After a long hard day of working from home, I finally have the chance to turn on my system and play some video games. Scrolling through the rows of cover art, I visit each line and ask myself if any of these games look interesting enough to play. The answer varies from I don’t have the energy to start this to I haven’t played this in so long the thought of resuming it makes me tired. This indecisive process repeats for each row of my nearly 300-game library.
Eventually my searching leads to the dramatic conclusion that I own zero playable games. Acting gullible to my drastic conclusion, I address the problem by perusing the store for something new that’s cheap and interesting. I find a game that is an attractive combination of cool cover art and a price similar to a fast food meal.
I take into account quality by examining reviews from my trusted review sources and decide that the game is well worth the price of admission. It is queued up for download and I wait eagerly for my saving grace to be playable. Booting up the game I play for five whole minutes, tell myself “this is great,” and quit out of the game never to touch it again. The vicious cycle is complete.
Who Started the Backlog Fire?
This backlog problem seems distinctly modern, as I don’t remember a time of owning so much but finishing so little. Most of my life I rarely purchased new games. In my youth I would purchase two games a year and these games would sustain me for months on end. Games like Red Dead Redemption, Halo 3, and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion provided countless hours of fun. Even months into playing I was anxious to hop on for another playthrough or an additional match of multiplayer.
Today, however, it’s rare that I complete a game without purchasing several more intending to jump in to them next. Next is oftentimes far more exciting than being present in the current game I’m trying to get through. This isn’t to say my lack of willpower is the only thing feeding the backlog beast.
My habits have changed, and as an adult, life is busier. Less leisure hours means less time to game. The amount of money required to access modern games is at an all time low as well. With several interesting free-to-play games and the rise of subscription services, the number of games pining for my attention increases month to month. Together, these things create the perfect conditions for a backlog storm.
What results is that titles such as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Neir: Automata, and Fallout 4, which are pretty much must-plays, have sat in my library gathering digital dust for months. I let the excitement of adding to my library become more enticing than sitting down and actually playing. In other words, I have become my biggest hurdle in enjoying gaming.
Enjoying the Game, Not the Deal
With inspiration to chip away at my backlog, stopping new titles leaking into my want-to-play section is now a priority. But not buying cheap new games is easier said than done. After some self assessment, I set a rule for myself, if I own an unplayed game in the genre of the game I’m looking to purchase (Open Wold, Fighting Game, CRPG, etc.), I won’t allow myself to purchase the game in question.
My substantial backlog limits me to a handful of games I could purchase. Using this relatively harsh rule has given me further insight. I enjoy the feeling of getting a great deal perhaps too much. Purchasing hundreds of hours of content for $14.99 feels great until I have to dedicate the hours needed to play the game. I want what I buy to be more about interest rather than value. The self-imposed genre rule grinds my cycle of buying to a halt, no longer adding to my stack of unplayed games.
Now I set out to chisel away at my excessive collection.
Starting the Marathon
Solving my unenthusiastic buying habits was the smaller half of the equation. There’s still a staggering number of hours needed to dig myself out of my backlog hole. With little time to game each day, devising a system to start and complete titles is needed.
Ironically, starting a new game is now the most difficult part. It’s commonplace for me to choose my favorite multiplayer game over devoting energy to a new game. Like an old sweatshirt, multiplayer is comfortable and easy to get into. But night after night, multiplayer games begin to grow stale and my dedication to them doesn’t change. Another realization has set in. I’m playing multiplayer games only because they’re familiar.
Wanting to break from my status quo, I begin using a method for my madness. When scouring through my backlog for something interesting I choose three different games that span different genres. I give myself 30 minutes playing each game, and from that trio of sessions I select the one I find most interesting as the next game to check off my backlog.
Even with a fresh game, there are several points I lose interest during my play through. Especially for longer games, I often find myself skipping dialogue and zoning out of story beats and critical scenes. Zombie-like progression is the opposite of how I want to experience great titles. Otherwise I might as well just watch a playthrough on YouTube. This is where I find multiplayer games useful in breaking up the monotony. Taking a break to play a few games of Overwatch or complete a few missions on Warframe recenters my attention on my chosen backlog game.
Along this line, I take some nights off completely from the backlog crusade and instead watch a movie or TV show. My journey is much more of a marathon than a sprint, and taking my time assures that I’m squeezing quality gaming out of my backlog.
Finishing Games Feels Better than Buying New Ones
Since the beginning of 2020, my methods have warranted the completion of 17 backlogged games. My gaming time is now spent working on the backlog instead of adding to the backlog. After completing so many games this year, I’ve come to love the feeling of finishing games more than the buyers’ high I used to chase.
It feels great when I cross a game off the backlog list after it has lived there for so many years. Though I have a large list of games I want to complete, I am finally to a point where the number doesn’t cause me stress. Maybe one day I’ll truly have nothing new to play, but at least for the rest of this decade I have plenty more backlog to conquer.
Let us know down in the comments how you’ve been conquering your backlog, or if any of these tips sound like they’ll help you out. Also stay tuned to Generation Xbox for everything in the world of Xbox, and check out our weekly podcast here.