Gaming backlog worries

Regular readers will already be familiar with our “gaming piles o’ shame” over there on The Mantelpiece. Sir Gaulian’s backlog is mightily more impressive than mine, but both are nothing to be sniffed at. Put simply, we have far more games than we have time to play them.

This is a frustrating situation to be in. We have all those brilliant games sitting there, but there just simply isn’t the time to sit and play through them all, especially considering that some of the longer ones may well take 50 hours or more to finish. That’s great value for money, but terrible if you want to sample everything good that’s out there.

A sample of my current gaming backlog. I really must get around to playing through the Uncharted games one of these days...
A sample of my current gaming backlog. I really must get around to playing through the Uncharted games one of these days…

It’s also a source of anxiety. There are just so many great games that are worthy of my time and that I really want to play, but I can only play a fraction of them, and I fret about which game to move onto next because I know that some will perhaps never get their time in the sun. It’s a subject I’ve touched on before. Some might call this a ‘first world dilemma’, but I think that would be dismissing it a bit too easily… there’s always some deep-seated reason for genuine human emotion.

I decided to dig into the psychology of gaming backlogs. Not much has been written on the subject, but there was plenty on how people get backlogs in the first place – i.e. the psychology of selling – and there were a few interesting things about how people deal with the similar matter of never being able to read all of the worthwhile books that have been published. I put it all together and put it into this article for Kotaku UK:

Why We Feel So Bad About Gaming Backlogs

It all got pretty deep by the end.

But judging by the comments, it’s a subject that quite a few people have thought about and indeed worry about. So many games, so little time…


  1. i’ve gradually come to peace with my backlog, and had a few thoughts to offer (file under “how to stop hating your backlog and start loving yourself”):

    – “finishing” a game has become much less of a goal for me in recent years. i’ve found that most longer games show everything unique that they contain within the first few hours, so once you settle into that game’s “loop” then everything else is basically just more of the same, e.g. sword+1 goes to sword+2, etc. (a sure sign that the game’s started repeating itself is when it starts using palette swaps!). some games do continue to offer up surprises throughout their entirety, but those are in a minority. there have to be strong reasons for me to continue a game that gets to that obvious “rinse and repeat” stage. these could include interesting characters and story, stellar production values, etc., but generally i’m happy to set aside games when i feel like i’ve seen everything unique they have to offer. of course this isn’t to say that playing those games was a waste of time, most games feel like they’re essentially full of padding in order to give the average game player the feeling that s/he has gotten her/his “money’s worth”.

    – part of the fun of a big backlog is deciding what game to play next. only focusing on games with high metacritic scores is clearly not the way to go, but one thing i do make sure to set aside time for are games that i feel like i should play (were historically significant, have been influential, have some really unique hook, etc.), as opposed to just the games i want to play. oftentimes the games i want to play are entries in series i know i like, so i also try to balance games from series i know vs. games from series that are new to me.

    – i’m definitely more OCD when it comes to my backlog than most, and i actually geekily keep track of a host of other stats on games i’ve played, such as genre, platform, and date the game was released and try to balance those so that i’m not spending all my game playing time in one corner of the vg universe to the exclusion of all others. there is the issue of aiming for breadth vs. depth, but since i’m naturally inclined to be a completist when it comes to game series, depth is generally not a problem for me.

    sorry that was so long, haha. but maybe this will be helpful to people with huge backlogs who are trying to figure out how to not feel overwhelmed by them.

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