Is your gaming backlog getting out of control? You’re not alone: digital storefronts like Steam — let alone all-you-can-eat services like Xbox Game Pass — make it all too easy to add titles to your collection, making getting to the bottom of your list of shame increasingly unlikely.
Did you know Steam has over 70,000 games listed? Hopefully, your gaming backlog isn’t that long, but whether it’s five games or 500, these tips should help you cut it down to size.
Stop Buying Games
Your gaming backlog has grown to its current state because you keep buying games. If you’re serious about getting to the bottom of it, you have to stop it growing any further, which means those impulse purchases have to stop, no matter how good the discount is. If you’re not going to play it to the end right away, don’t buy it.
Of course, gaming is supposed to be fun, and if there’s a game that you’ve been anticipating for years, then it’s unrealistic to deny yourself the delights of playing it first. But for titles that you’re unsure about, wait until your list is more manageable.
Trim It Down — And Be Brutal
If you’ve really let your gaming backlog get out of control, then it’s time to accept that some of those games are just never getting played, let alone beaten.
You may love the idea of playing Batman: Arkham Origins, for example, having picked it up in the sales a couple of years ago and enjoyed the other Arkham titles. But the game has been out since 2013 — if it hasn’t jumped to your attention in nine years, are you really ever going to be in the mood?
Cut down your list to a manageable number, and be brutal. You can always bring games back later, but you’ll find the list far less daunting if it’s down to single figures.
Prioritize Your Games
The next step is prioritizing. There are only a finite number of hours in the day, and even fewer of those are available for long gaming sessions. That’s where How Long to Beat (or HLTB) comes in handy: it’s a site that’ll give you the average time it took players to beat any single-player game.
Look up the games on your list and figure out where everything should go. Generally, a Google search for “hltb [game name]” should do it, unless it’s brand new and nobody has completed it yet.
Personally, I’d prioritize the shortest ones first to make serious inroads to your list, but if you want to tackle the big blocker first, then go for it. After all, the 100 or so hours it takes to beat The Witcher 3 could be 90% of your backlog in terms of time.
Formalize Your Backlog
For most people, gaming backlogs are an abstract list in their mind — or possibly a pile of shrink-wrapped boxes underneath the TV. Formally organizing your list will make it a lot more approachable.
There are plenty of dedicated apps and websites for sorting your game log such as Backloggery, Completionator, and My Game Collection, but I just use Trello. It’s mainly intended for work, but you can create a free board for just about anything from household chores to revision timetables. Just create a card for every game you’ve got on your list and move each card through each column as you progress.
Here’s a look at mine for inspiration — as you can see, I stick TV series, books and movies on there too.
Multi-task — But With Limits
On that note, it’s okay to play more than one game at once — in fact, it can help, adding variety to prevent your gaming sessions from getting too samey.
All the same, I’d apply two simple rules. Firstly, limit the games you’re actively playing to two or three, max. Otherwise, you’re spreading yourself too thin and getting nowhere.
Secondly, make sure you mix and match games of dramatically different styles. Two massive JRPGs at the same time don’t offer variety, but a massive JRPG and a fast-paced FPS certainly would.
Pick the Right Format
On that note, if you’ve got multiple formats, it makes sense to match games with the best hardware for them. Got something beautiful that requires hours-long sessions? Sounds like a job for the PS5.
But if you’ve got games that can be dipped into for a couple of minutes at a time, then maybe the Switch or even iPhone is the perfect format. Having a portable game for snatched minutes here and there is an excellent way of trimming your list efficiently.
Grab Some Time When the TV Is in Use
Playing some games on a handheld like the Switch or iPhone will also mean you can play when someone else wants to use the TV to binge the latest Netflix boxset.
Even if you don’t have a dedicated handheld device, there are ways of streaming big-screen games to a smaller device. Game Pass Ultimate subscribers, for example, can stream games to their Android or iPhone handset and can even connect a Bluetooth gamepad to make the experience more authentic. PlayStation Remote Play lets you use your own hardware to stream to another screen, too.
You can also play a huge number of supported Steam games using Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud gaming platform. Because the actual numbers are crunch at Nvidia’s end, just about anything with a screen will run the latest games like it’s packing the latest RTX 3080 GPU.
Completion Doesn’t Have To Mean 100%
Lots of story games — like GTA, Horizon Forbidden West and Spider-Man — have a completion percentage easily accessible in the settings to show how far you are into the game. That’s useful, but they often include every sidequest and collectible in the game world — something that can add tens of hours to the length of the game.
If you’re in the mindset that a game isn’t completed until you’ve got that bar to 100% and unlocked every achievement/trophy, then try and get over it. It’s okay to call a game done when the credits roll and move on.
Games With No End Are a Distraction
Equally, some games, like Minecraft, have no natural end. It’s up to you to decide when you’ve had enough and can actively move on to something else.
I’m enormously into Hunt: Showdown and have duly put hundreds of hours into it, but it’s multiplayer and will go on and on until I call it quits. If I were truly serious about cutting my backlog down to size, I’d put Hunt on the back burner for a while.
If You’re Not Feeling It, Quit
You’re not going to like every game you pick up and play, and there’s no obligation to finish everything you start.
Simply put, if you’re not feeling it after an hour or two, then quit and move on to something you’re excited to try. Gaming is supposed to be fun, and life is simply too short to waste on middling titles.
Don’t Stress It
Finally, you should probably learn to live with your gaming backlog. Every serious gamer has one, and if you begin to treat gaming too much like a stressful job, it loses all of the magic that makes it such joyful escapism in the first place.
If you’re loving a game so much that you want to stay in that world and delay the next title on the list, then great. It’s doing its job, and your list will just have to wait another few days to get shorter.
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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Alan Martin is a freelance writer based across the Atlantic in London, with bylines dotted across the web and in print. Specializing in technology, games and internet culture, you’ll likely find him running, playing through Spelunky for the millionth time, or cheering on his beloved Derby County.