New Backlog Rules


I think most people who deliberately dedicate any significant income to video games at this point has a backlog, whether it’s just a dozen PlayStation games or 2000 games on Steam. We’ve probably all got our strategies for dealing with it or just trying to ignore it as it grows behind our backs. I think I’ve started to develop some new rules for attacking the backlog which will hopefully speed things up while making sure I still get enjoyment out of games.

Firstly there’s what I’ve already talked about more than once in regards to slowing the growth of one’s backlog. It’s one simple rule: Don’t buy games until you’re ready to play them. This is mainly how I approach big sales these days — I only pick up the games I plan to play in the short term. The only exception is when the sale price is so low I don’t think it’ll be that low again before I play it, or some other significant amount of time, or has simply hit its theoretical minimum price (usually when it’s less than $3 USD). I don’t have to buy games at launch. As far as I can see, my backlog hasn’t grown as fast as it used to since I started thinking this way. In some cases I even manage to finish every game I bought on a Steam sale in relatively short order.

For tackling the stuff already there, I’m beginning to adopt another rule: I don’t have to finish every game in the backlog, I only need to try them. This might be kind of big for some people. There’s a sense that if you bought the game and own it, you should try to get your money’s worth. I had to let go of this rule when I found it was chaining me to games I didn’t really want to play as much as some other games. It’s really all about playing the games I want to play, which should lead to my having more fun with my backlog. To tell the truth I don’t even finish all the games I talk about on this blog. I only play them enough to get a sense of them, usually some significant portion. That’s why my posts aren’t actual reviews or anything.

How long you should try a backlog game before deciding to move on or commit is probably different for each person. Personally I’ve settled on four hours. There isn’t that much tying me to that number but I think it’s a good amount of time for just about any genre, from a shooter to an RPG. No game should take 10 or 35 hours to become interesting or “get better.” I’m not saying I should know everything about a game within four hours, but I should know whether I want to fully commit to it. The only exception I’ll make is for hardcore simulation games, which by design tend to have longer learning curves. Even there, after the first few hours I’ll probably step back and decide whether I’m gripped enough to want to learn the game.

If I decide not to commit it isn’t even a condemnation of the game. It’s just me saying there are things I want to spend my time with even more, or this just isn’t something that’ll really grab me in particular. I’ve put down some pretty good games under this rule — because I figured I’d rather spend that time playing some really great games. The problem facing games today in my opinion is one of quantity.

There are simply too many good games coming out, which means each one of those games has to be much better to keep my attention compared to previous eras. When I only owned an N64 I’d be all over dozens of 6-out-of-10 games because there just wasn’t that much to play. Today there are already more than enough games that are so good I can’t put them down. The backlog, at this point, is less about finishing all the games than it is about picking out the gems among the gems.


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