OPERATION EX-LAX; Or: Clearing out the backlog

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.


You’ll keep me posted on this one, as I’d love the guidance… :wink:


Good luck!

My 2019 goals are more modest, I’ve entered VGG’s “The 2019 Videogame Challenge!”, with a goal of “5 games completed, and at least 50 hours of combined gametime”. I put a Hardcore list up, but don’t plan to try for it … if it happens, it happens. :slightly_smiling_face:

I don’t mind acquiring games from quality devs, I like to think I’m supporting the hobby, but I need to show more restraint in the future than I have in the past … yes, I’m looking at you, Kickstarter, and you, Steam sales. :wink:

Life is too short to spend time on bad games! :slightly_smiling_face: FWIW, the VGG thoughts for “beaten” seems to be, as this person puts it:

As others have said, for games with no clear ending, you should define your own beaten criteria… E.g. back in 2015 I set a personal goal for Payday 2 of successfully completing all of the heists available at the time… Someone else however had the goal of levelling their character up to level 100.

I see where you’re going with this as somewhat familiar ground, as I have also looked at my backlogs with dismay at times and a year ago started down much the same path to play everything before buying anything new. And then I noticed all of the brand new R/C aircraft and helicopters lined up that I hadn’t flown yet, and the new firearms I hadn’t shot yet, and all of the books on the Unread section of the shelves, and the unbuilt Star Wars Lego UCS sets in the closet, and I had an epiphany…

I’m a collector! And looking at everything I’ve “collected” I realized I had enough new entertainment options that I realistically wouldn’t need to purchase anything else for years, and happily disassociated my credit cards from all online shopping, Steam and the App store.

And then a few weeks later I bought a Switch. The cycle begins anew. :smiley:


Thank the Lord these aren’t impulse buys in Jersey, lest I bankrupt myself.

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I’ve thought of throwing a thread together like this several times, but I’ve always put off doing so just like I put off playing all the games I buy. It’s a great idea–my iPhone and iPad have folders of games I haven’t tried, and my Steam library is a mess, primarily due to Humble Bundle purchases. My wife has all but promised a Switch is on the way for Father’s Day, so things are gonna get worse before they get better.

I think defining your own criteria for having finished/beaten a game is fine. I’m satisfied with the games on which I’ve spent 5 minutes, decided they weren’t for me, and deleted. It’s the other ones that haunt me.

I wonder if we should make the Battle of the Backlog some sort of a group effort–maybe we’ll be able to help one another get through this.


Love this idea - we play / try a game for a week (or whatever time frame fits) and then move on. You liked it, keep it, play it again. Hated it, at least you tried it.

I was considering taking it in chunks - I may just scroll to the bottom of my purchases and take the first ten games I bought, then go from there. That means I’d be starting with Angry Birds…

It does help that some of my oldest games are no longer available and that I played many of my oldest games quite a bit. Things like Pocket Frogs and Tiny Tower got a lot of love back in the day.

Edit: I suppose an alternative, and one that sounds more appealing the more I think about it, is to download every backlogged game - without exception - and put them in a single folder; then, when they are finished, I can either delete them from my phone or move them in a folder for games I’d like to revisit and play more. I know games don’t usually take much space, but there are so many that I don’t know what impact they will have in my 256GB.

I know iOS lets you offload apps so the icons and some minimal amount of data stick around, but the application itself isn’t taking up space. That feature’s been a lifesaver on my old 32 GB iPad Air.

I actually hate that because I’ve always hated when bits and pieces of things I’ve tried to delete stick around. But that’s just my personality; for mean, cleaning up, or I’m this case, deleting something from my device, should mean it is gone as if it never existed. That’s what cloud saves should be for. But that’s just me.

I think this is indicative of a good problem (a third world problem). iOS games are just so cheap. Maybe too cheap. (Just to be clear, I really don’t want them to become more expensive.)

I don’t have a suggestion for clearing out the backlog, but I do have one for not creating a new one. Make the games more expensive. Then you will put more consideration into actually buying the next game. Is it worth my money? Games are so cheap that the real consideration is, is it worth my time, which is far to easy to discount. Pretend the game is actually 10x more expensive than it is (or 20x or 50x). Then use the extra money you would have spent to invest in retirement or kids college. Its is win-win situation. You save more and you put more consideration into what games you buy.

My 2 cents.


