Cartoon owl holding up a controller. Pixelated red background. Text: The backlog nightmare.

We live in a time when everyone and their great-great-grand-daughter has a huge backlog of games. So you’d imagine it would be easy to just dive into your platform of choice (whether it’s a service like Steam or GOG, your mobile phone or your physical gaming library on your shelf) and just grab whatever suits your fancy.

Yet, choosing the next game can feel very daunting. As you go through your library of games, you easily succumb to feeling like you don’t know what to choose. I remember buying mostly each and every game I have while being excited to get to play them.

But somehow when the time comes to actually choose something to play, I easily fall back to games I’ve already played through many times.

Why choosing is so hard

Many times I wanted to start playing a new game I get that nagging in the back of my head saying “Wait! Before you start something new, don’t you remember that you still haven’t finished this and that game!” … I don’t really feel like playing those games right now, but on the other hand, starting something new before finishing them feels wrong.

Sometimes you just want to play a game you’ve played, but it feels wrong when there’s so many games you haven’t even started yet.

Not to mention that having too many choices leads to decision fatigue, where it’s hard to decide what to do. This also goes for other platforms like Netflix, where it’s easier to end up just scrolling through all the available movies and series instead of starting to watch one of them.

What to do to make the choice easier

The answers to these problems are suprisingly simple. Maybe so much so that you want to dismiss them altogether.

Don’t. Embrace the answers. You’ll be happier in the end.

Here’s what to do:

Throw away concepts like having to “commit” or “finish” games. If you don’t feel like finishing a game, then don’t. If you feel like you don’t like the game, stop playing them. (This happened to me with Dawn of War II. I was so disappointed in the game I uninstalled it after a stage or two.)

Sometimes I don’t feel like playing a game (especially if I took a long break from it), but if I just go ahead and start it up, I end up having a lot of fun. This goes for more than just games. I have several pet projects and work that I sometimes just don’t feel like doing, but if I just force myself to get on with it, then all is good and I end up having fun.

Finally, notice that I’ve been talking about a “backlog” until now. I don’t think that’s healthy. Instead, you should see your gaming library as a toybox. A backlog is something you have to clear one item at a time. A toybox is something you can just grab a toy out of, play with it until you’re bored, and then put it back in the box.

Isn’t that the purpose of games? To have fun?

Even our “Now playing” list on this blog’s sidebar follows these rules. When we move games under the “Previously played” header, we didn’t necessarily finish them completely. We just played enough to get our fill.

Gheralf H. Swiftwar

Gheralf H. Swiftwar

Crazy owlmister. Eternally attemps to find ways to prove that his thousands of hours put into video and computer games has not been just an utter waste of time.

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