2016 has been a good year. Really, it’s been too good; my backlog is 19 games and counting on PS4 alone. And with big IPs like Skyrim, Dishonored 2, and Pokemon Sun and Moon all dropping, not to mention personal milestones like Obsidian’s Tyranny, I need to clear that backlog.
So, since I don’t intend to buy a new console anytime soon, nor do I trust myself to replace the hard drive without burning the house down, I decided to plough my way through the pile of unfinished games. Complete and delete is the name of the game.
“But Brian“, I hear you say, “it's not that hard to work your way through a game or two. I knocked one out over the weekend.”
Well hey there, hypothetical reader – we're not all magical pixies from the land of productivity, and some people benefit from structure and methodology. You do your laissez-faire thing, you anarchist, we’ll be over here making progress. And that's the last I want to hear from you, Mr. or Ms. Smartmouth.
This part is so easy it’s almost impossible to mess up. Write down every game you own that you’re not totally done with. Whether you’ve completed it or not, unless you are wholly satisfied that you’ll never play it again, it’s on this list. Mine looks like this.
Feeling accomplished already? Well, don’t. Remember how I said this was the easy part? That’s because:
C’mon guys, that list is hella long. You’re not gonna play them all without quitting your job and sequestering yourself away for a year. It’s time to cull.
Everyone has different reasons for playing games. Personally, I love trophies; if I can see a Platinum within reach, I will ruin my life trying to get it. But what I’ve realised recently is that I don’t actually enjoy doing that. So first off my list were games I was only playing for bragging rights.
If you’re anything like me, this will hurt. I’m three bosses away from my Bloodborne Platinum, literally a single trophy away, but I’m just not enjoying playing it anymore. If it’s work, it’s not play, and unless you game because you literally hate yourself, don’t keep going once it stops being fun.
This next one cut relates to peer pressure. You know those games that people insist you simply have to play? Yeah, don’t do that. This calls back to not playing stuff you don’t want to because, yeah, everyone’s saying it’s great, but it’s not your thing so you won’t enjoy it. You know what? YouTube is full of Let’s Plays so you can watch other people play those games, and Wikipedia summarises the plot if even that’s too much. You’re not missing anything if you wouldn’t get enjoyment from playing yourself. Scrap them.
Next on the purge list: anything where you’re only playing end game or multiplayer. These never end until you make them, so you’ve gotta be strong if you want to get through the others. Out they go; no Overwatch, CoD, Fallout, or Pokemon Go for you. You’ve got work to do.
Hey, you know what? Just cut out any game you’re not genuinely excited to play. Doesn’t matter how much you spent, or how little time you actually spent with it; if you do not want to play that game, do not play that game.
So now we’re faced with an actual, workable list. These are games you want to play, are excited to play, but just haven’t been able to find the time for. After the behemoth of the original list, this one is probably about five to seven games long.
But hey, don’t throw away the original list. Maybe there are a few you can go back to when you clear out the primary backlog. Backup your saves to the cloud or a USB, and then it’s time to ditch.
Yeah, you read that right. Anything not on that list, delete it immediately. If you’re like me, half the problem of an excessive backlog is lack of space on the hard drive, so deleting these bad boys will be very helpful. It’s tough to let go, sure, but also liberating; you’re free of the hold those titles had over you. They’d stare at you from the dashboard, mocking you, but no more.
Anything you’re really not gonna play again, dump it. Or sell it, or whatever, but get it out of your sight. It’s just clutter, and it does you no good to have it around. I did this recently, and while I can’t seem to move some of the games, having them up for sale has been cathartic. If they’re not gone in another week or two I’ll trade them in for pennies when I buy a new one, because they only have value if you think they do. If you’ll never play them again, what’s the point?
This was hard for me, but it removed the distraction of my old staples. I can’t just go play Fallout 4 with ease anymore; now I have to press on through Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry until they’re done. And hey, remember that you can always reinstall a game; the worst you’ll probably face here is re-downloading DLC and a patch or two. And now you can focus on what’s really important; actually facing the behemoth of your backlog.
I’m of the opinion that if your backlog is bothering you, you should be playing nothing but that; stop sinking hours into Overwatch if you haven’t finished Deus Ex. But, hey, you’re not me. So if you can’t face going cold turkey (like you should) maybe put an hour or two aside from your regular gaming time to power through some dust collectors. Hey, you might even enjoy it, and end up completing it in a night!
I mean, you won’t, but you might. I’m being positive.
The MMOs are great and all, don’t get me wrong, but remember why you’re doing this: the goal is no longer having a big pile of games to get through.
Look, I really can’t stress enough that if you don’t want to play a game, don’t play it. Gaming is just a hobby for most people, and it’s supposed to be enjoyable and relaxing. If what you’re doing isn’t checking those little boxes in your head that add up to “Yes, I am having a good time”, you should stop doing whatever you’re doing and go do something else immediately.
Once you’ve started here, it’s good to have goals. Make a list of upcoming games you’re excited about; these are your rewards. When you complete two games in your backlog, you can get a new one. And so on. That way you’re still making steady progress and feeling rewarded.
Another thing I found helpful is boasting. When I get a good trophy I will spam Facebook and Twitter with a prideful cacophony, and that’s how I track my progress; I’m just not trying to Platinum everything anymore. Find your motivator. Tell your Facebook friends you’ve completed something. Do a countdown of your backlog for your Twitter followers. Stream your final battle on YouTube or Twitch. Get an ill-advised tattoo; really, whatever works for you. The point is to create a public audience, because nothing motivates us better than knowing we’ll be judged by our peers if we fail.
And that’s really it. Keep on going with this and you’ll start seeing measurable progress. I'm personally trying to get through my top three so I have space for Skyrim. Will it work? Hell no. But I'll make a damn good try of it.
Do you have a better way? Well, we'd like to hear it! Comment below with your own tips and tricks for beating your backlog.