It’s once again time for Ask Kotaku, the weekly feature in which Kotaku-ites deliberate on a single burning question. Then, we ask your take.
This week we Ask Kotaku: How big is your backlog?
Not too big, I guess. I’ve been playing Civilisation VI, because I find it comforting, which this year and last has been an important way to decompress, but sometimes forgetting to clear out my backlog. I bought a whole bunch of Wolfenstein games because a) I missed out on them when they were originally released and b) wanted to shoot Nazis. I haven’t gotten around to playing through all of them. Besides that, I want to get back into MLB The Show 20. I bought Cyberpunk 2077, but it was a mess at release, so I only played through a couple hours. Is it worth diving back in?
Should be a pretty easy calculation here. Start with all games, subtract the ones I haven’t finished, the rest is my backlog. Something like five, then? Oh wait, I might have done the maths wrong.
I need to sit down and take a serious look at my backlog. If I include all games I’d like to play but haven’t, it’s massive. If I narrow it down to games I’ve played but need to go back and finish, that’s a lot of Disgaea, most of the 3D Atelier RPGs — basically a whole lot of longer games I’ve foregone in favour of smaller, tighter, fast games. Considering the length of the Disgaea games alone, I am not sure there’s enough time left in my life to complete them all. Bleak, but there comes a time in a person’s life when they begin to get an idea of what’s left, and I’ve got no time to level up anime characters from level one to one thousand to make them viable party members.
With that in mind, I am giving myself a hard limit. My backlog is allowed 25 games. Japanese role-playing games count as two. Disgaea games count as three.
Before we address a question like “How big is your backlog?”, I think it’s crucial to tackle broader questions, such as, “What is a backlog?” or “Why is a backlog?” Clearly, every person who plays video games has one, to some degree, which means that it’s a pervasive problem. So why does this always happen? And what can we do to help everyone you know manage this widespread issue? Am I simply distracting you from the fact that my own backlog numbers somewhere in the double digits — including games like Spiritfarer, Blue Fire, Bravely Default 2, Hitman 2, Cyberpunk 2077, Lost Words: Beyond the Page, Watch Dogs: Legion, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Nioh 2, Unruly Heroes, The Medium, and Death Squared, plus two expansions each for The Outer Worlds, Immortals Fenyx Rising, and Doom Eternal — is sure to climb higher in the coming weeks? Maybe. Maybe not. I’ll never say!
My backlog is massive. It’s a hulking mass that I try not to think about. I am terrible at finishing games, which makes it hard to actually make progress getting through my backlog. But I am also terrible at trying new things. I have seen some shows and movies about a dozen times, but the pressure of starting a new show or sitting down for two hours with a movie I don’t know I’ll like? Terrifying. The same thing happens with me and games. Instead, I look to comfort games like Stardew Valley to pass the time. It is a personal failing.
I have two backlogs. One is made up of games that I own and have yet to play or finish. That’s a big but still manageable list of games. Stuff like Ghost of Tsushima, some DLC, and a few smaller games I bought but never played.
The less manageable and much, much larger backlog is the one made up of games I still need, want, or should play. I’ve started chipping away at this list lately for our ongoing Backlog Month. Stuff like Quake 4, Unreal 2, and other older games that aren’t beloved, but which I still want to play. I also have so many indie games on here. They look great, people tell me they are awesome, and yet I have so many other big games sucking away my free time I rarely get to them.
I sometimes think about how small my backlog was when I was younger. Before a job, on summer vacation from school, with a stack of old and new PS2 games and nothing else to do. I remember I would play and finish every game I got my hands on, often replaying them a few times after that. I miss those days. But I also have money and my own place now, so I’ll take that plus two big backlogs instead.
Bigger than I can deal with in the one human lifespan I’m afforded, I’ve come to realise. As I get older I actually think about this a lot, how we’re only on this planet for a limited time and we need to make conscious choices about how we spend that time. I’m a lotta fun at parties! Remember those? Yeah, me neither.
Anyway, such thoughts tend to undermine grand, long-percolating plans like “I will definitely do a complete playthrough of mainline Dragon Quest games someday.” In addition, most attempts at purposefully directing my attention one way or another fail and I end up taking a more chaotic approach, in which a game will suddenly come to mind and seem fun and if I’m in the right mood and the right place I may just boot it up and start playing. Recently I’ve started Bionic Commando Rearmed 2, Rage, Enderal, The First Tree (free Epic Store dealie), and Abadox for just this reason. (Final Fantasy XV as well, but side-quest mania may have ended my run there.) I also just picked up an Oculus Quest 2, and am gobsmacked by the variety of VR experiences waiting to be sampled and assessed.
Then beyond games there’s movies and music and books and TV and of course the web…It’s all just so much! One of my ongoing challenges is to figure out how to balance media consumption with actually living life out in the world in a way that works for me and supports my larger goals instead of leaving me chasing an insatiable sense of FOMO. It’s hard to break out of the ultra-consumer mindset, but does placing such a high importance on consuming media align with my values and how I want to spend my life? I have to conclude that no, it doesn’t; ultimately I find the concept of a games backlog stifling and unhelpful. I’d do well to stop falling into that framing when thinking about games not played.
How About You?
Kotaku’s weighed in, but perhaps you have some backlog thoughts to unburden yourself from. Have your say! We’ll be back next week to deliberate and debate on another nerdy issue. See you in the comments!