Ode to the Backlog: I’m Okay, Thanks

Oh, backlog. How much have I encouraged your growth, despite having no plan for making use of you?

Oh, backlog. How much have I encouraged your growth, despite having no plan for making use of you? I love you and all of the lovely games you have waiting for me — but at the same time, I think I’m more content with watching you from a distance instead of actually helping you shed a few games.

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The backlog sits there, waiting. Games you bought but never started, games you dropped a few minutes or few hours into, games you don’t want to admit that you just don’t like that much; it is truly a large beast, worthy of but never receiving your attention.

The backlog is something that’s become a big part of being a gamer over the past decade. In the 1990’s, we treated games differently. The price point for new titles varied, and the majority of used or slightly older games didn’t lose value as quickly as they do now. Games simply weren’t as affordable or accessible as they are today.

Most gamers during that period would play and complete (or almost complete) the majority of games they got because it simply wasn’t possible to rapidly stockpile titles like we can now. Instead we would take time and care in our gameplay more often, and value our time playing those games we enjoyed.

This isn’t to say that most gamers didn’t have a backlog in the past, but those backlogs were often packed with a few games we really wanted to play. The same can’t be said of those we have today.

The modern backlog is a side effect of games becoming easier to get and overall more affordable. While brand new console and PC titles today cost at least $60 each, their price rapidly diminishes over the first two years of their lifespan. This is especially true when it comes to PC titles, thanks to digital distribution services like Steam.

Value for Your Dollar

The advent of the backlog creates an interesting question: Are you getting your money’s worth on purchases? Sure, you can head to Steam and get a few indie and older major developer titles for the price of a new game. But are you going to play what you’ve bought?

 My biggest waste of money each month is the purchase of cheap games. I’d never say that games were a waste of money under normal circumstances, but it really is a waste when I accumulate so many that I don’t have an active intention to play. It’s nice to stumble upon hidden gems that I really enjoy, but spraying and praying with my wallet is perhaps not the best way to go about it.

Though you do see console gamers with backlogs, PC gamers are generally the ones with huge lists of games to play and no idea where to start. We get games we don’t necessarily want because they’re cheap. We buy several at a time because they seem like a good deal, even if we’re not sure if we’re going to play them or not..

There’s a point where it becomes more detrimental to our enjoyment of games as a whole instead of just our bank accounts. I love collecting games, don’t get me wrong — but I have to question if buying so many so often is really the right option.

The Loss of Interest/Personal Value

Have you ever wanted to play a game, but couldn’t decide on one? Sitting there thinking about what to play, maybe looking through what you have in your physical collection; scrolling through your Steam library with a look of determination across your face; hopping on your 360 or PS3 and taking a thousandth look at what you have downloaded…

There are some days where I will repeatedly rotate between all of my sources of games and try to decide which one’s going to tickle my fancy that day. Sometimes I pick one, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I boot the game I think I want to play and decide I don’t feel like it after about five to ten minutes of half-heartedly trying. Sometimes I get frustrated with the process and just go read a book.

I can assuredly tell you that this didn’t happen when my backlog wasn’t of a sum more than four times larger than my age.

This was an issue before I started gravitating towards being more PC-oriented with my gaming, so it’s not solely a “Baw, I buy too many games on Steam.” issue:

My PS2 backlog was at over 20 games at one point in time, five years ago. I knew there was no way I was going to play all of those games, and I never did. My Steam backlog is currently at around 120 games. My PS3 backlog is at 15 games.

It’s gotten excessive, and chances are you’re in about the same boat.

I know I’m not the only one with this type of problem. The issue here isn’t so much buying loads of games we may never play, but rather lies in devaluing our interest in the games we actually care about.

When you have a lot of something and only have interest in one small part of that big chunk of something, you are either going to ignore the things you don’t care for or you are going to lower the value you attached to the one thing in question. So why do you have a lot of something instead of just having the one thing that you actually want?

Change in Attitude

It’s too easy for some people to draw the line between the quality of mainstream games between the past and today, in order to validate their loss of interest or dedication. There is no point in comparing quality between console generations because that all boils down to opinion.

What doesn’t boil down to opinion is how we perceive luxury items, such as video games, and how we value them based on how rare they are. In this case, I don’t mean literal title rarity (limited editions, limited prints, etc.).

It’s more exciting when you only get something every so often. Say you have a favorite food, and one day you suddenly magically come into possession of months’ worth of that food. It’s awesome for a little while, but over time the excitement you get from the flavor starts to dwindle. Eventually you get to a point where you just don’t care about it anymore.

It’s the same with video games. When think about and limit your purchases, you’re more likely to enjoy your time with the games you spend money on.

While I love getting new games to add to my collection, there’s no way anything I get right now won’t go into my backlog. Should I chill out and play what I have already? Yes. Are the Steam Holiday Sales coming soon? Yes. Will I be throwing my money at Valve again this year? Yes.

Guess what every other Steam user with a huge backlog is going to be doing once the sale starts: The same damn thing.


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Author
Ashley Shankle
Ashley's been with GameSkinny since the start, and is a certified loot goblin. Has a crippling Darktide problem, 500 hours on only Ogryn (hidden level over 300). Currently playing Darktide, GTFO, RoRR, Palworld, and Immortal Life.