Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

How to Deal With The Game Backlog

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 5, 2015

In a very good year, I’d get maybe 12 – 13 new games. That was back in the 1990s, and I’d end up paying full price or maybe a 25% or 50% discount for something older. Every once in a while I’d score a major bargain and pick up an old title like The Magic Candle games or V for Victory: Velikiya Luki for less than $10, or even closer to $5. But on a tight budget, a new game once a month was pretty much my limit. That was about as fast as I could play them.

Now I get nearly that many games in a single bundle.

Last week I commented to a friend that I “paid for” a full game, but bought about 20. Between bundles and sales, I think I spent about $60. And I got what would have been two years’ worth of games.

I’ve talked about surviving the game glut as a developer. I’m mostly speculating and referencing people who know more than me about that. But what about as a gamer? What do I do when I have 600 games and nothing to play?

Taking a page from Tish Tosh Tesh, I periodically purge my system. I have a 2 TB drive devoted to games. That can’t hold half of my library. So I’ve tried to take the attitude of trying to nuke any game that’s taking up over 1 GB in space. So… if it’s over a gig, and I don’t expect to play it more in the next 12 months, I want to delete it off the drive. Maybe even if it’s less than a gig, but I have more tolerance for little tiny indie games taking up 0.003% of my hard drive space.

I have to fight this completionist programming I have in my head (not to mention a scarcity mindset), where I have to play a game to completion to “finish” it. Sometimes, sure – if it’s good. But I’m trying to cultivate an attitude of “play to nuke.” Realizing how many frickin’ games I have, combined with how little time I honestly have to play games, I try to consider just how worthwhile it is to really pursue completion (or playing past completion). Have I played it “enough,” considering how much more I have yet to play? Last night, I finally pulled the plug on Dead Island. I’d been keeping it on my hard drive for two years, periodically playing it for 15 more minutes, under the belief that maybe, someday, it’ll finally become fun and engaging.

I try to devote 30 minutes a night to just *playing* a game. Sometimes this becomes an hour every couple of nights (not including Rocksmith 2014, which I consider practice time rather than gaming time). It’s weird trying to devote time to gaming where I used to just play all night – but between writing, game development, and all the other activities of life, I really do need to carve out the time sometimes. (The trick of it is – just like writing and game development – that once I get into the “zone” I follow Newton’s Law of Inertia and tend to stick with the same activity far longer than expected). As a game developer, I feel strongly that I should be *playing* games, not just making them.

Another thing I want to do more of is leaving reviews at the distribution sites (Steam, Desura, etc.) for other players. It doesn’t help my backlog much, but maybe it can help others navigate the glut of games out there. I’m not a harsh critic. Not even of AAA games. But if something rises above the average, or descends significantly below the average for some reason, I figure it’s helpful to let other people know it. Especially for indies. It’s hard to get noticed, so I like giving a solid, fun game an extra thumbs-up so it can get a smidgen more attention.


Filed Under: Geek Life - Comments: 5 Comments to Read

  • Tesh said,

    I suppose I should do mini reviews on the distribution sites… even a copy/paste of my blog text. Maybe once I finish the backlog writeups. In the meantime, I do hope that what little signal I have helps boost games that can use it.

  • Anon said,

    I got over the “completionist syndrome” a few years ago, but I still argue that my backlog is growing all the time. This is more a figure of speech.

    The answer lies in not having a backlog at all! 😉

    Yes, you purchase/license games all the time. There are way too many opportunities to pass up nowadays but even many years ago they were existent (fire sales, bargain bins…).
    Also, sometimes one gets burned by not buying stuff when it was cheap on a certain occasion. I for example distinctly remember not buying Wasteland for PC when it was around 10 Euros in a bargin bin 25 years ago! The problem was that I still had an Amiga at the time and vowed to not buy a PC – but I buckled a year later to play Ultima 6 and…

    I therefore buy cheap games I think I might be interested in even if I don’t have immediate intention to play them. Needless to say that I amassed hundreds of them and there is no way I can play them all in the rest of my life.

    So I send off the “backlog” and welcomed the “games library”!

    Therefore my backlog doesn’t get longer (= bad thing) but my library rather gets bigger (= good thing!).

    And I only pull stuff out when I actually want to play it. I don’t have a bad conscience for not playing stuff but now I rather play stuff when I’m in the mood for it.

    Case in point: I recently played the Blackwell series of adventures from Wadjet Eye Games (except the newest, I think) and had much fun with them, although most were pretty short. It was more like watching a TV series where I wanted to see the next episode because I had a good time with the last.

    I had these particular games because I got them via several bundles (and believe me when I say that my drive is *plastered* with archives of DRM-free bundles!).

    So the key is having a “game library” and not a “game backlog”, neatly archived of course. Then pull out the game you actually want to play and deinstall it again if you either don’t like it or have actually finished it.

    Also don’t have too many games installed at the same time – you won’t play them concurrently anyway!
    I, for example, have only about five games installed on each of my two PCs – plus the various Thief games because fan missions are still coming out for them (these still have priority over pretty much anything – amazing, really).

    On my PS4 I play two games in parallel at most, also depending on my moot, and I managed to finish three games since early February (the new Thief game, the latest Sherlock Holmes game and “Stick it to The Man!”, which was a rather short affair).

    I’m highly satisfied with that approach.

  • MalcolmM said,

    I’ve always been a completionist, which has caused me to drastically cut back on my game buying habit.

    I rarely buy bundles anymore unless the bundle has at least one game that I was going to buy separately. In fact, I would rather pay $5 on Steam for a game I really want than buy the same game in a bundle with some other games I’m only slightly interested in. At least that way all my money (less Valve’s cut) goes to the developer of the game I want.

    I also force myself to play each game I buy for enough time to give it a chance. Since I don’t want to install a lot of games on my PC, this also forces me to cut down on my purchases.

    My current backlog is around ten games. I manage to finish a lot of games now because I’m a lot more selective in my purchases.

    I’ve also created categories in Steam to allow me to track what I did with each game – completed, junk, does not work, finished (not completed). Occasionally scanning through my junk category and seeing the 100+ games in there (mostly purchased years ago) gives me motivation to carefully consider all game purchases. And my completionist itch is satisfied looking at the games in the completed category 🙂

  • Xian said,

    A 1 GB game isn’t all that uncommon today so I would purge a lot 🙂 I had a 3 TB drive dedicated to games, so when it started getting full I used the free TreeSize program to see what each title used, and made a point to play the ones taking up the most space. I finished Shadow of Mordor and Wolfenstein The New Order, both weighing in at 40 GB. I had completed Bioshock Infinite but not the DLC, so I took one weekend to play through those so it could be purged.

  • Tesh said,

    I look at my library almost like I look at my book reading list. I consider games to be research, so I’ll often pick up games cheap or in bundles that I might not otherwise, just to see how their design works. It used to be an occupational thing, but since I’m mostly out of the game industry, it’s also a mental exercise. I like seeing how design works, and it gives me ideas for my own designs. Looking at how designs thrive or starve on the market is also useful, for a number of reasons.

    …and when I write about it on my blog, it crystallizes what I’ve learned, and maybe gives a boost to deserving developers. Win-win.