog.

Back in the 90s, as a kid, we weren’t really in a financial position to afford video games. You can probably imagine how elated we were to receive our uncle’s old Sega Genesis, and a few years later, the original PlayStation. Mum often reminds me of her picking me up from kindergarten and seeing I’d made a GameBoy Color with a block of wood and some markers. I imagine I was in the same boat as most kids: you play what you’ve got until you’re lucky enough to get another. Sometimes the game you picked for your birthday or Christmas ended up being terribly disappointing, but you had to finish it – what else were you going to play?

Of course, there was always the rental shop. Ah, the magic of popping down to the local Video Ezy and perusing their vast catalogue that lined the shelves. I fondly remember getting Dad to take me there every Friday afternoon like clockwork; sitting cross-legged on the floor as I sorted through a pile of potential rentals, deciding what to get. It was a mixed bag – I think this was before we even had a computer or an Internet connection not of the Dalek-sounding variety. My only sense of judgment was what I’d heard from friends or saw in magazines, so usually the deciding factor was how awesome the cover art looked. Eventually, it was time to go home, and only one would be lucky enough to come with us. The rest would go back to their spaces on the shelf, jotted down in my mental list of games to choose from next week.

Needless to say, I didn’t have much of a game collection. As I reached my early teens, I found myself with a desktop computer of my own and was earning regular pocket money. Just about all of it went towards my beloved hobby, and I soon discovered the magic of visiting EB Games. The collection was growing, and fast! Forums, news sites and monthly magazines were my source of knowledge, and I’d always keep up with what was coming out and what might have gone by unnoticed. It felt great to be in the loop, and have games to play with my friends. I’d gone from not knowing what a Nintendo 64 was until coming across one at the video rental store, to having friends over for pizza and Guitar Hero, to waking up early to hear the big E3 announcements.

Along came Steam.

Bear with me now, because this is going to be a serious case of ‘first-world problem’. As fantastic as Steam sales are, I really can’t resist them. There’s something special about knowing one is coming up. There’s a buzz across gaming communities and social networks for months beforehand, debates and rumours over when they might begin and what might be on offer. When that day finally arrives, the buzz becomes the deafening sound of debit cards being wrenched out of wallets. Few can resist the temptation. Steam has been a blessing and a curse: the blessing is that it offers an enormous library of games, new and old, good and bad, and (usually) at fantastic prices. Steam sales offer titles at ridiculous discounts, allowing us to pick up all sorts of things we might’ve wanted previously but not had the funds for and maybe the odd one you didn’t know you even wanted until it was 95% off.

The curse? Well, most people who have taken part in the Summer Sale will have probably had thoughts in a similar vein to these:

Alan Wake, 70% off? I know I already bought and beat it for the 360, but…it’s got mouse and keyboard controls now. And better graphics. And I really enjoyed that game. AND it’s 70% off. AND TRADING CARDS.

Ah, Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition, finally on sale! This time, I won’t chicken out. Bring on the challenge!

25+ Nancy Drew games for $10? Eh, why not.

Three hundred and thirty four. That’s how many games Steam currently says I have in my library. Granted, some of these are review copies, or gifts, but I would imagine the vast majority have been purchased since I opened the account back in 2007. Along with all the sales; the indie and Greenlight games constantly popping up on the store make it so easy to find something to play. It’s crazy how quickly your collection grows when you can grab so many games at affordable prices. Of course, the backlog isn’t exclusive to the PC – there’s plenty of console games I’m still needing to get around to. I can’t deny, though, that Steam is the most tempting of all. And here’s where the conundrum lies: how do you manage to play all those games? It’s tempting to just sell them all and start again, one game at a time. That’s just about impossible on a digital platform, though. About two years ago, I knew it was time to begin getting through them all.

