“How to Manage Your Gaming Backlog 101” with Geddy

Due to some coincidences, there have been not one, not two, but three instances today where someone has directly mentioned or asked about backlog management. As a subscriber of many game discussion outlets, whether it be here on WordPress, Reddit, Neogaf, or elsewhere, this topic is one that seems to unite gamers across all console ecosystems. Xbox fan? Sony guy? Nintendo… human being? Hey, when it comes to having a backlog, it seems like we’re all on the same page.

Backlog management problems seem to be the love-child of three quirks in the human psyche:

  • We like to over-commit to things.
  • We under-estimate how long something will take to do.
  • We find it completely impossible to ignore a good sale.

When you look at backlog management as time management, as in the same time management you must have to be successful in the workplace, not only does it make gaming start to feel like a second job, but it highlights an inability to avoid doing one of the things above. Now of course, this isn’t a flaw with you, this is just what happens when you have more responsibilities. It’s the classic gamer problem: when you’re young, you’ve got all the time in the world and no money, and when you grow up you make the money but have far less time.

Perhaps you’re on a polar end, or somewhere in the middle, but what makes you and I the same is that we have a backlog. Hey, I’m only human, and I suffer from all three of the aforementioned quirks. And for that reason, I also have a backlog.

The issue begins when people are over-committed. Every time, the conversation goes like this.

“I have way too many games to play and not enough time to play them”

“You should take some games out of it.”

“But then I won’t be able to play them!”

“Uh, ok.”

Sounds pretty silly written out like that, right?

I find it confusing how people can easily figure out, for example, that they have 500 hours in a year to play games, yet they then buy 3,000 hours worth of games. I sure hope they’re not like that with money! When’s the last time you made a $500 paycheck and then went out and spent $3,000? It would never happen right? So why do it with games?

And that, friends, is point numero uno!

“If you can’t complete it, don’t commit to it.”

It pairs nicely with some key financial advice that has allowed me to pay off loans and buy a house: “If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.” Of course, this isn’t exactly the same, as having too many games just means you… don’t play those games. Financial ruin doesn’t occur if you don’t finish everything.

But you know what does happen when the weight of a backlog weighs too heavy so that you resort to asking total strangers for help? You get bored and burned out. You play games just for the experience, when in reality you’re breezing through them to get to the next great experience.

Let’s switch the metaphors from money to food. When’s the last time you went to an all you can eat buffet, and ate every single type of food there? Did you rush through each individual tray, before moving on to the next plate of food? Or did you pick and choose carefully the ones you wanted to eat?

This leads me to my next nugget of backlog management advice, that could easily be a bullet point in the Gentleman’s Guide to Buffets:

“If it won’t fit on your plate, take something off your plate.”

In a buffet, if you change your mind on a food item, you can’t put it back, or at least that’s the policy at the Borgata Buffet in Atlantic City where I am NO LONGER welcome. With a backlog though, you can just as easily remove a game you decide is no longer important enough to backlog. Using a backlog management system like HowLongToBeat.com is key here, as it lets you see how long it will most likely take.

Sometimes we really want to play that super-long game. I knocked out two of them this year already in Final Fantasy X and Exist Archive, as well as wrapped up Xenoblade Chronicles 3D a few days before the new year. Those three games together were about 200 hours. What was the trade-off of playing those games?

Well for starters, I only played Xenoblade Chronicles 3D after I had finished Pokemon X, played enough Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate until I was satisfied. Those two games were about 100 hours.

I only finally started playing Final Fantasy X because I finished Xenoblade Chronicles 3D and Fallout 4. Those two games were monsters and about 200 hours total.

In other words, before I add more games to my backlog before finishing others, I remove games of equal gameplay time. If I decide to retire a game that I’m playing because I’m not having as much fun? I freaken retire it. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t finish a game.

And in that last line is the final lesson here. Are you getting any joy out of the game you’re playing, or are you just playing it to finish it? Ask yourself when you’re trying to cram in gaming time to get through another backlog entry that’s been on there for the past four years: is this bringing me any joy?

“If you’re not having fun, retire the game. You can always come back.”

Seriously – gaming is just a hobby. It’ll be more enjoyable when we all treat it like one. Getting burned out of something that you love, be it video games or anything else, is a terrible tragedy. Get out and do something else for a while. Take a break. Trust me, if you want to play video games, they’ll be waiting for you.

But how do I know how much I play?

Most of the time, all of this advice comes down to the following question. And just like knowing you have 40 hours in the work week to get your work done, you need to know how many hours you have to game. For that, I simply picked a number that sounded about right. Run some quick mental numbers. Here’s how I did mine.

I rarely play on the weekends, or during daylight hours. Unless I’m commuting, which is a few days a week. I figure that, on average, I play games for an hour and a half per day. Then, apply the formula average hours daily   x   30 days in a month   x   12 months in a year. For me, that comes out to 540 hours. Which isn’t a lot, considering I trade-off parts of my life at work to the tune of 1,920 hours per year, in which I have no fun at all.

If you have a 3DS and play it often, you can use the wonderful Activity Log app and figure out exactly how much you average for as long as you’d have it. If they’d update the horrendous “hour estimate divisible by 5” system they have now on the Switch, I’d really appreciate it.

