Simon J McDonnell

Creating cool stuff

Game Backlogs

I own a lot of games. Like, a lot. I have about 300 just on my steam account. I’ve come to this number through a mixture of steam sales, bundles, and bad decisions.

There’s a weird kind of paralysis that comes with having a ton of games to choose from. It gets very hard to choose one of the other, so you end up installing more and more, but never playing any of them. In a way it was better when I was a child and a teenager. My choice of games and my income was so much more limited that I ended up playing the small amount of new games I had to completion, rather than getting more before I’d even finished the ones I had. Now I own more games that I’ve never tried than I do ones I’ve completed.

Buying new games is something I now have to guard against. I’m drawn to the allure of something new, something that I’m sure I’d enjoy if I played it. The problem with that is the feeling can be fleeting. I can want a game so bad because my family and/or friends are playing and talking about it a bunch, but when that conversation abates then I find my urge to play wanes in time with it. This happened with Dragon Age: Inquisition. I wanted it so much when it first came out because my brother Michael was playing it and telling me about all the cool things he was doing. I haven’t thought about it in months, I only did so because I saw a picture of the cover the other day. My life carried right on without a hitch.

It wasn’t like I didn’t play any games during that time. I played a bunch, but that’s sort of the point, I didn’t need any new games; I already had so many that I’d never even touched.

You being to make weird bargains with yourself when you’ve got this much surplus. You say that you can only buy another game when you’ve completed at least one new one from your backlog. Or no new games till next year. One useful things I’ve started doing is to just wait. If I still want that new game in a month or two just as much as I did before then I’ll at least consider it. However if the urge to get it fades away then it takes care of itself, I won’t remember it so I won’t buy it. I ended up buying Sunless Sea this way.

It also affects your playing habits.

I find myself obsessed with finishing games. Red Alert 3 has three separate campaigns; I finished the first one, added it to my “Completed” category on steam, and uninstalled it. Once I had ostensibly completed it I was done. It didn’t matter that there was more fun gameplay there, or that I would enjoy it. Finishing the game had become more important than playing it.

I don’t play “Endless” games much anymore. Civilization 5, Eador, Crusader Kings 2, Don’t Starve. Or rather, I will generally play them for a length of time that I equate to getting my moneys worth out of them. When choosing a new game to play it’s imperative that it count towards reducing my backlog, and endless games are timesinks that distract from that. This is independent of how enjoyable the games are. I adore Crusader Kings 2. It’s a wonderfully enjoyable game that I sank a lot of hours into it when I played it. It doesn’t bring down my numbers though, so I don’t play it now.

I’ve become a slave to my backlog. It dictates what I play and what I buy.

This isn’t all bad. Curtailing spending is something I’m always looking to do (early retirement here I come!), so it does serve that purpose. It’s also very clearly not the worst problem to have. “Oh no, I have SO MUCH media it’s hard to consume it all!”

There’s a lot of weird thinking when it comes to game backlogs. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to play a game (but only one I haven’t played before).

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