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Working Through Your Games Backlog: What Are Some Strategies You Use To Get Through It?

Joseph Bradford Posted:
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Many of us have gaming backlogs. It seems to be the current way of gaming, especially when so many of our titles are digital ones we just grab on a sale. (Like, these Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals). As someone who looks at their Steam and PlayStation libraries all the time, seeing these great games I've bought over the years that have sat either unplayed or unfinished, I start to wonder how I'm ever going to get through them.

A Long Weekend

For me, this is one of the first ways I plan out my backlog tackling: planning a long weekend. As a single dad, it's a little hard to do this consistently, as my weekends are typically tied up...you know...being a dad. But as my daughter has grown up and become a teenager, she is tending to do her own thing, whether it's playing games with friends, writing, or watching Anime. It makes it easier to justify setting aside time on the weekends to truly get lost in a game.

More often than not, though, on weekends when my time is limited, I just go back to games I'm familiar with: The Elder Scrolls OnlineThe Lord of the Rings OnlineEVE Online (lots of Onlines), or wait until my buddies are on so we can play PUBG or, as it stands right now, Warzone 2.0. I really need dedicated time carved out to start a new game, or pick back up a game left on the wayside as my mind won't allow me to justify doing so if I'm not going to commit this time.

So planning a weekend where I decide I'm going to work through either a whole game or a large chunk of one is usually necessary. Typically I tell my family that I'm doing so as well, and they are usually pretty okay with it, especially since I rarely take full days off anymore. So when I do, it's usually to relax and carve into my backlog.

Recently I did this two weeks ago after the AMD event here in Las Vegas. I took a Saturday and most of the subsequent Sunday to play through the first few levels of A Plague Tale: Innocence. It's a title I have wanted to play since 2019 and finally carved the time to start it. It's one I've now been playing off and on since, and I'm close to beating it finally. One I do, the next one on the list is Requiem, but I fully believe that had I not set aside the hours that weekend to start it, I wouldn't be invested in completing it finally.

Holidays Provide Some Great Cover

This weekend is a Holiday weekend, so it's definitely a time where we are all sitting back, spending time with family and just taking a hard-earned break. While others will be out Black Friday shopping today, I'll be beating Innocence and either moving on to Requiem right away or finally finishing God of War (2018). Also on my list to play is New World, as I'm still working through the latest Brimstone Sands content myself.

Holidays are usually when I do a ton of gaming, as it's a natural spot to just relax and recharge in my mind. My family always does large get-togethers, but with most of my family being sick this time around, I've been able to carve even more time to just relax and let loose on my backlog.

But how do I choose what to play among all the various titles I've got sitting there?

Picking Apart My Library

For me, this is one of the hardest parts of this endeavor. I have over 500 games on Steam, hundreds on console and close to a hundred on the Epic Games Store. I'm not lacking for choice. 

This is actually partly why it's so easy for me to just slip into comfort games like my MMOs themselves and get through my MMO backlog. Part of it I can justify as work: I need to be caught up in the various games I personally specialize in for the site here, but also conversational in pretty much every other major title in our rotation. So this means I'm hopping into World of Warcraft on occasion, even though it's never been my favorite MMO to play. It's why I'm so adamant at catching up in Final Fantasy XIV. There is a work angle here.

But oftentimes I choose games for fun that have always interested me. A Plague Tale is the most recent example, but earlier this year I played through Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge on Steam Deck just because it reminded me so much of my favorite arcade game of all time: Turtles in Time. I played a bunch of V Rising when it released, though it never hooked me like Valheim, and when the Mistlands update finally releases, I'll likely be back in Iron Gate Studios' survival title.

Also, many of the games I pick up are ones that I've started and for some reason or another I've put down for months on end. This was the case with God of War and even Final Fantasy XIV to an extent. Oftentimes just devoting a weekend to these games is enough to get me by till that next itch comes, especially if nothing grabs me while playing.

Oh, and I need to finally play Cyberpunk 2077 now that it's seemingly fixed, but I'm waiting on the Overdrive RT update for that one.

So, long story short, I choose the games that are calling to me in the moment. If I get the itch to finally beat God of War, I'm going to lean into that. If it's building a stable economy in Crusader Kings III for my ruler, I'm going to tackle that one. 

Being Okay With Falling Short

I used to get pretty upset with myself when I couldn't stick with a game, especially one I spent money on months ago and never even installed. Oftentimes I'll grab a game on sale with the intention to play it right away, but it doesn't feel compelling when I sit down to do so.

And that's something I have to be okay with.

While the misconception with our job is that we spend all day being paid to play games, I don't actually play games every day, or even days in a row. Oftentimes I'm too mentally spent to want to look at any more pixels. It feels like work at times when I sit down to play something for fun sometimes. Coming to terms with that and being okay with how I was feeling took a lot of work, especially since I would have a little voice in the back of my head reminding me of how lucky I am to be in this gig and industry.

That isn't to say that it's always the case where gaming for fun starts to feel like work. Sometimes I start playing a game and it's just not what I'm in the mood for right now. I'll file that away and then jump in later on. And sometimes a console game I'm playing through gets announced for PC and I just decide to wait for that port (like God of War). 

And then sometimes I just want to shoot internet spaceships rather than get deep into a sprawling single player narrative.

Being okay with my gaming status quo felt like a lot of work, and it took a while to get used to. But now I feel it's actually made me a healthier gamer. Instead of forcing it and taking the joy out of both work and pleasure, I'm gaming when I truly want to, not simply to go through the motions, and it's made these times even better.

So What About You?

How do you decide to work through your backlog, and what challenges do you face along the way? Do you even have a backlog? Let us know in the comments below.


Joseph Bradford

Joseph has been writing or podcasting about games in some form since about 2012. Having written for multiple major outlets such as IGN, Playboy, and more, Joseph started writing for MMORPG in 2015. When he's not writing or talking about games, you can typically find him hanging out with his 10-year old or playing Magic: The Gathering with his family. Also, don't get him started on why Balrogs *don't* have wings. You can find him on Twitter @LotrLore