Five Tips For Making Your Backlog Manageable And Tracking Your Gaming

by Mike Futter on Jan 04, 2016 at 05:53 AM

Each year, I’m fortunate enough to play dozens of games (and even complete some of them). For each one I do get time with though, there are two or three I purchase that sit on the shelf or in a digital library just waiting for me to pay them attention.

My backlog has exploded over the past few years, and what used to be a simple task of going to my shelf to see what’s available doesn’t work anymore. Digital purchases on at least eight different platforms prevent me from seeing all my games in one place.

I’ve devised a few tips that have made things much easier, though. If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to organize your gaming life, these might be right up your alley.

Create a backlog tracking document
When I first started tracking my backlog, I used the Task List app on my iPhone. This was imperfect for a few reasons.

The interface isn’t terribly friendly, and moving things around the list was cumbersome. An accidental tap of the checkbox also meant a dive into the options to restore the listing (because who wants to see all the crossed off titles all the time).

Because I wanted to keep things mobile, I exported that list for use in a Google doc. I can access it from any phone or the web and any computer.

Taking the time now to compile that list across physical and digital media and all the platforms you patronize will make it easier to decide what to play later. It also makes your backlog far more reasonable to share with others. Simply giving out the link can allow your friends to peruse your backlog and offer suggestions.

Make your end-of-year lists easier with a little bit of work now 
For the past few years, I’ve tracked every game I’ve played. This running list serves a number of purposes, while also functioning as a partner to the backlog document. 

Again, a Google doc is the way to go, with updates every time I play a game and finish one. It’s important that this tracking document work for you, so set rules with which you are comfortable. 

There are some things to consider. How will you classify substantial DLC. For instance, if an expansion adds hours of content, will you label that alongside full games (some of which may themselves be shorter than the DLC)? 

Along these lines, at what point will you add episodic content. For instance, I typically view each Telltale Games episode as its own entry. They are meaty experiences with a beginning, middle, and end (even if the overarching story requires multiple segments). You need to make that call for yourself, though.

When will you consider a game eligible for your “played” list? For me, I usually wait until I’ve put in at least a couple of hours. If I’m comfortable removing it from the backlog list (whether that’s because I’m playing in earnest or have abandoned it), that’s when I’ll put it on my roster.

As for completing games, I typically put an asterisk next to them to signify that I’ve finished them. What’s left at the end of the year is a great reminder of the adventures you’ve undertaken over the past 12 months.

Learn from my mistake, though. When I first started tracking, I was obsessed with the “completion” number and it drove me away from longer games. If you feel that happening, don’t tally up your played and finished games until the end of the year. Just have fun.

Steam users should make the most of the categories feature
In 2014, Steam added the ability to list a game in multiple categories. My purchases continue to fill up the virtual action, adventure, shooter, and RPG shelves. Now I have two more that help keep me on track.

A backlog shelf is another great way to track the games you want to play. The drawback of using this alone is if you play on multiple computers, as your settings are stored on the machine.

I also created a “2014” shelf so I’d remember which games I purchased were released last year. When I needed to focus my efforts and play through a number of titles for end of year consideration, this was immensely helpful.

I’ve written about the deficient library features on consoles before, and the ability to categorize purchases like this would be most helpful on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. As more users go digital, the tools must get better.

Take notes about what you liked (and didn't) in each game
This tip will apply more to those who like to create end-of-year lists. Each year, executive editor Andrew Reiner curates a list of his favorite games of the year.

This is updated multiple times, with information about why each game stood out to him. I'm going to try and mimic this exercise in 2015. I had an extremely difficult time pulling together my top 10 list for 2014. Reading about each of the games I play in my own words might be the trick for creating order out of chaos in December.

You can read Reiner's 2014 list on his blog (here). 

Don’t be afraid to bail out if you aren’t having fun
This isn’t as much an organization tip as it is one for mental health. My backlog is insurmountable. I don’t mean that hyperbolically. I do not think I could eradicate it without quitting my job, boarding my dogs, leaving my family, and somehow eliminating sleep.

That means I need to be realistic. Not every game I own is going hit home. It’s ok to decide to move on without finishing. For so long I tried to hold on to the mentality that if I start a game, then I should finish it.

I’ve finally realized that isn’t necessary. I should immerse myself in the games I enjoy and ditch the ones that aren’t clicking. That doesn’t mean the abandoned titles are “bad” games. It just means I’ve had my fill.

At that point, they can be cleared from the backlog. I won’t likely go back to them, and that’s ok, too. 

You can’t let the purchase price of those games hang you up. Economists call that “sunk cost.” It’s gone (unless you divest yourself by selling or trading). At this point, the best thing you can do for yourself is preserve the other important resource: time. 

And, if you find that sunk cost is hanging you up? It might be a lesson to be more conservative about game purchases. These days, prices are softer, and you can probably save some money by waiting a bit.

Regardless of how you decide to tackle your backlog in 2015 or track what you’ve played, have fun. This year is going to be fantastic for gaming.


This feature was originally published on January 2, 2015.