There are merits to both sides of the debate between physical game ownership versus digital, but one thing I think we can all agree on is that the rise of digital games has led to an exponential growth in the idea of a gaming backlog. Decades ago, I owned a couple NES cartridges, which I would play to death until I had the money to buy a new one. When the now-defunct Funcoland came around, I was able to cycle my game collection a little faster, but not fast enough to have unplayed games sitting on the shelf, just waiting for my time. Fast forward to today and not I (and I’m presuming “we”) own games digitally across my mobile devices, PC, and multiple game systems. Many of these games were bought on a whim, likely on sale, and haven’t been given time. I don’t even want to know how many games, exactly, I have in my iOS purchase history.
Now I am wondering if it is possible to actually go back and clear out my backlogs. I’ve kept my Nintendo systems completely physical, so I don’t have much of a backlog, there as I buy a game and then beat it. Games that I have yet to play are sitting there on the shelf yelling at me for a little love. My PS4 makes the task a little more difficult because I do own some games digitally, and I have many “rented” through the PS+ program. PC, on the other hand, may be impossible because my games are all digital but they are spread across multiple services and I don’t even remember all the games I’ve downloaded. iOS, on the other hand, has a nice, long, running list of everything I’ve downloaded since I first bought an iPhone. Considering it is the device I have quasi-attached to my person, I figured I’d start there, if this experiment is even possible.
If I were to do this, though, I would need an objective way to say I’ve “played” a game to the extent that I’ve given it the time it is due. That can be hard on iOS, which has given rise to many non-traditional game models. Therefore, going in to this, I’d have to make some rules.
First, I need to figure out a way to limit my current and future purchases. There is no point in trying to eliminate a backlog while continuing to grow a game collection. I would need a moratorium on new games with the exception of major new multiplayer games that I would immediately play with friends. Shards of Infinity, Terraforming Mars, etc., would fall into this category. On the other hand, new single-player games would have to be put on hold. I would probably have to make an exception for great sales, however, like if a $10 were $5 or $1.
Second, I would need to figure out what it means to “finish” a game to the extend that I could say it is no longer part of my backlog. A game that can be played from start to finish is easy to define, but what if it is really just a bad game? What if it is too hard? At what point can a I say “I’ve played this enough to say that I’ve given it all the time it is due, or to the point that it would only become frustrating to play more?”
And what about games that do not have a typical endgame? What about a “social” game. I, for example, downloaded Boom Beach at one point and never really played it. If I’m going to really work on clearing out the backlog, I would, objectively, have to play it, but I would have to come up with a way to say it’s been played. Certainly there is no way to “beat” it, but I need some kind of objective standard.
There are also the “unbeatable” games where you are simply trying to get a high score. Tetris, Pac-Man, Pinball, etc; at what point do I consider that game played? Maybe by setting a score on every board/level?
And what about board games? I figure if I play through the tutorial enough to learn the game and either beat the AI or an online opponent, I can say I’ve played the game.
I don’t know if I’m actually going to do this, but I’m really considering it. It may be tough, but I feel like if I managed, I’d feel less guilty about buying new apps that I may or may not someday play. I’ll update this thread if I ever manage to answer some of these questions or if I decide to move forward with my plans.