If you are somebody who plays a lot of video games, chances are that you will be all too familiar with the dreaded backlog. With new games releasing on such a regular basis it can be difficult to keep up to track and play every game you purchase. The temptation to move on from the game you are currently playing to the latest release can be difficult to resist for many, and eventually, you will build a large stack of games which you haven’t played. As time passes these games begin to feel like a huge weight on your shoulders. They will loom over you, teasing you and being a constant reminder of what what you still haven’t experienced.
We all purchase and play video games because they are something which we enjoy, but having a backlog can be intimidating. When I started collecting, many years ago, it wasn’t the most pleasant experience. I was purchasing games, both new and old, at a much quicker rate than I could feasibly play them. A lot of the games I bought in those early years were role-playing games, specifically Japanese RPGs, so whenever I did get around to playing one it was a large time investment. I just couldn’t work my way through them at a quick enough rate to reduce my backlog. It felt like I was constantly trying to climb to the top of a mountain, with the peak never coming into sight.
Before long I was a year into collecting and I had hundreds of unplayed games. I’m not the type of person to purchase a game for the sake of having it sit on a shelf, never to be played. I only buy games I have an interest in playing, and having so many unplayed games was frustrating. I decided to take the bull by the horns and get on top of my backlog before it got even more out of control.
Having recently spoken to a friend about this very topic it inspired me to write about how I started controlling my backlog. I’ve come to accept the fact that I will never rid myself of my backlog entirely, but actively taking control has made me whittle down the number of games I have not played, and I feel much more comfortable with the situation. Making these changes has allowed me to enjoy playing video games more than I had ever done so previously. The methods I used aren’t foolproof, but hopefully, they can guide you through.
Step One: Assess your Backlog
Step one is a fairly simple task. Assessing exactly which games are a part of your backlog should be your natural starting point. Begin by checking which games you’ve already played and make a note of them. Once this is done make a note of each game you haven’t played. Once you know the extent of your backlog it’ll give you a much clearer focus.
Step Two: Break Your Backlog Down into More Manageable Chunks
When I first assessed my backlog, it became apparent just how huge it was. It was around the 300 game mark. It was even larger than I had ever thought it could be, and this initially made the task seem all the more intimidating and challenging. But instead of buckling under the pressure, I decided to break this number down into more manageable chunks. I started by separating each game by their system. I knew exactly which games I owned that I hadn’t played for each system, and although the number of games hadn’t changed looking at a list of twenty games for one system or a list of 30 for another seemed much more manageable than a list of 300. Once I separated the games by their systems I then decided to break it down even further. I started taking random games from each system and placing them on new lists. Each of these new lists was no more than twenty games, and I tried to make each list include a decent variety of titles. I then lastly took these lists and broke them up into even smaller lists of five games. Throughout all this, the total number of unplayed games had remained the same, but looking at them in smaller lists of five made the task of tackling them seem all the more realistic. I didn’t even pay attention to how many of these smaller lists I had, I simply worked through them five games at a time. Each time I completed a set of five it felt like I had achieved something. It felt rewarding.
Step Three: Once You Have a Plan of Action, Stick to It
Whatever method you decide to use, be it the method I’m explaining here or another entirely, it’s important to never waver from it. You must commit and not stop for a second thought. On occasions, it can be difficult. At various times I was tempted to stop playing a game to begin playing something else, but I never did. I knew that if I kept jumping from one game to another I was never going to finish any of them, and my backlog would never become smaller. After a while, I began to become normalised to my method. I stopped thinking of playing something else and concentrated entirely on the list of five games which I was currently tackling.
Step Four: Play Only One Game at a Time
If there’s one bit of advice which I would consider more important than anything else, it is this. Only play one game at a time. When I began playing through my lists I would occasionally swap and change between the five games, but I would often lose focus. Even though the new method was allowing me to get through games, it still wasn’t ideal. Even swapping between five games and changing my focus caused me to slow down, and I was still taking considerable time to finish each list. I decided that the only way I could increase my speed was to stick entirely to one game at a time. I would work through each until completion and then, and only then, would I move on to the next. After adopting this approach the time it was taking me to complete each list was reduced significantly. My focus was entirely on one game at a time, and it also allowed me to enjoy each game more.
Step Five: Avoid Playing too Many Familiar Games
Where possible, it’s important to avoid playing too many similar games one after another. When I first started working through my backlog and playing only one game at a time, one of my lists was comprised of five JRPGs. I adore JRPGs, but by the time I had worked through four of them and reached the fifth, I began to feel a little genre fatigue. At that point, I decided I would never make this mistake again. I reorganised my lists to make sure that each one of them was comprised of no more than two games from a single genre. This kept thing fresh, and I never struggled with genre fatigue again.
Step Six: Don’t Be Afraid of FOMO
FOMO. The fear of missing out. This is something that many gamers have a problem overcoming. Publishers know this all too well, which is why we see so many ‘collector’s edition’ or ‘limited edition’ versions of games. It also why new releases offer so many ‘bonuses’ for preordering. Publishers are manipulating their customers, and FOMO is how they achieve it. You must eliminate that fear, or at the very least learn to cope with it. You don’t need to play every single new release at launch. These games will still be there for you to play years later. But, if there is a game you want to play immediately act accordingly. Even before the game is released, try incorporating the game as part of your backlog. Make if the fifth game to play on one of your lists, and try to play through the other four beforehand. This will increase your focus and determination to play the other games first, and the new release can serve as a reward for your hard work.
These techniques are by no means a definitive way to deal with your backlog, but using this method and following these six steps definitely helped me. Years have passed since I started this, and today the necessity for me to follow these steps so closely isn’t a requirement. I now feel comfortable. I enjoy playing games more than ever before. I’ve accepted that my backlog will never entirely disappear, but taking action to get on top of it has reduced the size so dramatically that I no longer feel overwhelmed. That weight has been lifted from my shoulders.
Obviously, other factors come into play. Depending on what job you have, or the situation in your personal life, you may have very little free time, but I’ve managed to work on a full-time basis throughout most of my working life thus far, and these techniques have still worked for me. Depending on your circumstances it may not work for you, but its worth consideration. Even if it still takes you a considerable amount of time, having a plan of action will always make things quicker and more effective than having no plan at all. Just enjoy playing the games.