Embracing the backlog

For many years I’ve been an “over-purchaser” of games. By that I mean I bought more games than I had time to play, and often pre-ordered them to boot. I’d pre-order a game months before launch and then when it finally launched I’d play it for a night and set it aside. Silly. I guess it was some kind of retail therapy for myself. Buying games was fun and I told myself I was supporting the developers (which was true but I’m not sure they all needed that money ahead of time).

Last fall we got the news that our health insurance was getting significantly more expensive, and that meant that our already stretched budget was going to get very tight indeed. I realized I was going to have to become MUCH more selective about buying games. I was really bummed.

I snagged quite a few games in Black Friday sales but haven’t bought anything since, as far as I can recall. And in the roughly two months since this budget crunch hit, I’ve kind of switched from seeing it as a burden to seeing it as a blessing.

I feel like I’m getting a lot more enjoyment out of games now that I see them as a kind of finite resource. When I was buying sometimes a few games a week, games were like a river. I scoop up some and have a taste but I was never going to consume them all so they seemed disposable and kind of devoid of value. There was always another coming so the game I was playing was only going to be on my radar for a few days.

Now I think of my games as a cornfield to be harvested. Still a big job, but if I stick with it eventually I might harvest all the goodness out of this field. (I guess today is metaphor day.) At the same time, each game has value because there’s not a constant flow of new titles coming in every week.

Because I don’t flit from game to game as frequently I feel like I get more from each one. What I get isn’t always good (see my bitching about Diablo 3’s story mode) but my understanding seems to always go deeper. I can articulate what I like and don’t like about each one and I feel like I have a more balanced view of every game I play. Even games I love have rough spots, and games I don’t like almost always have some nice bits tucked in there somewhere.

My backlog is enormous. I haven’t scratched the surface of my PS4 backlog yet, and then I have the Xbox One backlog which is nearly as big. And if somehow I get through that, there’s the PS2, PS3, PS Vita, Nintendo Wii and Nintendo 3DS backlogs. And then… Steam. Yes back in the day I was like so many others; when the big Steam sale hit I’d buy and buy and buy. I have 310 games in my Steam library. I’ve finished approximately 0 of them. Many of them I haven’t played at all.

This past weekend Sony was running a $5 Flash Sale. They had a bunch of games on sale for $5 (or less). I dutifully started looking over the list, figuring this is a great opportunity to score some deals. And there were a few games on the list I wanted to play someday. I even d/led a couple of demos. But then I thought about that backlog and the fact that if these games are on sale now, they’ll probably be on sale again in the future. No need to enlarge the backlog today. I didn’t buy anything.

I’m pretty proud of that. Instead of downloading 3 or 4 new games I’ve kept enjoying my current rotation of Shadow of Mordor, No Man’s Sky and Fairy Fencer F. I still want to go back to do some more Tomb Raider Trophies, then I have Watch Dogs 2, TitanFall 2, Final Fantasy XV, Battlefront 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare all vying for my attention.

7 thoughts on “Embracing the backlog

  1. I completely understand where you’re coming from on this. I’ve actually not bought that many games at the Steam sales last year because I keep reminding myself that I have more than enough already to play… and these sales will come around again!

    Congrats on withstanding the temptation! 😀

  2. I joined Humble monthly last year and my spending on games has dropped significantly. This is despite the fact that Humble monthly generally comes with one AA game and a bunch of indie games that I never heard of and wouldn’t have bought otherwise. There is something deeper going on. Getting a package of surprise games every month somehow satisfies my acquisitive streak and deters me from frivolous random purchases. I try all the games and every month there is always one or two gems that I really like. I still buy AAA titles that I really want to play because I know they won’t turn up in a bundle but only those I know I am going to play. Also isthereanydeal.com is a godsend for getting best deal PC games from legitimate retailers.

  3. @Mbp — Y’know that’s a good point. I think the ‘free’ (in quotes because of course the services aren’t free and if I stop subscribing I lose access to them) games I get from Xbox Live Gold and Playstation Plus help me out too. Even if they’re not my usual kind of thing I’ll d/l them and check them out and right there I’ve got ideally 4 new games every month. That assumes none of the games are titles I already own of course, but you get the idea.

  4. Going through my backlog made sales a lot less tempting. There’s always that voice in the back of my mind that says “you have all these other games to play you don’t need that one right now”. Plus, sales almost always come around again. When I do buy games, I try to buy one at a time otherwise some just gather digital/physical dust on the shelf.

  5. @Gwyn — I’ve barely scratched the surface of The Witcher. It’s so intimidating! I mean I probably put 10 hours in it but that’s like the tutorial or something… LOL

  6. I felt that way at first too, and I agonized over every choice just sure I was going to consign Geralt to a life of hell or something. All I can say is keep going, it’s so worth it (and that intimidation feeling will start to fade).

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