Technically, my conscience is riddled with strife, anxiety, and a warped sense of self-worth. But regarding my gaming backlog, it’s crystal clear.


In my time spent on GIO, I’ve noticed a trend among its many readers and bloggers. Many of us suffer from “backlog guilt”, meaning that we’ve accumulated a large number of video games that we have yet to play through to completion. We like to have that “finished” feeling with our games. When we start one up and quit before seeing the credits roll, it leaves us with a nagging sense of dissatisfaction. The unfinished game lingers, like a splinter in our minds, driving us mad. It is this feeling that makes it difficult for many gamers to enjoy new games as they come out.



Personally, my gaming backlog is bigger than it has ever been. After learning that the Playstation 4 will not be backwards-compatible, I decided to finally cough up the money to buy myself a PS3. To my delight, I soon learned that many of Sony’s triple-A titles (Uncharted, InFamous, and LittleBigPlanet) were selling for under $30. Before long, I had a plethora of titles I’d never played sitting on my shelf. One might think that I’d be content to catch up on these games, rather than go out and buy more to throw into the backlog pile. But alas, you forget about another weakness many gamers suffer with: game sales.


Whether it’s an Amazon price drop, PSN/XBLA sale, or one of Steam’s absurdly-generous holiday sales, seeing publishers magically lower their prices has a way of making stingy gamers like me suddenly toss money at games we didn’t realize we wanted. My willpower toppled in the wake of a handful of “Beginning of Summer!” sales… and then again with a “Back to School!” sale.



So the amount of gaming content in my home greatly exceeds the amount of time I have to play games. On top of this, my inability to say “No” to buying more games means that my collection is marginally increasing. So my backlog guilt ought to be going crazy right about now, right? I probably have games left and right that I’ve only partially played through- enough metaphorical splinters in my mind to turn me into a scatterbrained mess.


As it turns out, I’m quite at peace with the state of my backlog. The solution to this admittedly petty problem was incredibly simple. How ‘bout we try to break this madness down:


Gamers often have two conflicting desires in regard to their favorite hobby: on one hand is “completionist syndrome”, a feeling that in order to justify spending money on a game, one must spend as much time with said game as possible. The game must be experienced fully and completely: every collectible found, every fishing minigame completed, every line of dialogue read with every last NPC in the game. On the flipside, gamers can also be compulsive collectors of games, splurging money on games that we know that we don’t really “need” but that we think maybe one day we’ll be interested in playing. The worst backlog guilt lies with the poor saps who are both completionists and compulsive buyers. Can you guess which camp I’m in?



Self-depreciating humor? What’s that mean?


So I’ve compiled a 3-point set of advice to help avoid backlog guilt. This stuff may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how much personal grief you can save yourself from just by keeping these things in mind.


Point 1: You can buy games without starting them up immediately.

I know that there is something magical about going to a store, buying a new game, and driving it home immediately and excitedly popping it into your console. But you don’t have to start playing it immediately. In fact, you can let it sit on the shelf for weeks or even months while you finish up whatever games you’re currently playing. This may seem sacrilegious to some of y’all, but when I first began this practice it was a revelation.  I can satisfy my desire to add new games to my collection while still playing only a couple of games at any given time.


Granted, a side effect of this is that I have a lot of games lying around that I’ve hardly touched. But is that really a bad thing? Whenever I start to feel like playing a new game, I can just look to my backlog and grab a game out of the pile. Since I haven’t begun to play the game in earnest, it doesn’t feel like I’m returning to an old game out of some sort of obligation. It feels like I’m playing an all-new experience because, well… I am.


Point 2: If you don’t want to finish a game, then don’t.

I’ve always found the term “gaming backlog” to be a bit odd. A backlog is defined as: “an accumulation of something, especially uncompleted work or matters that need to be dealt with”. The term “gaming backlog” suggests that games are a form of work, something that needs to be completed. But unless you work in the video game industry, games are not work. Games are merely entertainment, and they should in no way dictate how you spend your precious free time. If playing a game begins to feel like a chore, then there isn’t much point to it. This leads to my next point…


Point 3: Having a backlog is not a crime.

Games are not sentient beings. If you choose not to spend time with them, it won’t hurt their feelings. You don’t owe anything to your games. If you don’t like a game, forcing yourself to play through the entire thing won’t make you happier. It won’t make you a better person. It won’t make you a “true gamer”, whatever that’s supposed to mean. Even if you spend $60 on a game and end up hating it… well, that sucks. But it happens to the best of us, and the time you spend trying to convince yourself to like that game would probably be better spent somewhere else.


A great deal of you probably think that this is kind of a trivial blog, and you’re right. I’m a bit shocked myself that I’ve written this much about gaming backlogs of all things. But I’ve experienced the trappings of this kind of obsessive-compulsive gaming, and it causes games to be less of an entertainment medium and more of a strange obligation created in my own mind. Please comment below if I’ve written anything here that resonated with you. If not, leave a comment anyway just to call me out on my first-world fever.




Have a great day and happy gaming!