So, it’s finally happened. Both the internal and external hardrives for my Xbox are nearing critical mass thanks to the plethora of free games that come with Xbox Live, the amount of data it’s necessary to install from a disc these days and the epic patches that seem to come as standard with most modern video games. If all my games were physical, I’m pretty sure I’d be drowning in them right now. So I thought, enough is enough. It was time to come up with a plan; a way to conquer this mountain and come out the other side victorious. Data victorious that is. But where was I going to start?
Some people would say that having a whole library of games to choose from sounds like heaven, but I have to say that right now it’s feeling a lot like hell. When you only have a limited choice, not just in gaming but pretty much with anything in life, you get on with it. You turn it on, play it , enjoy it (or not in some cases) and you move on. But where do you start when you have a whole range of fantastic games at your disposal and you simply can’t settle on which one to play? It’s time for a plan! There are multiple systematic ways to tackle this problem and I am determined to get through the backlog (plus what will happen when more free games come out and I can’t download them? Classic FOMO/ bargain hunter issues kicking in here).
- Start at the top
My first thought was simply to begin at the beginning. Makes sense…Right? You’re going to play them all anyway so just pick the first one and roll with it. This definitely works in principle but not so much in practise. I opened up the game tab, looked at the first game, which in my case is #IDARB and thought “there you have it, that’s you first game!” But before I’ve even begun, I’ve come a little unstuck. This isn’t really a game you sit back and play, this is a multiplayer, have some friends over, party kinda game. Therefore I felt it was acceptable to say this was an exception and could be removed from my system.
Next up: Alien Isolation. I’m already screwing up my face and shrugging my shoulders at this point, like when someone asks if you want to order pizza, but you had pizza yesterday and you’re just not feeling it two days in a row. You’ll eat it, but you probably won’t enjoy it as much. Suddenly choosing a game is feeling a bit like a chore, which is definitely not the vibe I’m going for with my favourite hobby.
Sometimes it is necessary to make yourself play a game. Once you’ve jumped the first hurdle and got going you often wonder why you ever put playing something off for as long as you did, but I’ve got over 100 games to go through and I don’t want to feel that forced pressure every time. I decided pretty quickly this wasn’t the system for me
- Play by genre
I don’t know if it’s just me, but if I’ve just played an epic RPG, dedicated 100 hours +, laughed, cried and loved my characters I don’t like to go into another similar game right afterwards. I like to let the experience of that game sink in before heading out on another epic quest. For example, I wouldn’t play The Witcher right after finishing Mass Effect. To avoid this, selecting by genre seemed like a logical choice. That way I could mix it up. The problem, however, still remained of choice. Genre just wasn’t narrowing it down enough for me to make a decision. Secondly, I have a lot of indie games and, I’m sad to admit, I couldn’t tell you what half of them are about. Sometimes you can make a pretty solid guess at what the game holds in store for you by the title, art style, and characters on the box but not always. This system would work for a few titles, but I can already tell that some games would just keep getting pushed to the back of the mental pile.
- Play by file size
My problem is lack of space, so just play the games taking up the most space first. Makes sense. After having a quick perusal, I noticed that Assasins Creed 3 was taking up an unholy amount of space. So I fired it up, played for about 3 hours and just plain gave up with it. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for it, but this quickly put me off this system. Also, many of my biggest game files are for titles that will just never be deleted; stuff like Rock Band and Forza, which means many games in this system automatically fell into the exempt category. Much like the first option, this also made it feel a little bit too chore-like for video games so I quickly abandoned this option
- Pick the prettiest one
I know you should never judge a book by its cover, but sometimes those bright colours and interesting looking characters just draw you in. Besides, it was someone’s job to make me want to play it through this first impression. It would be rude not to reward their efforts for a job well done. This system has certainly worked to a degree for me. Games such as Earthlock, Murdered: Soul Suspect, and Beyond eyes all won me over with their look and I finished all 3, and mostly enjoyed them too.
While there is a positive to this, it also means that you can judge the cover in the opposite way and just never be drawn to play what could be your favourite game. I also noticed that I tended to overlook anything that was a sequel or shared similar box art to the game next to it.
- Play your newest one first
I think we can all safely admit to getting super excited about a title that we’ve been waiting for. So much so that we may even end up stopping another game mid-way just to begin the new one (the horror!) Besides, you don’t want anyone giving away any plot twists or level secrets just because you’ve fallen behind on your gaming titles.
Much like with the prettiest ones, there are many great games that get pushed to the sidelines when the biggies like COD or FIFA come out; games that you promise yourself you’ll come back to…eventually… This system also penalises the games I know nothing about in my collection. I’m never going to get that anticipation or rush for them, plus there is always going to be a new release so they will forever get pushed down the list never to surface again
- Close your eyes and point
It could work. Please refer to the pizza analogy above.
- Snack from many games at once
Why limit yourself to one title and slog your way through it when you can have your fingers in many pies. This system has actually been very useful for breaking the whole ‘not in the mood for this’ cycle that I often get with games. I’m currently enjoying Clash of Heroes; a puzzle game that gets way too samey way too quickly to play in large bouts but works as a great game to jump in and out of. Back To The Future, which is already broken up into episodic chunks with handy recaps for when I inevitably forget what I did in the last chapter. And lastly, Massive Chalice which I mostly began because I wanted to know what a game called Massive Chalice could really be about.
The downside is that some games often need a little bedding in time and if you don’t invest yourself to it, you may find you give a game 5 minutes, turn it off and then never return to it (which is kind of what I’ve done with Outland. Sorry!)
- Play games by length
If you’re having issues settling with a game, it could be you’re just in a rut and need those gaming juices to start flowing again. Instead of going straight for the Final Fanatasy’s of this world, playing short games can help battle the backlog. I have to say, this system has definitely helped me get through some of my titles. Although not always true, I’ve noticed indie games tend to be the shorter ones. I played games such as Dear Esther, Gone Home, Never Alone, and Oxenfree with the mental attitude that I’d be done in a few hours with a little more disc space, but came away really enjoying them.
Unfortunately, this system leaves you with the daunting prospect that you have a bunch of behemoths to get through with no respite from the grind.
After doing this little experiment, I think that no single system was really enough to make me play through all of my games. After all, it largely comes down to mood and time in the end, so there will always be those unfortunate few that never see the light of day, which is a little sad. However, I’ve managed to take my disc space percentage down from the dangerous 90s to the bearable 60s and in doing so, given games a chance that I may not have played before if I had an infinite place to store them.
I’m curious to know how others have tried to deal with their backlog or if they’ve got a system that they stick to more religiously than I am. Let me know. I’m eager to try out more ways to get through my titles.