How to Backlog [Updated]

Okay, right, so, today is the worst day, so any article requiring significant effort from me isn't going to be incoming. Instead, here's a simple article on conquering one's backlog.

Ah, yes, the backlog. Somehow, having lots of games can be a detriment to our hobby, turning what should be an enjoyable hobby into nothing less than a chore. We feel obligated to play games, rather than playing them because we really want to.

Of course, we still want to play those games--believe me, I want to beat Fallout and Ultima VII and Jade Empire and Limbo and Age of Empires II and Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth and Final Fantasy XII and STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl and...

Well, you see what I'm getting at. I have around 140 games to play (how I got them is another matter--I had a better-paying job once). It can be overwhelming. When you don't have just one game to focus on, you run the risk of getting too distracted--of wanting to play too many games.

So... what to do?

Make a list.

Don't just go "eh, I think I have about twenty games to play," because you are terrible at estimation. Know exactly how many games you have to play. Then increase that number.

Wait. What?

Yeah. Increase that number. List all the DLC you have that features additional single-player content. So, if you have Ilomilo: Autumn Tale (and you should), then you'll want to count that as well. I know, I know, it sounds weird, but hear me out on this.

See, backlogs are about completion. Gaining a sense of completion will help propel you forward, so listing every possible thing you can complete will help you out, even if that thing is just one bonus Tropico 4 DLC mission. Going "haha! I went from 150 games to 149!" after an hour of effort will help you feel like you've progressed, but including only games you will take a lot longer to beat will make "haha, 1 down, 99 to go!" seem like the bigger task.
Basically, you're tricking your mind's ability to estimate the length it takes to finish the list.

Good thing people suck at estimation!

That's it?

Haha, no, my friends, we're just getting started.

Now you need to remove games from the list.

But you just had me add stuff to it!

Yeah, sorry. See, you don't want your list to be as big as possible--you want your list to be as quick as possible, and being able to complete entries quickly is good. The ultimate goal is still about making your list as small as you can make it.

So you need to cut out all the multiplayer games.

Yes, you may enjoy them, but you can't complete them. You can grind to unlock stuff, but that's not completion. I'm not saying you shouldn't play them, but you shouldn't have them on your list, because they're pointless. They're time sinks, and they won't help you complete anything.

Now that you've cut multiplayer games from your list, you need to cut the games you don't want to finish. I have Kane & Lynch on Steam. Not sure how I got it, actually--I think it came with a preorder for something else from Eidos' stable. Point is, I don't plan on playing it at all, so it's just there, in my list, looking at me. Cool. If you have games like this, just create a folder, give it a name (Mine's called 'Z'), and put all the games you don't want to play in it. On Origin, just hide the game.

Alright, so I've just made a list. Anyone can do that!

Yes.

Now make a new list.

This list will be "games you are playing now." See, you can't look at a big list without being overwhelmed. Your brain does not have the capacity to process that many games (unless your backlog is like twelve games). To avoid freaking out at the monumental task ahead of you, create a much, much smaller list. I would recommend keeping it to two or three video games.

There are a few reasons for this:

  • You will want to play on multiple platforms.
  • You will get bored if you don't vary up the kind of games you play.
  • You will want a microlist that you feel you're progressing fairly rapidly with.

Anything else?

Yeah, just a few more things. First, if your list is over, say, thirty games, you should avoid buying more video games. You've got tons of new content to check out, so check it out! Once you've gotten the list down to a far more manageable number, then let yourself start buying games again.

Like Liam Neeson, I'm something of a fan of lists, so this is the part where I tell you that you should make a list of all games you have purchased this year and all games you are planning to purchase at some point in the future. This will help you keep a track on your game spending. You might be surprised just how much you've contributed to your backlog in the past few months alone.

That's about it! Make a list of everything you can beat. Make a list of a small selection of games you allow yourself to currently play (this will also increase your hype for games you already own because you won't let yourself play them but you'll want to until, when you finally play them, you're hyped to burn through them).

The last thing I'd recommend: set microtargets for yourself. For example, one of the games on my list right now is Renegade Ops. I let myself play one level last night. I feel that I have accomplished something as a result. Obviously, it's a bit harder with open world games--so set yourself a set number of missions to do or levels to increase.

Don't forget Backloggery! While I prefer to keep my backlog in a plain text file, as I'm not a fan of social internet thingamajigs, some people are. Backloggery is a great way to keep track of things.