I know what you’re thinking; how can having a vast game collection and buying them for pennies be a bad thing? I certainly never thought it would be. But with a shift in how games are made, personal income and free time, over the years games have become somewhat of a task rather than a form of entertainment.
In this article I will share my personal thoughts and experience with games and how our relationship got more rocky as time went on. Admittedly, this was all done through my own choices, but gamers that play and think the same way I do will understand.
Gaming in Younger Years
A gaming backlog is something I never thought would be a problem. In my younger years I dreamed of a game that would never end. A very different mindset to what I have today. The dreams of my younger self were fuelled from lack of money. With 6 siblings and one parent, money was stretched.
In these younger times I played the same games over and over and over. They were fun. Back in the years before every game was open world with 40+ hours of padding. Simple 6-10 hour games with engaging stories and fun gameplay.
I played games because I wanted to. I would choose what game to play next based on how excited I was to play it or how cool it looked… Oh how things have changed.
Gaming Some Years Later
When I bought my PC I was still buying physical copies of games. That changed when I first saw a Steam sale. My wishlist was already rather large as I came across a bunch of games I’d wanted years before but couldn’t afford. And there I was, staring at my wishlist with all those beautiful discounted prices next to them. Naturally I bought more games than I needed. This repeated for every sale and before I knew it I had hundreds of games to complete.
I’m a completionist. I finish every game, even if it’s awful. It takes a truly terrible game to make it into my “not to complete”category. As a result, my backlog certainly grows faster than my completed list does. Thus, the problem begins.
Oh Steam sales. A truly wonderful thing. Grab 10 games for the cost of one? Sure. Why not? There are some truly great deals, irresistible. So you buy them. Trouble is, I found myself buying games I hadn’t heard of before. Which wasn’t always a bad thing. I’ve found some great games that way, like Dex, Torchlight, Shadow Warrior, and Sniper Elite. But I also bought a bunch of games that looked mildly interesting because they were literal pennies. Among them were Viking: Battle For Asgard, Necrovision, Betrayer, and Just Cause to name a few.
I never would’ve bought these games if they weren’t so cheap. I probably would have been better off having never played them. All they did was stress me out or bore me to tears. This is where demos are rather useful. If any games had demos anymore I could have tested these before I bought them based on screenshots and trailers. Wasted time and money. Time that could’ve been spent finishing games in my backlog I actually wanted to play.
Being the completionist I am, I have to finish them all. If these games weren’t on 90% sales I never would’ve bought them, probably not even looked at them. My Steam library would certainly be a lot smaller.
Choosing What Game to Play
When I noticed how my library had grown, I made a conscious effort to try and thin it out, so I started strategically choosing what games to play. I would ignore bigger games, like RPG’s and anything with an open world. It went as far as using howlongtobeat.com so I could see which games I could finish in rapid succession. Like this I could finish about two games a week.
I was no longer playing for the fun of it. There was an overwhelming feeling of obligation to finish all of these games and it wouldn’t be satisfied until the completed game list was bigger than the to finish list. I wasn’t choosing what game to play next because I wanted to play that game. Games I wanted to play were left until I got through slimming down my backlog.
Newer games were more daunting to look at in terms of hours. With most of them asking for at least 40 hours of my time as apparently every game now has to be open world with never ending, repetitive unimportant tasks. If they’re not, they’re not a real game… apparently. That’s a whole other issue you can read about here.
With work and other commitments these games will be played over the course of a month, sometimes longer. While playing all I could think of was how many other games I could’ve finished in that time. Gaming had really started to feel like a chore.
Making Games Fun Again
For a long time I wanted to play though The Mass Effect trilogy again. Over the years I grabbed DLC’s as I didn’t have them when I first played through. Every time I thought of saving the galaxy from the Reaper threat I would find another game in my library that’s only 2 hours, 5 hours, 8 hours long. Each time Mass Effect would get pushed further and further back because I’d already played it and I haven’t played these other games.
I eventually managed to convince myself to play them as I haven’t played the DLC before. So it needs to be played. Technically it’s in the “to finish” category. Just like that, the spell was broken.
All of a sudden I was looking forward to getting to my gaming time. I knew that I was going to enjoy what I was playing. I’ve been thinking of replaying old games for a good while but my obligation to my backlog has always kept me away.
It’s made me realise the importance of playing the games you love. It’s easy to get lost in new games, new experiences, but it’s not guaranteed that you’re going to enjoy them all, especially when you start buying tonnes of games just because they’re on sale.
When replaying an old game it brings the nostalgia with it. The reason you continue to play games through the years. When you play a game you’ve played a bunch before you know what you’re getting into. You can’t wait to get into it. You know that you’re going to enjoy the next however many hours with it.
The solution I’ve found to my backlog problem is that now I play the games I want to play. I’ve stopped buying games. I have enough for now. The games I still want to get aren’t going anywhere. And when I’ve finished my backlog they’ll still be there and they’ll be cheaper.