I realized a while ago that I was losing track. Steam sales and Humble Bundles were so enticing due to the low costs, but they were adding into a collection of games that was quickly getting out of control. Feeding the backlog, but not doing anything to reduce it’s size. I was restarting games I had taken breaks from, which had caused me to forget my progress, so starting over seemed sensible. It wasn’t helping. My spending, though on sales and bundles, was excessive, and I wasn’t making progress. I had to change.
So, I did. To start, I made a conscious effort to start keeping track of everything I was doing in the gaming space, from the minor to the major, and to analyze the data later. Keep track of my backlog across every website and physical copy, and keep meticulous notes of my gaming habits. This was about 2 years ago, and I highly recommend it for everyone. I’ve curbed my spending, become more invested in the games I play with my limited time, can hop back into the games I’ve put aside easily, and finish games I’ve had on my list for years. Here’s how I did it.
Step 1: Create A Literal Backlog
The first step is knowing exactly what you’re up against. You should know the height of the mountain before you start to climb. Though there are some websites that are specifically designed to help with this, like Grouvee and The Backloggery, I opted to take a more manual route and just use Excel Online. I consider myself fairly skilled in the use of Excel, so using it’s online version seemed like a good start. Google Sheets would also work well, just try to use a method that is easily accessible.
Step 2: Fill Out Your Backlog
Once you have a spreadsheet ready, take every game you own and enter it. This would include every physical media game you own on all systems, PC and console, and every website you own games on. For me this includes my Playstation 2, Wii, physical games on CD and DVD, Zip files, and from websites like Amazon, BattleNet, Gamestop, Humble, GOG, Origin, Rockstar, RSI, Steam, Telltale, Twitch, UPlay, and the Windows Store. With more online options to download games from, it’s easy to forget where your games are located.
Break your columns up into Game Title, what Platform the game is found on, what Series the game is a part of, Release Year, if the game has an Ending, if you’ve Beaten or are done playing the game entirely, if you would still Play it, if you would Highly Consider playing it over others, a Counter column, and general Notes field.
Take a look at my own backlog for an example. As it stands, I own 775 games, 651 of which are beatable, 80 of which I’ve actually beaten, with 665 that I would still consider playing, and 98 highly considered. This is my backlog mountain. You can see why I had to take drastic steps.
Step 3: Attack That Backlog
If you’re anything like me, with all the games you may own now staring back at you, your will to add to it may be quite diminished at this point. Would you really feel compelled to pay $60 for one game if you have 665 unplayed games staring back at you? I mean, for real.
The reason why you should add a “Play” column as well as a “Top Play” column is to make the decision of what game to play easier. Because you’ve paid for or received any of these games as gifts, you owe it to yourself to at least try them and not let that money go to waste. My philosophy is that even if you give it a try and quickly decide that the game isn’t for you, then at least you tried and you shouldn’t feel bad crossing it off your list.
To that effect, sometimes you should let fate decide what you play. Using the total “Play” and “Top Play” numbers, you can use a site like Random.org to make the choice for you. For example, based on my backlog I’d have it choose a number from 1 to 665 (my “To Play”). In this instance, it just picked number 85, which on my list is Company of Heroes, a RTS released in 2006 with a WWII setting I own through Steam. Would I ever just go “Hey, I should boot up Company of Heroes!” No, probably never. But at some point I acquired the game, through a Humble Bundle or a Steam sale, and now it’s fresh again in my mind. Maybe I will go give it a shot.
You don’t have to agree with the first RNG picked, of course. You’re in control, you can use RNG to pick a top 3 or 5 and pick one from that list, or just pick another one entirely. The overall goal, though, is to cross them off the list. Plus, you never know when RNG might pick a game you surprisingly find yourself really enjoying.
Step 4: Track Your Individual Progress
I know spreadsheets tend to have a bad rap and they’re seen as “taking the fun” out of games to use them. Not every game needs to be “Accounting: The Game”, I get that. But a general direction you were heading in the game helps to give you a point of reference. Like a method of using Champion Points in Elder Scrolls Online, or general quests to be done in a DOS game, a list of drops needed to craft armor upgrades in Guild Wars 1, or where to get trait upgrades in Lord of the Rings Online.
Having a quick list handy of what you were up to from times you’ve played before gives you a starting point when you come back, making it easier to jump back into where you were. This helps to alleviate the overwhelming stress and curb the desire to start over from scratch. If you’re not always starting over, you’re more apt to complete games and, most importantly, cross them off your list.
Step 5: Create A Daily Log
At the beginning of 2017 I started keeping a daily log of what game I was playing, what progress I made, and any other gaming-related metrics that I might find helpful. With days of the year on the Y axis and Game Titles on the X access, the list is simply calculating what days I played, and what games. If I felt I made some progress in the game, I would add a 1 in that game’s column. Since I also stream my play of Twitch, I added that as a column. Same for Podcasting, and Blogging/Writing.
Excessive? Maybe. But more data isn’t hurting anything, and helps you to better understand your own patterns. The MMO I’ve played the most? Secret World Legends. Since the beginning of 2017 I’ve streamed my play 236 nights, and podcasted 66 nights. This is only my 10th night writing, but my 5th time this month, which shows you the push that Blaugust Reborn has given me to take it up again. Most played game in April of 2017? Mass Effect 1, which took me a total of 15 nights to beat. What game did I play on August 31st of 2017? Guild Wars 1, I hit level 16.
So does all this help? Do I feel like I’m better off than I was 2 years ago? Absolutely. I haven’t stopped buying games, though. In fact, GOG right now has The Witcher 3: Game of the Year edition at $20! How could anyone pass that up? But I have dropped my spending significantly, as well as crossing those games off. Realistically, I don’t think I’ll ever catch up. My backlog is just too big, but I at least have a handle on it, and I feel a lot more in control. Beating the backlog is the real game, so you may as well be as well equipped as you can be.
Good hunting, all.