Disclaimer: this feature centers entirely on what’s fashionably called first world problems. Having too many significant video games to play is not a massive societal crisis. But it is nevertheless an interesting problem to ponder. Enjoy.
Titanfall 2. Watch Dogs 2. Battlefield 1. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Final Fantasy XV. The Last Guardian. Dishonored 2. Pokemon Sun and Moon. How many of the 2016 blockbusters have you bought? How many are you still playing?
The recent release of Bully onto iOS and Android devices has made some wonder whether we’ll ever see a sequel to the 2006 classic. The game took everything design-wise that was already excellent in Rockstar open-world titles, shrunk it down to one school campus and one adjacent town and brought humour and warmth in its characterisation. The mini-games were well-crafted, the side quests were engaging and even the lessons were fun. “Great!” you might be thinking: “Now is finally the time I can pick up this classic and see what I’ve been missing all these years!”
But what if you do pick up this alleged classic ten years too late? Or what if you buy it with all the intention of spending the weekend on it only for real life to interrupt? Fair enough. Life happens. So, when do you go back to it? Next weekend? Sure, but next weekend’s availability is not so certain. Then you decide to cast it into the backlog basket.
Yes, the backlog. We’ve all got one. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a bleeding-edge PC gamer with Oculus Rift or PS4 and PSVR combo, a last-gen hanger-on still playing through blockbusters of the 2005-2013 era, or perhaps even a retro enthusiast. Every serious gamer or hobbyist has different categories they have: games they’re currently playing, games they’re looking forward to in the months or years ahead, the games they’d love to play (if they had the time) and games they feel they should play but haven’t (yet). And all of those games pile up to produce a stack you’ve not finished or perhaps not even started.
The original Far Cry is a game I feel I should go back and play. Why? Well, I bought Far Cry 2 right after its release on Xbox 360 when a work colleague had spent time talking about the brilliance of the first one on PC. I enjoyed it. Hard-as-nails as it was, there was something refreshing about the fact it refused to hold your hand and made you work to progress across its daunting, sunburnt map. Firefights were tense and you’d die easily despite the healing and buddy systems. Eventually, after stopping at the midway point and leaving it a year or so, I went back and completed Far Cry 2. Then I bought Far Cry 3 and loved it; completed it. Blood Dragon came out. Again, I bought that. Didn’t complete it though. And so came Far Cry 4. I bought that. It’s good – a decent refinement of all of the ideas shown in FC3, but I haven’t completed it (yet). And so fast forward to early 2016 and Far Cry Primal releases. I haven’t bought that because I don’t currently have a PlayStation 4, Xbox One or capable PC. I feel like if I had the chance to play Far Cry Primal I’d likely finish it far sooner than 4 or even Blood Dragon. But I’d also feel guilty for not finishing 4 first, and the desire to get value for money by finishing the main game would outweigh the purchase decision for Primal.
You want further evidence of my mad buying habits? In 2013, after some five years of Xbox 360 ownership, I took advantage of those selling PlayStation 3s to fund PlayStation 4 purchases. I got myself a 120GB Slim PS3 for £120 with two controllers and five games. Not too shabby. Then I raced out and bought Metal Gear Solid 4. Finished that. Then I got Metal Gear Solid V. I’m four missions in. I have the Metal Gear HD Collection. Still haven’t finished Peace Walker. I bought Dark Souls and got as far as the Darkroot Garden before stopping. I nabbed ICO/Shadow of the Colossus HD off an online auction website despite owning both on PlayStation 2. I’ve never finished a single Team ICO game! Then I went and bought Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3 – two games I already own on 360 – purely because my Xbox Live subscription had lapsed and I desperately wanted to revisit the battlefield.
The main problem here is not, ironically, the games. It’s our thinking patterns about those games. We act on older behavioural traits as we forage and hoard, amassing a collection to be proud of. But we are also socially complex creatures and so forums, social media and gaming media all keep us up-to-date with plenty of new titles to buy and experience. However, this is an expensive hobby and so we look to get maximum play time out of what we buy, trying to finish story modes or spend at least a month or so in multiplayer. Still, our imaginations run wild with the delight of possibility, even as we’re playing the current flavour-of-the-month: just imagine how awesome Watch Dogs 3 could be, because I’m having a blast with this! Wait ‘til Star Wars: Battlefront 2 comes out! I hope I’m finished with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare by then!
It’s just not possible to keep up though. And therein lies the problem. You’re chasing something you can never have. Like Chell going through double portals and glimpsing herself in two rooms at once. Or a successful speedrun in Chapter 13 of Final Fantasy XV. Or the announcement of Half-Life 3. You simply have to learn to be content and go one game at a time.
Want to get help? Well, you could try websites dedicated to tracking and estimating how long your backlog will take. http://howlongtobeat.com/ does what it says on the URL: gives you estimated times for how long a particular title will take to beat to give you a chance to decide whether or not it’s worth your precious hours. Equally, http://www.backloggery.com/ allows you to create a profile that lists all of your games – from current to backlog – and check them off once beaten. You’ll get there.