Well, I’ve decided to do it. I don’t know how it will go or how difficult it will prove, but I’m going to try my hardest to clear out all the old games I haven’t given much time to. Part of my reasoning is this: An argument can be made that I only need to get an equivalent value for a game to what I paid for it. So if I downloaded a free game and never played it, not time/money lost. HOWEVER - and this is partially where I am coming from - I an argument can also be made that there isn’t any reason to spend more money on games when I have potentially fun games already owned that I haven’t put the time in to yet. Plus, I’m just a bit anal and it would feel kind of good to say I’ve actually played what I own. I’m currently downloading as many backlogged games as my phone will hold. After I’m done with the phone, I’ll go to my iPad and go through the iPad-only games. For back of a better method, I’m going all the way back to 2011 and I’ll just play them in the order I bought them. I’m hoping the Appocalypse helps with some of the older games.

I don’t know at what point I will have said I’ve “played” a game, and I may just make it up as I go. Get ready for this topic to turn into a bit of a blog if I start to write about my experience with old games.

In the meantime, I’ll be starting off with my first game, Angry Birds. “But surely you’ve played this plenty already, right?” you may ask. Nope, I was quickly distracted by Pocket Frogs, which I absolutely loved back in the day. I’m not going to 3-stars on every level, just looking to see how far I can get through the game before I feel like launching myself into a building, Angry Birds-style.


I look extremely forward to this.

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Good news: Angry Birds is an awesome mobile game.

I’m joining in the “backlog challenge.” I just did the Xenoshyft tutorial. Looks like that one will be headed to the keeper folder.


One thing I’ve noticed as I’ve gone through my early games is that they really are quality games. Back before the app store became a platform for releasing soulless cash-grab slot machine non-games, games like Angry Birds, Tiny Wings, Fruit Ninja, and Cut the Rope were simply well done. Sure, they may have been simple, but they were well-crafted and represented a design philosophy that seems to be game-centric rather than income-centric. Yes, all of those games save Tiny Wings have since implemented cash shops, currencies, IAP, etc., but they are still games and are still fun.

I’ve also interjected some of my more modern games into the rotation. My most recent was Pocket City and, honestly, it disappointed me. The game looks great, and I applaud it for being premium city building game. After playing for just a short time, though, I came to the realization that the game is very shallow. I didn’t find much opportunity for building a creative city layout and instead found myself forced, in a way, to make grids of roads and fill the spaces to the max with buildings. The unlock system gives a nice sense of progression, but at the same time, it made it very difficult to plan ahead. I didn’t unlock an airport, for example, until around level 65-70, at which point my entire city was full, so I simply had to raze a plot and insert the airport. It is an interesting little time-waster of a game, but nothing to write home about.


Pretty much the same conclusions I reached about Pocket City as well - very disappointing.

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I like that. I think you’re saying don’t look at the App Store cost of the game, look at how much time you think you’d have to spend on it to make it a worthwhile purchase, so the currency of purchase becomes hours not errr… currency,

That’s not a simple thing to know or consider but if it helps stop the growth of a back catalogue fuelled by sales then it’s a definite helper.


Exactly. Your time is the cost not the currency.

It is not a simple thing to figure out. I think it also applies to life in general. Though not in a simple way. It’s not, am I having fun now and if not I’ll quit doing something. Instead it is an evaluation if what you are doing now is worthwhile on a short and long term basis. You must also recognize that most of the worthwhile things will not be fun at the beginning and will take a lot of work; such as learning new skills.


I remembered Galactic Keep. It’s was THE hype before release and a bit of a disappointment after release, as most of you remember.
The disappointment has been influenced by the long delay of the release due to the reputed dedication of the developer to details, in an effort to make a great game. Or so the rumors said.
I looked it up in the AppStore, just to realize it hasn’t been updated in3 (!!!) years. I wondered why he turned his back to his creation instead of trying to address the issues people were complaining about.
Anyway I installed it to see if I can enjoy the game today.

Edit: typos corrected.


The whole Galactic Keep thing was farcical.

So much hype, so many delays, so much pre-release love (based mostly on what really are some pretty cool graphical elements) … and such an average game.

I couldn’t believe it when I finally played it. I move my guys around and bash monsters in the head? How is that different than anything else?

I never even made it to the one-hour mark. Deleted and never thought of it again.

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