Five Simple Rules for Managing your Video Game Backlog

Anyone who enjoys geek-related hobbies should be familiar with the term backlog, especially those who enjoy reading books or comic books and or watching movies/TV shows/anime. And most especially, anyone who enjoys playing video games. Time is finite and there’s only so much we can do with the time that we have, so things piling up is a reality even with what we enjoy. Most especially, video games.

Prior to purchasing my Nintendo 2DS in 2013, I had a huge backlog of unplayed Nintendo Gamecube and Wii titles. When I purchased my handheld, I told myself that I was just wasting my money on these video games if I didn’t play them all the way through to the end. So I implemented some rules that helped me manage my backlog; rules that I’d like to share today.

Since moving to the 3DS as my main gaming device, I’ve completed around 50-60 titles in total and in my video game library, I only have three titles that I have yet to beat. So these rules worked for me, and I think it can help others with their video game backlog as well. With that said, let’s begin!

My humble and still growing collection of 3DS games. I’ve beaten all but four of these titles.

Rule # 1: Only Play One “Main” Game at Any Given Time

One problem that I had in the past was I’d have trouble getting back to a game after stopping my play through for a long time. That’s what happened with Tales of Symphonia and X-Men Legends 2, both games that I played almost to the end but didn’t. I stopped playing them “temporarily” because I started playing ther games, and by the time I was ready to return I had lost so much momentum that it became hard for me to continue where I left off. Because of that, this became my first rule.

My definition is a little loose when I say “main” game, but I’m mostly referring to a game that (1) has a clear ending, (2) will require multiple sittings to get to the said ending, and (3) requires continued momentum because of either the game’s story or design. So this could be anything from RPGs to adventure games, first person shooters to survival horror games.

Having more than one “main” game at a time not only divides my attention between the games (thus making beating them take twice as long or even more) but it may cause me to fully lose attention on one game altogether. And there are games that rely on being invested in it’s story to motivate players in completing the game (such as RPGs) or those that rely on skills on the said game, like knowledge of it’s levels and/or maps or even game mechanics for a player to be able to beat it. Dividing my attention simply impedes my ability to complete a video game, so I’ve restricted myself from playing more than one game at a time.

Rule # 2: Play “Palate Cleansers”

Of course there’s the issue of game fatigue. Even if you love a certain video game, you might get tired of it at some point and will want a breather (this is quite true for RPGs). That’s why I have “palate cleansers” in my game library and have them in my regular game rotation.

“Palate cleansers”, to me, are the opposite of main games. They’re titles that either don’t have a clear ending, don’t have a storyline, or don’t need continuity in order to play. Some examples are sports games (primarily exhibition matches), fighting games, puzzle games, and even some of my past “main” games that have additional content. I’d also count games that can be beaten in one or two sittings in this category – old 8- and 16-bit games are great examples of this.

Right now, as I’m playing through Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest, I have games like Mario Kart 7 and Super Smash Bros. in my regular rotation. I’ve got a lot of them actually – I replay Star Fox 64 or Metroid Prime: Federation Force missions (I’ve already beaten these games in the past) or play exhibition matches in Inazuma Eleven. I do rounds of Gunstar Heroes or Streets of Rage 2 during weekends. The goal is to relieve the monotony of playing just one game without derailing my progress in it.

Fighting games are great palate cleansers – titles that can provide quick rounds of action packed entertainment.

Rule # 3: Avoid Endless Games

There are games that simply do not end, and I do my best to stay away from them. Some examples are MOBA games like DOTA or League of Legends, mobile games like Clash of Clans, social media games like the now dead Marvel: Avengers Alliance, or even handheld console games like Monster Hunter. In the past, I’ve stopped myself from playing the GM/franchise modes of games like NBA 2K and stopped playing LAN games like Counter-Strike (unless I’m playing with friends). These games are time sinks and playing them means that I’m not progressing in my other games.

There are some exceptions. I still play Clash Royale a lot (a round only takes between 4-6 minutes) and I still play Pokemon Go heavily (during times when I wouldn’t have been able to play anything anyway, like when I’m travelling). But for the most part, I avoid these games like the plague.

Rule # 4: Restrict Your Game Purchases

When you buy a new game, it automatically becomes part of your backlog. Unless you’re not playing anything at that moment, which is precisely when I buy new games. It’s easy to say “I’m going to play this game anyway, I might as well buy it now” but in my opinion, a person’s mood or interest is highly susceptible to change.

I’ve been wanting to play Bravely Second for some time now, but I’ve yet to buy a copy simply because it’s possible for a new game to be released that I’d be more interested in later on. There are several games in the past that I’ve wanted to play, but I’ve given up on now because there’s just too many games in the world – Shin Megami Tensei IV, Code Name S.T.E.A.M., even Hyrule Warriors Legends were titles that I was quite high on in the past but because of new game releases (Fire Emblem Warriors and Dragon Quest VIII), I’m not interested in them anymore. Had I bought them, I would be compelled to play them or worse, I would have spent money on games that I wouldn’t be able to play. And that’s just wasteful.

I have exceptions to this rule – I also buy games when:

  • I’m within at least 10 hours from beating my current “main” game
  • There’s a rare (or about to be rare) game like the Special Edition of Fire Emblem Fates
  • A title is on a really good sale (e.g. when Inazuma Eleven was on 50% off)

Outside of this, I’m very disciplined when it comes to my game purchases, never buying anything new unnecessarily, and it’s kept my game backlog relatively small.

Rule # 5: Allot Time for Your “Main Game” as Much as You Can

This rule is a little tricky because again, time is finite and there’s a lot of things in life that need to be done. But as much as possible, I allocate free time for video games. It can be as little as fifteen minutes in a day, especially during busy times – what’s important is that I gain some progress in the game that I’m currently trying to beat. Advance one or two stages, complete a subquest, level up my characters, even as little as win a few battles – these are small steps toward beating the game.

More than the progress, what’s important is I don’t break my momentum for too long. There are days wherein I’m so busy with other things, that I can’t even afford to play video games at all. I try to keep those days to a minimum and if needed, drop some of my other hobbies temporarily.

And those are five simple rules that I’ve employed to help me manage my video game backlog. Others may feel differently but to me, a video game is like a movie or a book – the experience isn’t worth it unless I get to see the end. Unplayed/unfinished games make me feel like I wasted my money, so I really make sure that I play all of my games up until the end.

Do you have a video game backlog? What special techniques/strategies do you follow to help you with it? Let us know by leaving a comment or two below!

One thought on “Five Simple Rules for Managing your Video Game Backlog

  1. “Restrict your game purchases” needs another point. Don’t buy the same game twice. It’s ridiculous, but I did it so many times. It’s so tempting to buy on GOG/Steam just because “Oooh, it’s on sale.” First, look it up and you might already own it. I bought Tyranny, Deus Ex and a few other games twice because they were very cheap on GOG/Steam. Unify your library somewhere, I use RAWG (my library It helped me on a lot of occasions to resist the shopping spree.

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