How to Track and Attack the Gaming Backlog

Backlog, Wing Commander PrivateerI 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.

Secret World Legends, Gatekeeper, Backlog

The Gatekeeper fears the size of his own Backlog.

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.

Star Trek Online, Klingons, Backlog

The Klingons would attack their backlogs without mercy.

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 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.

Euro Truck Simulator 2, Backlog

If you had told me I’d be a big fan of Euro Truck Simulator 2, I’d have called you a liar.

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.

Backlog, Icewind Dale

Using RNG might get you to play your classics, too. I mean, just *look* at this gorgeous artwork.

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.

// Ocho

12 thoughts on “How to Track and Attack the Gaming Backlog

  1. Ha, finally a problem I don’t have. I can restrain myself pretty good and I’m just not buying games that I don’t play then. This doesn’t mean I don’t have a backlog, but it’s small. I can and will wait until I’m in the mood. OK, there are like 5 games on my “I should definitely start or continue with this” but as long as I have something else going right now I feel zero regrets leaving the mini backlog alone.


      • Actually I’d prefer if I could enjoy a backlog and work in any way as organized as you outlined. Having this amount of stuff available and the urge to play it makes me feel horrible and then I sit in front of the screen, paralyzed of which game I should now play. Not buying them is the only solution I found. The downside is that I will never get to play the ones I was kinda interested, and I guess I’ve only like finished one game per year averaged over my life – you don’t even need a list for that… Sorry if the first reply sounded in any way offputting.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Your first reply did come off as a bit offputting, it’s true. In a way that this has been a legit problem for me over the past few years, not to an extreme level like I couldn’t take care of my family or anything, but a problem nonetheless, it did come across as a bit dismissive. Like if this was about steps you could take to handle alcoholism, and someone responding with “Well I can drink all I want and not have a problem!” I mean, truly, that’s great that you’re not compelled in the same way so you don’t have the same problem, but, yeah. I’ve spent over $1500 on Steam alone, and that’s nowhere near some others totals. Be glad that you don’t have the same compulsions that we do.

        But my suggestions aren’t completely out of reach for you. Take, for example, my suggestion about a daily log. Ever since I started keeping it, showing what I’ve been making progress on, from blog writing to podcasting to twitch streaming, and I’ve considered expanding it to book reading and TV/movie watching as well. If, for no other reason, than looking back on the past year and seeing your own patterns. Sure, you might not need a backlog as you can maintain your own fairly easily, but you still play games, yeah? Getting even that organized might encourage you to expand it or other hobbies. Basically, you do you. 🙂


  2. My current count is 1360 games on Steam.

    Out of pure survival, I’ve attacked it from the perspective that having a backlog is not a problem; it’s just a giant smorgasbord of games I can choose to play if I want to. If I have to divide it into A-Z and random roll 1-26, and then random roll again for the games within that letter, then so be it. Or I might just scroll randomly through it and pick whatever sounds interesting.

    Progress tracking is certainly useful for stuff one wants to get a handle on though. To see the big picture and then drill down into individual steps. I tend to use it more for long term goals within specific games, like *cough* GW2 legendaries which can be a months or year long affair to assemble.

    I might have used the method for game backlogs too, but the problem I kept running into was defining “completion” or “played.” MMOs and a number of online games like shooters are essentially impossible to complete and can only be written off when the servers shut down; ditto sandboxes or endless games where one can always random roll a world/map/level and begin again.

    So I eventually decided to just take it from the angle of “a bee visits a flower for as long as it needs, and the flower is still there, and the bee can fly off to another flower whenever it wants to.” My Steam games list is just a giant flower field!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think having a big backlog is in-and-of-itself a bad thing. It was the credit card bills that were the bad thing. 😛

      Yeah, completion or “played” was on I had to refine, too. At it’s most basic, I just take it as “if I’m done playing the game and am unlikely to play it again in the future” So, if I play a game for 5 minutes and think it’s terrible, that’s all I need. Others I can keep playing continuously and never really be finished, and I’ll probably never consider myself done. It is absolutely a totally subjective point.


    • Honestly, I’ve tried, but I’ve found them not as streamlined. A simple and controllable spreadsheet I’ve found to be much easier and simpler than any of the tracking sites I’ve tried.


  3. Pingback: Stepping Foot Into Baldur’s Gate | Casual Aggro

  4. Bah! You wrote it in August 2018 but you were still using Backloggery and Grouvee? Outrageous! 😂

    Seriously though, I am part of the team developing RAWG, which is not only the largest games database to date but also a great tool to track your backlog. Check it out →

    It syncs games across multiple stores and devices—Steam, PSN, Xbox, (GOG is coming)… It lets you sort games in several handy categories and order/filter your library however you like. There’s also a wishlist, ratings, comments, social feed—basically anything to track your games backlog and then some.

    I’d be happy if you tried it out.


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