How to Manage Your Backlog

Chances are, if you play video games in this day and age, you have a decent sized backlog of games that is not likely to shrink anytime soon. With subscriptions to Xbox and Playstation offering free games every month, or “All you can eat buffets” like Xbox Game Pass and EA Access, or most annoyingly the sweet, sweet Steam Summer Sale, there are many options being thrown at us to constantly increase our library on the cheap. If you are like me, you probably cannot resist seeing a game you’ve been interested in thrown into these subscription services or on sale at a fraction of the cost.

“I’ll just buy it now and play it later, how can I pass up on an offer like this?” you say to yourself. Later turns to next week, next week turns into next month, and before you know it, it’s been five years and you still haven’t once opened Child of Light. Well, I hate to break it to ya’, you probably are not going to get around to playing Child of Light, unless you take a step back and strategize.

I am proud to say that, after two years of recognizing my issue and attempting to knock it out, I have put a serious dent into my backlog, and I’m not slowing down. Now, I’m not going to say that I have successfully been cured of my imposing list of games, but I have found some ways to help manage it. Not all of these techniques and tricks will help everyone; I fully acknowledge that. But I feel like I’ve really learned some valuable lessons that I hope others can get help from.

Stop Buying More Games

This is the most obvious solution, and the root of all of your problems – but I mean it: stop buying more games. I know that it is hard seeing Yoku’s Island Express on sale for 33% off again; but just remember, it will probably go on sale at some point in the future. We have this impulsive need to buy something right now in fear of it going back up in price, but chances are, whatever it is, it will probably be even cheaper in the future if you can just have a little patience. Now, you don’t have to completely cut yourself off from buying games, because you might miss out on playing what all your friends are playing; this just means you have to really show some self-control and pick things that you will play now, not later.

Be Selective in What You Play

One of the hardest things to do with a massive backlog is deciding what game you want to play next. With so many options to pick from, it can be difficult to decide what mood you are in. Similar to what happens with Netflix, I can often spend almost an hour scrolling through my list just trying to decide what to play. I have a couple different options for how to be selective, but one fun one I have found is to show your list to your spouse, significant other, or friends and ask them to pick what you will play next. This takes a lot of the pressure off of deciding what you feel like playing and forces you to play a game and stick with it to the end. Note: If you absolutely don’t want to play what was chosen (first I have to ask why you even own it?), then simply ask for their second pick and go with that instead.

Now, I know that some of you may not have people that you would trust with such an important decision, so the responsibility falls back on you. My advice is to make a list of your top ten games you want to play, with a HowLongToBeat reported hour count next to each of them. Using this list, sit down and decide which games you want to play the most in combination with how long it will take to beat those games. Sometimes, you just aren’t in a mood right away to play a 60 hour game, so prioritizing some smaller titles will become a key strategy.

Limit Yourself to a Certain Number at Once

This was my biggest issue, and still continues to be: I’ll start a game, make some progress, then try out another one. Doing so once is fine and all, but doing it over and over again just ensures that you will never beat any game ever. What I have found to work best is to limit yourself to only playing two or three games at one time. I’d say to go a step further and to delete every other one off your hard drive to make sure you can only play those choice few. Again, alleviating the pressure caused by an endless list is key to making progress, and viewing your to-do list as two or three items instead of two or three hundred is significant.

Mix Up Genres

Burnout (not the racing game series, but the idea of becoming drained by your favorite hobby) is  a serious problem when trying to complete game after game after game. One way to help prevent this feeling of repetition and tiredness is to change the types of games you play. Getting bored of FPS games after marathoning every Halo game in The Master Chief Collection, but you still are in the mood for fighting some aliens? Maybe give XCOM: Enemy Unknown a shot and work out that strategic side of your brain! Need a break from every AAA game having an open world and infinite collectibles? Try out some smaller indie titles like Minit that can be beaten in one sitting! I could go on, but you get the idea: mix it up and keep it fresh!

Don’t Be Afraid to Bail Out

This is one of the hardest things to admit as a person who bought something: you just aren’t enjoying the game anymore. So now what? Do you keep on suffering and hope that it gets better? Maybe! But sometimes you just need to realize that you aren’t going to like everything that you play, or that you just don’t have the time to commit to a 200 hour game! Sometimes, you just need to bail out and move on. It is heartbreaking to me when I am initially having a good time with a game and at some point I realize that I just am not having any fun anymore.

This happened to me with The Messenger about halfway through, and it really bummed me out. But rather than pushing through and remembering the game for what I didn’t like, I decided that It would be better to drop it and move on to something else. Remember, gaming is supposed to be fun, not a chore! No one is forcing you to play these games other than yourself (I hope, anyways), and you are only holding yourself back from enjoying other things. It’s okay; sometimes you just need to admit the hard truth, exit the game, uninstall it, and take it off of your backlog.

So here we are, minutes later and minutes further away from playing the fantastic Psychonauts (that you probably bought for a dollar on a steam sale and absolutely need to play after this). I don’t expect that these lessons I’ve learned will solve your never ending backlog issue, but I do really think that they could help. I myself have managed to knock nearly thirty titles off of my backlog in 2019 alone (five of which were bail-outs, I should add)! I don’t expect all of you to suddenly go massacring your lists immediately after this, but I really hope that you can put a sizeable dent into them! Just remember, if nothing else from what I’ve told you, that gaming is supposed to be fun, and you are supposed to be having fun! So stop listening to me babble and go play some games (preferably Psychonauts)!

Note: Title image comes from the game Lumino City, which you should really play if you have a chance!

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