Managing Your Video Game Backlog

New Year, same game backlog? This is something that nearly every gamer suffers with! However, with a bit of organisation, some knowledge of game genres and some useful tools, you can get more from your video game collection and start eliminating those games from the backlog pile.

These tips outlined will enable you to progress through your collection with minimal stress and burn out. Consider your backlog not with resentment and regret, but a roadmap leading you through different great gaming experiences!

A final note before we get started, gaming is all about having fun! So if a game isn’t sticking, or you’re not having fun with it, move on, and get to a game you enjoy more.

Write Your Games Down

One of the most important parts of maintaining a backlog is organisation. By making a list of games you wish to play or complete, you can prioritise which game you wish to play first.

There is no correct way of listing your games. Personally I write a list on pen and paper of games I’ve yet to finish and want to play. This list can then be transferred to your Xbox One homepage via the use of game pins, which are easily accessed and organised in level of importance.

By writing a list of your games you’ve yet to finish, it eliminates the risk of buying a game both on Xbox Live or PSN as well as Steam. Moreover, with the rise of digital game purchases over physical discs, this is something that can easily happen, with games in your collection being buried under the mountain of newer releases.

Video Game Genres

Have you ever completed a long RPG and then not felt like playing another RPG for a long time?

This is something I’ve suffered with after playing one of my favourite games Fallout 3, on the Xbox 360. This was a game that I poured over 100 hours into, including all the DLC, and after finally putting it down, it was a good 3 months before I tackled another huge open world RPG. What had happened is that despite loving the game, I had experienced burn out from playing RPGs.

This burn out feeling can be remedied by structuring the games that you play to be opposite genres to each other. For an example, counter the feeling of a slow, large open world RPG like Fallout or The Witcher 3, with a fast paced first-person shooter campaign like Battlefield or Call of Duty. By mixing up game genres, you can cleanse your video game pallet and appreciate the differences of each game more, when not combined with more of the same.

Therefore if I am playing two games simultaneously, I try and pick two games that contrast well with each other. For example, at the time of writing, I am currently replaying Halo Combat Evolved, a narrative driven first-person shooter, and Tumblestone, a fairly simple slow paced puzzle game. This combination of games offers the perfect contrast, as when I have slightly more time to play games and want to indulge in more intricate story I can load up my Halo Combat Evolved save. If however, it is a work night and I don’t have much time to play games, I can load up Tumblestone and complete a few puzzles before going to sleep. By doing so I can get my gaming fix whatever the occasion.

Play Games To Completion

Along with organisation, playing games to completion is perhaps the most important tip in maintaining your video game backlog.

There have been multiple occasions where I have had to replay opening passages and hours of games when I have juggled several similar games at once. One great example of this is when I played the opening 3-4 hours of the intricate puzzler Fez, simultaneously with 3 or 4 other games. During this particular episode I became entirely lost when I eventually loaded up my Fez saved game after leaving it for a few days. I was completely unaware of which puzzles I had solved and where I had already gone. As a result, I have yet to go back to my save almost 2 years later and finish my playthrough to completion.

This is why I tend to play one game at a time, and try to complete it fully before moving on to the next game. By sticking to one game at a time, the game's story and narrative structure are more memorable. This method of playing also keeps the game's plot fresh in your mind when you next load up your saved game to play, minimizing that feeling of being lost in a game.

In an era where a big game comes out almost every week, it is extremely easy to get distracted and move on to the shiny brand new game. Sticking to one game at a time therefore takes discipline, but in doing so, your game backlog will decrease steadily. This is one of the main reasons I try not to buy too many new releases so that by the time I do pick them up they will be cheaper or on sale. By waiting for a sale, I was recently able to pick up Firewatch and The Witness for cheap. This method of not buying every new release when they come out does produce some negatives however, like not being able to participate in the initial conversation surrounding a game as well as missing out on the release day buzz. On the flip side, positives such as greatly reduced prices when you do buy the game, and the ability to gauge the critical and community reaction, enable you to make more intelligent game purchases. One clear example of this is Mafia III. By waiting for the initial discussion around the game, I was able to come to the conclusion that it would be better to pick up the game in a sale, rather than pay the full price at release date.

Of course, some games have no end, and so finishing or completing a game can be a loose term. A personal example for me again falls on Fallout 3 or Fallout New Vegas. In both these games I spent roughly 100 hours apiece finishing the story, completely all the DLC packs and exploring the worlds. I planned the way I played these games so that I’d finish the main story line after I had already explored everywhere I wanted to go and completed all the side quests that interested me. I know that I didn’t complete every single side quest, nor did I explore every location, but on completion I was satisfied with what I had experienced and could put the game down.

Sports games like Madden or FIFA, and MMO’s or multiplayer games like Destiny don’t fit this fully completed mould either. These are games that have no true ending. With this is mind, I would recommend focusing on one core multiplayer and sports game that you can improve in and learn the mechanics inside out, as opposed to juggling several multiplayer games at once. It is for this reason that I tend to prefer campaign driven games with fairly definitive endings as I am able to get my experience from the game and then move onto to the next game I wish to play.

The most important point in terms of game completion is to know your limits and when to stop playing. There is no point in forcing yourself to keep on playing a game you are not enjoying. Put it down, take a break and move on to something that you enjoy playing!

Game Lengths & Timing

Game lengths is another way you can structure the order in which you play the games in your library. For example, after completing a large open world RPG, I would then complete several smaller games to mix it up.

It is therefore important to know how long it will take for a game to be played from start to finish. For example, if you know you’ve got limited playing time, then it’s probably not a great idea to start a huge game like The Witcher 3. For me personally, some great games to jump into when I have limited gaming time are puzzle games like The Witness or Tumblestone where I can solve a few puzzles when I have some spare time. Another great game to play for this reason is Forza 6, where I can play a couple races and get on with my evening.

A great resource to find out how long a game takes to complete is www.howlongtobeat.com. This is a brilliant site that has a huge database of games, where users submit how long a game took them to complete the main story, all the way up to 100% completion. The site then averages these user times out to provide you with an idea of how long a game will take you to finish. This enables you to plan out your game time, and make sure you don’t start a huge game before a big game release date that you’ve been looking forward to!

Gaming Is Not A Chore!

Although keeping a backlog may just seem like a to-do list of video games, it’s important to not view your backlog in that way. A backlog, and the tips I’ve outlined in this article, are organisational tools, meant to ease game stress and burn out in what seems like a never ending weekly game release schedule. As I’ve discussed, the only way to attempt to limit the size of your backlog is to have some self-control on what you buy straight away and what you wait for. This could mean going a whole month without buying a new game, or successfully negating an Xbox Live sale. Of course this is rule I find hard to keep at times, especially if there is a great sale on a game I really want!

Don’t consider your video game backlog as a chore, but something to look forward to. These tips outlined will help you structure your backlog in way that is both time and cost efficient. Remember if a game isn’t sticking and you are not enjoying it, move on to the next game that interests you. Take regular breaks and pace yourselves. After all, the bottom line is gaming is meant to be positive, enjoyable and fun!

Des O'Sullivan

Lives in England. Can usually be found working out, reading or checking out some live hiphop shows. Big fan of the Mass Effect, Fallout and Halo franchises. Add me on Xbox Live @ iD35TROYu