At first, I just decided to treat it like any other task: figure out what needed to be done in sequence, and go for it. I’d play through each game, one after the other, and see where that got me. It didn’t work. Not every single game you buy is guaranteed to be a winner, after all. For some of them, I just wasn’t in the mood for that kind of game and moved onto the next. Some of them weren’t the sort of game that can really be beaten as such, and some were just crappy games. The next attempt was the addition of a few rules: play whatever you feel like, but it needs to be a game you’ve never finished, and you can’t buy a new game until you complete another. This helped a little – there’s no hope of clearing the backlog with new ones being added all the time. I did, however, find myself breaking the rule more and more over time. The relapse of a video game sale addict.

A few months ago, it dawned on me: I bought these games to have fun, didn’t I? Isn’t that the point of most video games at the end of the day? If I’m treating playing them like a chore, then why bother at all? After that, I tried streaming. Streaming is great fun; it lets you interact with a live audience, somebody to chat with while you play through a game, people who can offer advice and commentary, and it keeps you focused. I found that my audience would inspire me to keep going when a game got frustrating or tiresome. The viewers wanted to see what happened next and how you handled it, so you had to keep going!  I’d let the viewers know what games could be played next, and they’d pick from the list. We were flying through them. And so far, it’s working! I’ve been streaming regularly, and blasting through the collection like nobody’s business. To those who are on the same journey: these tactics might not work for you, but I definitely think playing only what you really want to play and learning to resist buying games just because they’re cheap is the first step on the road to clearing the dreaded backlog.

I’m sure this will probably sound like a ridiculous thing to write an article about. ”You’ve got too much of your favorite thing? Oh, boo-hoo! Poor you!” Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a rant or complaint column by any means! I’m incredibly privileged to have access to so many brilliant creations, and am so grateful for that. The reason I’m talking about this today is that I’d love to hear the experiences of other video game sale addicts, and heck – those of you who aren’t, too!

Do you have a video game backlog? Have you made any progress, and if so, how’d you manage it? Got any tips?

If you don’t, how do you manage it? Are you just a frugal gamer, lack the funds or maybe you just don’t see any games worth buying lately?

Let me know below!

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Legends foretold of a hairy-footed halfling named Kyle, who would go on a perilous quest to drive an ancient evil from the world – instead, he bought a computer and learned how to throw his opinions at the internet. He now resides in New Zealand, where he slowly wears his eyes out on far too many video games.
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Posted by KyleMilner | Editorials, Featured Articles
  • Jay

    Great article Kyle!

    I had to take drastic action. My backlog used to be pretty monstrous so I sold off a good chunk of the games I’d either barely played or not gotten around to at all.

    I also cut out most- RPGs, RTS’, sports games and open world games to the point that I really don’t even entertain buying them. As a result I miss a lot of good stuff, but at least this way I’m able to keep more current with my gaming and limit the backlog and limit the backlog at the me time. Action games and FPS’ don’t take all that long to play through after all.

    Now I’m not saying I have NO backlog, but it’s waaaaaay down from what it was. Unfortunately I still have a copy of games like Witcher 2 just sitting there, staring at me forlornly. So sad…

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  • alon

    very nice article remind me of my own experience
    I have a big problem choosing what to play and so I don’t finish as much games as I want and I end up not playing great games for example the witcher or xenoblade because I feel like I should play newer game I got like shin magumi tensai IV or tales of xillia
    a possible original solution I am doing is that I made a list of all games I want to play or finish (now has 256 games) and I use a random number generator in order to pick the game to focus on
    I think that gives an interesting way to “solve” the problem

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  • Kyle M

    Great idea, might have to borrow this one!

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  • Jay

    Holy crap that’s an awesome idea.

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  • brandon

    Use the backloggery to pick a game to play. It has a fortune cookie option that chooses a game for you. You can even narrow it down by platform and other things. It also keeps track of completion status. It’s my favorite website ever. Backloggery.com

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  • alon

    http://www.random.org/lists/
    cool I’m glad you like my idea have fun!

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  • Kyle M

    Very cool, cheers for the link!

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