Overkill: How To Successfully Manage Your Video Game Backlog

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Write Everything Down

That horrible and barely legible handwriting was my personal backlog at the beginning of July, not including games that I had reviewed here. This is representative of perhaps the single most important part of maintaining a backlog: organization.

I can’t stress enough how important something such as writing down the games you’ve yet to finish is. It cuts down on forgetting on what games you’ve got down the pipeline, not to mention prevents the inevitable confusion when you find you’ve got a game that you’ve forgotten about.

This is a true story. Several months ago, I took it upon myself to finally get around to playing the original Torchlight. I purchased the game on Xbox Live due to a sale on the game, and wrote the game down on my backlog. I finished the game, but a month later had found that I actually already owned the game on Steam. Turns out it was a part of one of the famed Humble Indie Bundles, and I had just forgotten about it because I had never written it down. Add that to the lack of any physical representation on my game shelf due to the influx of digital games this generation and it was easy to slip my mind amongst the busy release schedule.

There’s no right way to write games down, but there are more than one. The way I’ve shown you above lists games as I get them. This way I can go in a rough order from how long I’ve actually had the game, which cuts down on any one game being on the list for two long. I’ve since loosened this mentality for reasons I’ll explain later, but I still write it in a list.

I have a friend who writes each game on a post-it note and throws them out as he finishes them. This is a good way too. Do whatever you like, as long as you leave that reminder you haven’t finished the game yet.

Know Your Genres

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Have you ever had that feeling while playing through a game that you just wanted to…stop? No particular reason. Even if you love the game you’re playing, you’re going to get burned out eventually. As nearly every teacher tells pretty much every student in 2nd grade “sure, you love pizza, but if you kept eating nothing but pizza, you’d eventually get sick of it.” I was the kid that didn’t get sick of it, but that’s not the point.

Although I like to think that anyone with the free time to look up anything on an entertainment site would already know how to tell a genre apart by now, it’s important to gain this skill early on. Sure, there are some ringers out there, like the fact that Brutal Legend is actually a light RTS, or that Asura’s Wrath is actually almost entirely a quick-time event driven visual novel.

This is a small point, but opens up a few other important aspects.

Variety Is The Spice Of Life

I’ll let you in on a little secret when I was reviewing Final Fantasy XIII-2 earlier this January. It was my most anticipated review of the year, since Xenoblade and The Last Story hadn’t been given release dates yet at that point. I wanted to go into the review with a fresh mind. So for all of December and January I kept myself from playing any RPGs. I knew it would affect my view of the game if I had been burnt out of RPGs before I even booted up Lightning’s latest adventure.

I gained this mentality from a series of events a year prior. I had been given every Final Fantasy game I hadn’t yet played as a gift, which included roughly five games, six if you include Dirge of Cerberus. I played through III, then IV and couldn’t bear to boot up V by the time I got around to it. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was a horrible idea.

You see, nothing burns you out more than playing weeks upon weeks of old-school RPGs. Sure, some people can take it, and I applaud those of you with the willpower, but it’s not something that the average gamer can manage.

This is the aforementioned reason why I stopped playing games in order of which I obtained them. Mixing the genres of what you play prevents that burnt out feeling.

Structure the games that you play to be opposites of each other. Offset the feeling after playing a long-winded RPG by jumping to a fast-paced action game. Cleanse your pallet from playing a goofy open-world romp by sitting down with a relaxing puzzle game. Mixing up the games you play creates a “cheese and wine” scenario of appreciating the differences of each game more when not combined with more of the same.

Nothing says you have to wait until a game is finished to mix things up either. I’m playing through Eternal Sonata right now off my personal backlog. The game is very enjoyable, other than being a little linear and has a somewhat shallow story. However, it’s still a JRPG, which has a nasty side-effect of feeling ever so slow during the earlier hours.

Playing the game last weekend was a bit of a drag. Sitting through for a five-hour session will do that to you. This was easily remedied by popping in Mirror’s Edge, a game about first-person platforming.  The game is short, but is light on story and quick on gameplay, much the opposite of Eternal Sonata.

This makes the perfect contrast. However, it only really works if you only have one game being played that’s heavy on story. Playing two games that have a focus on narrative has potential to mix plot points and characters, and only has the possibility to tarnish your opinion on either game. Not a wise idea if you actually want to retain any memories from what you’re playing.

That’s why I stopped playing games in order from when I got them. Instead, each game is analyzed based on what I know I’ll be playing in the future for reviews, and what I’ve just finished playing. It may sound like somehow being even more nerdy than alphabetizing your game collection, and by system, but it’s a great way to get the most out of your collection. You’ll likely start hating certain games less if you play this way too.

As for determining what games to pair together, that’ll probably changed based on the person. Although, you can usually just do with making sure you never play two games from a given genre at any given time, you can go even deeper. I’ve started looking at length of games too, getting several smaller games done after playing a long one is another good example.

Keep in mind, however, there’s nothing wrong with playing some games back-to-back. Some franchises are even built this way. The God of War games play perfectly this way since they all take place immediately after each other, and all the games in the series are fairly short.

Also, it may or may not be a good idea to play an entire series back-to-back if you’ve never played them before. You’ll notice on the picture of my backlog above that I have Diablo II and III right next to each other, and actually still are as of this writing since I’ve not gotten around to them. You can bet that I won’t be playing them in that order. If you’ve played a game before, and are only playing it again as a refresher before a new game comes out, you can usually get through the game pretty quickly due to your previous playthroughs, so this is acceptable.

I play through the entire Metal Gear Solid series every time a new one comes out, but I think I’ve managed to work my time down to the point where I could make a serious speedrun attempt if I really want to. The last few times I’ve beaten the original game were all done in a single session.

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