Words About Video Games

Player vs. Backlog: The Rules

To work through a nearly 140 game backlog, I came up with a plan. Over the years, that plan has evolved as I’ve learned more about how I play and what I want out of this exercise. It’s not just about getting the backlog to 0. Video games are still what I do to unwind; playing through my backlog should be fun.

There’s really only one rule: I must play two games for every one I buy. Games I buy get added to the list.

This is the minimum I could do to ensure that I was playing more than I was buying. It meant that it would take me years to achieve my goal. In March 2015 that seemed like a long road—dauntingly long. In January 2019, this is the decision I’m proudest of. At the time, it was tempting to do more to speed up the process. I could have made myself play through more (or all) of my backlog before I bought another game, but I would have been setting myself up for failure.

The word “play” in this rule is also important. I don’t complete every game I play, and over the years what counts as played has changed. I started with a goal of playing each game for a minimum of 10 hours or until I complete it. I stuck to that for the first 2 years, roughly. But after 2 years, the 10 hour rule no longer made much sense.

By the 2-year mark, I was playing the games I bought, and if I enjoyed them, I didn’t need a rule to make me keep playing them. The only games I was stretching to reach 10 hours on were ones I wasn’t enjoying playing. Eliminating my backlog was never meant to be work, so I killed the 10 hour rule. Now, I try to give games a “fair shot.” For most games, that’s a couple of hours to see if they grab me, more if they do.

I also have a few games I’ve bought in series bundles from sites like GOG. I don’t make myself play every entry in a five-game series. If I enjoy a game enough to play the whole series, I’ll play the whole series without needing the list as an incentive. So these series count as just 1 game in my backlog. This means that my 140 game backlog was technically more than 140 games.

If it sounds like the math is getting a little fuzzy here, it is. My most valuable piece of advice for any attempt to change or form habits is to reflect on your own desires and motivations. Although I’m sharing the march to the end of my backlog on this blog, I didn’t set out to do it for anyone but me. It means the rules are for me and no one else. If you’re thinking of doing the same, I recommend the 2-for-1 rule, but I also recommend that you think about your own play habits and what you want to get out of playing through your backlog to tailor the requirements to your own goals and to play style.