When I worked for a small computer magazine, I had to treat gaming like it was a business task.
I wrote three game reviews every month, which meant I had to finish three big games every month, like clockwork.
It was efficient. It was effective. But it wasn’t always fun.
It instilled in me the mentality that I had to play every “significant” video game, and then any other game which I was interested in after that.
So I kept buying them. And buying them. And finishing fewer and fewer.
Once you’ve played a lot of video games, you get really good at tearing them apart in short order. You’ll see everything their mechanics, visuals, and design have to offer in the first couple of hours.
I sometimes have a hard time continuing past that point, unless the story or the gameplay loop have really grabbed me.
So I move on. And often feel terrible.
I almost always regret not playing the rest of a game, even if I bought it at a fraction of its original price.
That regret is silly.
It might be born originally from a place of sincerity, but these days I’m working to discard it and try to focus on what I’m doing right now.
Games are for fun, ultimately. They’re for entertainment. They shouldn’t be obligations. They shouldn’t be the proverbial albatross.
So what if a game reviewed well? So what if all of your friends like it? So what if that weird guy at the GameStop tells you that it’s the greatest thing of all-time?
You don’t have to play it.
You don’t have to play anything.
You’re the arbiter of your own time.
It’s easy to fall into the cycle of hype, and to hold on to a game that you didn’t really like because you think you “have” to play it.
But what does that even mean?
Hilariously, sometimes the games in my backlog are games I’ve already finished, and want to revisit in a remastered form.
BioShock Infinite, the Batman Arkham games, Final Fantasy VII, and Deadly Premonition Origins are all sitting on storage devices waiting for me right now on platforms I didn’t play them on before.
Why do I regret not playing the entirety of these games even though I’ve already finished them?
“Backlogs” are a way for our brains to rationalize spending money that we may secretly regret spending, and are entirely socially motivated.
It’s okay to spend money on something then not get around to it for years.
Not the most fiscally responsible plan, sure, but not like, the end of the world.
It’s okay to play stupid weird garbage that you like and no one else seems to like. You don’t have to force yourself to play the latest flavor of the month.
I’m sure a lot of Switch owners will buy The Witcher 3 next month and then not be able to finish it because it’s huge.
It’ll be my third copy of the game that I may not finish.
The same thing will likely happen to me some day with Dragon Quest XI S, a shiny new version of a game I’ve already bought two other times.
I have a Humble Store coupon and the game is calling my name, even though I already have other copies languishing on a digital shelf.
The entire transaction between you as a gamer and the makers of the game is the sale.
Once you’ve bought something, it’s over. Although the developers may want you to finish their game, it doesn’t actually matter in any cosmically significant way.
Rather than view this through a cynical lens, and give myself crap about my backlog, I try to view my purchases as supporting developers whose work I enjoy.
And that’s it. My time is my time. My backlog isn’t real.
Once you re-frame yourself as the controller of your own time and as the supporter of whatever you want to support in this moment, poof, your backlog goes away.
Entertainment is not meant to be an obligation, it’s a break from obligation.