Too Many Games, Not Enough Time: The Gaming Backlog
As someone who writes about videogames, I have a confession to make: I haven’t bought a ‘new’ videogame (as in purchased it within a week or two of release) since Skyrim back in November last year. Mass Effect 3 has so far passed me by, as have each and every one of 2012’s new releases. Sure, I’ve played games for review, experienced plenty of demos, and I still avidly keep up with the latest gaming news – I just haven’t parted with my hard earned cash for anything to call my own in over nine months.
This isn’t due to a lack of passion for gaming, as I still play videogames 2-3 hours a night on workdays, and more on days off. I’m excited for the release of Assassin’s Creed III, and, like every year, I’m eagerly awaiting the next iterations of the NHL and FIFA series, which I will play for a good few months. In fact, the main reason I haven’t purchased any new game recently is due to an issue I suspect many of us have encountered, or are suffering from at this very moment: backlog.
Sitting on my bookshelf right now, I have over fifty games waiting to be played, most with saves sitting on my consoles in various states of completion. Some I have finished and am meaning to go back to; others I have played for a mere hour or two after purchase to get a basic idea of what I have just bought. Skyrim is presently residing in my Xbox, and has been for the past two months, and I imagine it will still be sitting there when Fall comes around, as it is so ridiculously huge. I haven’t even picked up Dawnguard for it yet, as I know that even if I do, it will take me a while to get around to experiencing it, so I might as well wait.
As a kid, particularly during the summer holidays, I had a near infinite amount of time to play videogames, yet no financial ability to purchase new ones, meaning that I could frequently visit videogame stores and be able to mentally pick out ten or more games that I, at some distant point in the future, wanted to experience. Looking back through ‘Best Game Ever’ lists now, there are plenty of titles through the 90s and early 2000s that passed me by, such as Pikmin and Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem. With that amount of time on my hands, I could have (much like that deaf, dumb and blind kid) played them all.
These days, the opposite is true. I have enough financial ability to buy most (not all, I’m not Bruce Wayne) of the videogames that I have an interest in, yet not enough time to actually play them all, and certainly not enough time to lovingly experience every inch of each title. Therefore, at the start of the year, I made myself a promise: to not purchase any games until I’d at least completed those that were waiting for me at home. Sure, I made a couple of loopholes, such as for Assassin’s Creed, and I did make a couple of impulse purchases that broke my promise, but these were only for games on sale at ten bucks.
It’s this last point that often destroys any hope I have of spending time with the games I already own. Last year, for example, Gamestop (yes, I know, corporations, “Boo, Hiss”) up here in the Great White North ran a promotion on a couple of occasions entitled Daily Doorcrashers. The title is fairly self-explanatory, but for those with a slow pick-up, each day Gamestop would offer one game, or more, at a fairly substantial knockdown, often selling fairly recent titles for five or ten dollars. Sure, there were some stinkers that were obviously designed to trick unknowing parents into purchasing awful games for their beloved children, but on the other hand, there were also some pretty good deals. Split/Second and Vanquish were picked up for five dollars each, and true to form, they sat on my shelf, untouched and unloved. Vanquish was even traded in a couple of months later, due to the fact that I had ran out of shelf space and needed a clear-out before my girlfriend found my three-day old dead body under a pile of green videogame cases.
It’s these sales that are the downfall of my gaming productivity (an oxymoron if there ever was one) and so, as soon as I see a promotional email or newsletter enter my inbox, I delete it without even opening it. It’s simply too tempting to see a game on sale and think, “I’ve just been paid, I could pick that up on the way home from work.” Instead, I must fight the urge, almost like a recent quitter fights the urge to ‘just borrow’ a cigarette from a friend.
Thus, the backlog was born. And it sits. And it waits. It is my honest intention to play each and every one of these games through to the end, yet even now I estimate that, with no new purchases, and taking into account review copies and the few games I am allowing myself to purchase, this collection will take me at least into 2014. On the bright side, if I hold strong, it does mean that I will save a fair bit of cash on purchases, but it also means I will probably miss out on a number of AAA games, or at least have the story spoiled for me, as with Mass Effect 3. It sucks, but in reality it’s a first-world problem. Hell, the fact that I can sit here and moan about my gaming backlog screams first-world problem. Yet it is an issue that many gamers today are facing.
Just think, how many games are idly sitting somewhere in your bedroom, basement or study, that you haven’t devoted as much time to as you would have liked? It could be down to time issues, or the fact that something new came along and distracted you from collecting every Riddler trophy or levelling up your character as high as you would have liked. It’s a simple truth that media and marketing are incredibly successful at encouraging us to purchase new things, and that anything you already own is old and decrepit. Yes, you may have purchased it less than two months ago, but “Hey! Look at this shiny new thing and what it does better than your old thing, and think of how much better you would feel if you could hold it in your hands outside of this store! You can take it home and lovingly pet it; Show it to all your friends and make them think you’re cool as you’re the first in your circle to own it!” We’ve all been there, we’re all going to be there at some point in the future, and whilst it might not exactly be nothing to be ashamed of, it’s how capitalism works, and it’s not going away anytime soon.
But sometimes, just occasionally, when you venture into your local videogame store, and walk to the cashier with that brand new shiny game in your hand, take a minute and think. Think of the unplayed games sitting at home, with their big puppy-dog eyes, and their sad faces, and ask yourself, “Do I really need this right now?” Chances are, that sixty-dollar game you have in your hand will have dropped down to thirty dollars within a month or two, and if it’s something like Call of Duty, which never seems to ever go down in price, it will still be 60 bucks when you buy it a couple of months down the line. It’s not like gaming prices are really ever known to go up.
Instead, go home, dig out a once beloved copy of Dragon Age, or even something like Metal Gear Solid 3, or who knows, Rogue Squadron for the N64, and finish the task as you always intended to. You’ve saved yourself sixty bucks, you still have the same chance to earn a sense of completion, and maybe, just maybe, the pride of finally finishing that one game that’s been sitting there for years will rival the smug feeling of being the first person you know to own the new shinyness. Buy new games, support the gaming industry, but don’t miss out on awesome experiences in games you already own while being in pursuit of the next best thing to come off the production line.
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