Once you have a base estimate, and you get a feel for how many games you can complete in a month, you can better “manage” your backlog. Because remember, hiring and firing are both parts of being a manager. Sometimes you need to let things go to get newer and better things. Time management and backlog management are the same thing – so improve your game management skills and start enjoying gaming again!

and before you add to that backlog…

  • If your backlog is already too large, don’t add something to it without removing one or more items of the same time equivalent.
  • If you really want to play something but don’t have the capacity, retire a game you’re currently playing. No matter how much it may hurt your soul and ruin you emotionally, you can always come back! Just get it off your backlog so you stop stressing yourself out about it.
  • Don’t buy games that you will never play. Steam Sales were the start of this backlog madness, I swear. They’ll go on sale again – you don’t need to buy it right now.
  • You don’t need to “Platinum” all of your games!

That last bullet point is especially important. It’s a plague in modern gaming and I don’t get it. I love collecting things to, but when you have 5,000 hours of backlog to get to and you’re spending an additional 120 hours each game collecting all the spider monkeys or whatever, refer to my earlier point and ask yourself: “is this bringing me any joy?”


I wrote this out pretty quickly because I found myself always blasting back the same advice to people asking about backlog management. Let’s recap the three golden rules:

“If you can’t complete it, don’t commit to it.”

“If it won’t fit on your plate, take something off your plate.”

“If you’re not having fun, retire the game. You can always come back.”

These three simple rules have allowed me to be monumentally busy with non-gaming activities year after year, yet still in the daily hour or so that I shoehorn in my gaming time, I’ve managed to put a pretty big dent in my starting backlog, and keep things from getting out of control. And if I added something larger, I took things out. Now, I can focus on just enjoy gaming for what it is: one of my many treasured hobbies.

If you’d like to see how I’m doing with this system, consider looking at my Completed list (sort by Date – Completed to see the consistency). Here’s my Backlog, and focus on the play time, only two of them are above 20 hours.

Got any words of wisdom to share on the subject of backlog management? I’d love to hear about it in the comments! I hope some of this advice resonates with you fellow backlog jockeys!

13 thoughts on ““How to Manage Your Gaming Backlog 101” with Geddy

  1. Pingback: Breaking the Curse of “Gamer’s Block” – nostalgia trigger

  2. Just reconnected our N64 after a trip home,
    crazy how fast time goes by. The system
    still works great! Looking forward to replaying
    some of the classics & re-building our catalog
    before we give the system to our nephews.

    Actually more excited about N64 than the Switch!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, it’s a great system! Busted out some Mario Kart the other night and it still plays great. Some games are a little blurrier, especially when trying to play it on an HDTV, but overall it’s more than playable, especially if you have nostalgia towards it. Enjoy!

      Like

      1. Yes! The blur factor! How we get spoiled by our
        modern vision. Luvs some Mario Kart, but also
        LOVE Diddy Kong Racing! Planes & Hovercrafts!
        We held our breath with trepidation as we switched
        on the system, & for 20 year old technology it works
        amazing! Games on Ebay are under $20, looking
        forward to a summer of 64bit gaming nostalgia fun!

        Like

  3. I’ve struggled with a backlog but have since eased the anxiety a bit: I only buy a game if I’m going to play it right away and I’ve also stopped worrying about prioritizing what part of my backlog I’ll play, and just start with anything. Sometimes it’s easy to get intimidated by a long game (Witcher 3) but I just booted it up and started playing.

    I really liked your analogy with the buffet – don’t stack the plate too high, and refill when you want more. It works perfectly.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’ve started organizing my list a little better. So I have a “playing list,” which has maybe two games on it that I’m currently completing, “to be finished,” which currently has a few games I started/know I’ll definitely like, “to be sampled,” which is when I want to play something “new” but I’m not committing to really playing it (“Prey” was on that list), and “rainy day” games, like Skyrim which can just go on forever. I’m a list kind of person, though!

    You present good tips for maintaining and not adding to your list, and I wholeheartedly agree with them, too!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Imtiaz Ahmed

    Great article love to know how everyone deals with this as im.in the same boat.

    It’s true that Steam started this whole madness. But now I’ve been better at not buying a game because it’s on sale. Unless it’s something big like BOTW which I just can’t miss and know I’ll give it 100% devotion to complete because I love it.

    Also trying to 100g everything has been a big problem of mine. Few of the recent games I completed I said F it and just went through without any worry of doing literally everything and it feels good to just move on and actually see the story unfold.

    For me discipline has really helped. Picking a few games for a period and beating them has worked wonders. For me.

    Like

  6. That backlog issue is quite fascinating; it’s a perfect illustration of how something that one first decides on their own free will and for pleasure’s sake can become an entity of its own and exert its pressure on the person, removing the free will and the pleasure involved in the process. It’s like creating a monster of sorts, or a refined torture tool to torment yourself.

    It’s also a really recent issue, when you think of it. In the 90s, there were barely enough games released in the West to keep us occupied, and we were regularly mourning the lack of interesting titles; twenty years later, we are complaining about having too much on our plates. Ah, the neverending woes of being a gamer… 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I purposely deleted every game that I’ve finished (except Civilization) and installed a bunch that I haven’t played yet so I could chip away at my backlog. Working my way through a few good Indies at the moment 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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