Gamer Scribbles

The Curious Case of the Never-Ending Backlog

Nine out of ten gamers have one. We don’t mean for it to happen, but new and shinier things always seem to come our way, leading to last week’s new release finding its way to the stack of games we promise ourselves we will get back to just as soon as the summer lull comes around.

For some of us, it’s not so bad. Less than a baker’s dozen of past releases remain sealed or still have that fresh from the factory smell. And we will get to those, just as soon as we finish up a season of whatever EA Sports title or in-depth RPG is causing the hold up. For others (primarily those working in the industry, whether it be as developer or journalist), that stack of games is more likely triple what a normal gamer has waiting.  It’s not that you don’t want to play them, because you most definitely do, but in between playing or making games for work, plowing through weekly review copies and picking up the ones you aren’t comped, it doesn’t take long to watch your backlog develop into a monster. Right now I have 69 uncompleted (by my standard) titles in my backlog as I am writing this. That is including Dragon Age 2 which I know I won’t have finished (read-unlocked all achievements) before I get my hands on 3rd Birthday. This is how they break down:

Wii – 1, DS – 8, GameCube – 5, PS2 – 8, PS3 – 7, PSP – 9, 360 – 31

Most of these are games I bought with the intent of playing them right away. Like Metal Gear Solid 4 which I did play right away, the night it came out. We had a midnight launch at the store and when I got home at 2am, slightly damp from the automatic sprinklers on my short walk back, I played until I hit the section I’d run through in a demo at the very first E4All Expo. Went to bed and honestly haven’t touched it since. Why? Really, I’m not sure. I haven’t been in the mood to go back to it and I don’t feel that same draw toward my PS3 as I do to my 360. I know I want to play it and the other games in my PS3 backlog. And I will. Just as soon as I finish Tools of Destruction.

When tackling the beast I’ve let my backlog become I try to focus on one game per system at a time. I may have four games on the go, but as long as each system is only working on one title, I feel like I have a bit more control. Husband has the TV for the night and is playing something of his own? Great! That means I’ll sit down and work on something from my handheld stack. During the week I’ll work on my console games in-between writing and the other nonsense I accomplish. If I’m lucky I might knock out two to three games in a month – only to have them replaced with something else right away. I like to buy more games as a treat whenever I successfully remove one or two from my stack. I keep an eye on Amazon sales and check out Fry’s every week or so, looking for some great deal I can convince my husband to buy for me with puppy dog eyes and “I finished X, X and X!”

So just how do I determine when I am finished with a game? When I unlock all achievements/trophies in a game? Or maybe when I’ve completed the main storyline?

Honestly, each game is different. I know what kinds of games are my strongest and which are my weakest. Getting through the story mode in an FPS is just as great an accomplishment for me as getting every last side quest in an RPG. Take Modern Warfare as an example. I bought that game knowing full well that I suck at FPS games. I enjoy them immensely, but I know I am not likely to fare well online with more dedicated players (even amongst friends). No clan is going to want me on their squad, and I have no silly aspirations of thinking I could compete with the more serious MLG players. I made it through the story on a fairly easy mode and gave it another shot the next level up. When I hit a wall, I knew it was time to retire the game. Because I had at least finished the story, I count it as a completed title, no longer part of my backlog.

The same cannot be said for adventure and role playing games. With those, I need to explore and complete as many side quests/hidden missions/treasure hunts as possible. Even if they have no achievement or trophy attached to them. I did indeed complete that 100 level grindfest in Final Fantasy X-2…. twice. I will finish every meaningless fetch quest in Oblivion for armour that is inferior to what I have now just so I can see them in the completed quests log. I will spend 90 minutes with that blasted bomber in Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood so I can say I destroyed DaVinci’s war machines. I will push myself to finish Alan Wake on Nightmare mode. These are the games where that 100% completion rate matters to me.

Each gamer is different when it comes to defining when they have completed a game. Some gamers play for high gamerscore and trophy counts while others, such as myself, play the games we want to play on the systems we want to use purely for the love of gaming. I know I will never have a 100K gamerscore on Xbox Live or have a platinum collection on PSN to rival those of my friends. And I’m OK with that. Right now, all I want to focus on is enjoying the games I haven’t yet, one to four games at a time while I keep feeding the monster.


Before I go, I just wanted to share some link-love for the Gamer Banter blog exchange series initiated by GameCouch. This month we’re all discussing how we define “completing” a video game.

Zath: When Do You Know That You’ve Completed A Game?

Gunthera1-gamer: I have never completed a current generation game

Silvercublogger: What Do You Mean By Gamer Banter

The Game Fanatics: Gamer Banter: To Beat a Game

SnipingMizzy: Is it over yet?

Game Couch: The End?

OXCGN: When Is A Game Truly ‘Finished’ For You?

Gamer Banter is a monthly video game discussion series coordinated by Terry at Game Couch. If you’re interested in being part of this, please email Terry for details.

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