Five reasons to give up on the tortured fascination with our backlogs

The backlog. We all have it, to some extent or another. Some people have it down to single digits, and slowly pick that pile to pieces before moving on. Others have backlogs that would make other players jealous of all those games sitting unplayed. We have written about it a few times, from a list of ways to tackle the backlog, setting sights on a specific game for the holiday, or asking you how you manage your backlog (to hopefully give us ideas in how to manage our own). I have to tell you, it is time to take that massive mountain of anxiety, that pile of shame, that nagging list and put it to bed, and here is why.

Playing games to pass the time

One big reason to play games is to pass the time. I don’t know about you but a lot of activities that other people are interested in bore me. Give me a good book, a nice movie or a good game and I can keep myself busy for a long time. The issue with books and movies is that, for the most part, once you have finished them you are done. This isn’t the same in games. The moment to moment enjoyment from gaming can last well beyond finishing a game or its story as you find secrets, get better scores or perfect a section. These challenges all exist thanks to gaming being interactive, where books and movies are much more passive (unless you want to write your fan fiction or start analysing tiny details for discourse.) So if you are playing games to pass the time, does it really matter as long as they achieve this end?

Playing games for fun

As exciting as gaming is, it is worth noting that it is still a hobby and the point of it is entertainment. If you see your backlog and it causes anxiety or any other feeling other than “ooh, lemme try that, I heard it was fun”, it might be time to step back and think about things. Why do you have a gaming backlog? Do you have less time to play games now, or are you having fun elsewhere (be it another game or another hobby)? As long as you are having fun and it isn’t to the detriment of your job, yourself or someone else, does it really matter what you played?

Playing games to heal

This one might not apply to everyone reading this, but for those who have used gaming to escape from pain or to process loss, I know how you feel. While I think everyone is guilty of a little escapism, I know I am an escapist and that certain checks need to be kept in place if I get flighty. Maybe there was a tragedy in your life, maybe the environment at work puts you on edge… whatever the reason, you come to games to let off steam, to vent, to forget, or to take your mind off of something. This can be your physical, mental or emotional state that needs healing and games might just be the buffer you need to slowly process things. It is okay to play game XYZ for the hundredth time is that is what feels like a balm. Don’t fight it, use it.

Playing games to be social

While in my youth all of my games were solitary experiences, life and things have changed. I now have friends to play games with and some games rely on a group of people to get things done. World of Warcraft changed a lot for how I look at games and I often crave that experience of working together to achieve the impossible. I am also lucky enough to have a wife who is into games and there is something about sharing a moment or a good victory. Enjoy the time with your friends, timetables will shift and you will change to something else when the fancy comes.

That infinite game you play is fine

The games that are considered the bane of the backlog. Warframe,¬†survival, MMOs, Battle Royales, Hero Shooters, CCGs, MOBAs. All of these and more are games that take up vast swathes of time without much effort and then, afterwards, you might feel bad that you spent all that time in one game. In the last World of Warcraft expansion I made a Demon Hunter and did raiding. Since you could only make the char for that expansion (or at least, at pre-patch), looking at the toon’s play time I am sitting at 45 days or so that Legion has taken up of the last year. Now without processing or dwelling on me spending more than 12% of the year on this game, let’s look at what it got me. I have a sense of achievement as we finished every raid on heroic difficulty when it was the current raid, meaning there was no way to gear elsewhere and come back stronger. Also, I made some great friends with many people along the way, people who I talk to often, who know about my likes and dreams, my bad days and stuff in-between. Could I have finished games in my backlog with those 1,000 plus hours? Sure I could have, but I made good friends and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Conclusion

At some point in our lives, very long ago, we looked at the games we owned and all of them were finished. We were bored and had nothing new to get that spark. So now we hoard games, like dragons fiercely amassing treasure, only to let them sit idle. Maybe we should rather look at why we feel the need to buy more games than we can play and control that aspect a bit more? Regardless, those games are there now and maybe you will play them, maybe you never will, and that is okay. The money is spent, the toothpaste is out of the proverbial tube and you can enjoy them if you want to. This is a hobby and all that time you spent entering every game into a website/spreadsheet to work out which one to play next to maximise gains on clearing your backlog? I remember people that made study timetables in school and spent so long on those that they had almost no study time. See where I am going with this? I’m going to stop letting my backlog make me anxious. Review games already dictate what I play and when so why should my hobby time have forced choices too?

If it has the letters RPG in it, I am there. Still battling with balancing trying to play every single game that grabs my interest, getting 100% in a JRPG, and devoting time to my second home in Azeroth.

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