Backloggin’ the Year 2021 Edition – Finishing 50 Games a Year
Welcome to Backloggin’ the Year, a feature that discusses the challenges and excitement that comes with working through your backlog. In this special feature, site owner Anna Marie Privitere talks about how to blast through a backlog, including one full of beefy RPGs.
In 2015, I decided to get serious about tracking my games and finally tackling an out-of-control backlog. While at the time I was staying on top of my 3DS library, I hadn’t even touched the dozens of Vita games that had slowly built up in my collection, I’d barely tried my PC collection, and iOS gaming was growing in a way that excited me. I won’t lie, it was intimidating to wonder if I’d ever be out from under the giant pile I’d created for myself!
Over the last six years, my tastes have changed and my systems have moved into another generation, but I’ve also learned a lot about how I game, what games I like, and when to either say no or let go. If you also feel like your backlog is out of control and needs taming, perhaps some of these tips will help.
#1: TRACK EVERYTHING (ESPECIALLY NEW PURCHASES)
It’s going to feel awkward at first, but tracking helps you get an idea of how much progress you’re making on a game and how quickly you’re adding in more to your pile. Whether you update your tracking each time you stop playing, once daily, once a week, twice a month, or each time you finish a game, make it a habit in a small enough period to remember how much progress you’ve made. I’ve tried a couple of websites including Backloggery and the now-defunct Backloggr, while several friends use AllMyGames — ultimately, I ended up just using a spreadsheet and evolving the information I track on it from year-to-year. Feel free to borrow any of my formats.
When I was first starting, I found an extra level of accountability was also very helpful; originally this was the RPGamer forums, where there was a yearly completed games list. The weekly RPG Cast motivates me to at least try a new game each week, even if it doesn’t withstand the 5-hour rule — more on that later! Whether it’s a one-on-one chat with a friend to recount your progress over the last week, a community play-along like #JRPGJuly, or joining our Discord and using the #new-years-resolution-accountability channel, decide what helps you stay on track and how much direction you need.
The goal here isn’t to change when or how much you game; just being aware of what you’re accomplishing is a great motivator and a good guide to where your gaming budget is being spent. Listing ALL the games you own and want to play or beat, and then tracking when you tackle each one can also help you decide where to focus next. Not playing many PlayStation 3 games? Might be time to temporarily store it and bring out a classic console instead, and hold off adding to your PS3 backlog for a while until you’re ready to get back to that system.
#2: PICK A YEARLY THEME (BUT EXPECT SOME TO SUCK)
Second, I want to continue playing a selection of shorter non-RPGs. The Switch is full of VNs and I feel a little more comfortable playing PC titles than past years, so if you have recommends for point and click adventures or visual novels send me a tweet 😀
— Anna Marie Privitere (@amprivitere) January 1, 2020
Each year I decide what my overall goal is going to be. I’ve tried to strike a balance between too broad and too narrow, and I’m working on not beating myself up for messing up, but instead using those failures to help structure future goals. For example, in 2015 my goal was to work on my PC backlog; I tackled six PC games in a row and immediately burned myself out. Whoops? I returned to the goal in June with the plan of no more than three PC games per month, and I hit at least two each month moving forward. For 2017, I decided to finally dive into the Vita, with lessons learned: if a game I wanted to immediately tackle came out on a different system, it was OK to put down the Vita and play it! I ended up playing over 40 Vita titles across two years and was very pleased with my progress. 2020’s resolution to play two backlog games for every one new game was a total flop: 42 new games to 26 backlogged titles. 2021’s theme will be tracking releases from this year versus games launched in previous years. Why? Well…
#3: DEFINE YOUR BACKLOG (AND YOUR BUDGET)
Part of the reason I “failed” my backlog challenge in 2020 is the way I buy games. In total, only seven of the games I played in 2020 were purchased full price and immediately played, with another ten being review codes. The other sixty games played were purchased on sale either this year or in the past; this is also true of the bulk of my 2019 games. As the years have gone on, and digital sales have become lucrative, I’ve become much more patient.
I follow an excellent sales watcher called Lbabinz who has both Canadian Twitter and US Twitter accounts that focuses on deals on physical and digital games; I’d recommend following the Canadian one because most games that ship to Canada also ship to the USA, and the digital sales are the same in each territory, though prices will be lower in the States. Because of him, I managed to score both Rune Factory 4S and Trials of Mana for 25% off within the first few weeks of each game’s launch on Amazon UK. That $20 in turn netted me Langrisser I&II when it dropped to $19.99 at GameStop. Saving five to ten dollars here and there has added up to a lot of games this year, especially during holiday sales.
In 2020, my backlog was defined as anything I owned on December 31, 2019. For 2021, I’ll be tracking anything released prior to the current year and bought on sale a backlog title, along with my currently owned backlog. As a game can easily spend over a year on my wishlist before I snap it up waiting for the right price, and I buy in bulk during sales, I’m hoping this new style of tracking will give me a better idea of my playing habits. And my “backlog” definition will probably change again for 2022.
It’s certainly helped steer my buying habits in terms of console, too. I can plainly see from past experience I just can’t handle long PC games, so I stay away from buying them — thankfully many of the best PC RPGs are seeing console ports these days, woohoo!
#4: VARY GAME LENGTHS (AND FOCUS!)
I’ve started to love visual novels and pepper my games selection with puzzlers and even some platformers, but the bulk of my gameplay is still unsurprisingly RPGs. I’m willing to acknowledge when I finish a huge, meaty RPG that I can feel a little burned out on the genre. After finishing The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV in October 2020 for review (135 hours in 18 days, phew) I needed a break from long involved stories. So I spent a couple of months puttering around with sub-10 hour RPGs like Blossom Tales and a lot of adventure titles, along with a leisurely replay of Dragon Quest Builders 2. Using HowLongToBeat has been an integral tool in picking between multiple games I’m interested in.
However, even while I vary what I play, how I play doesn’t: I stick to one single-player game at a time. Back when handhelds were more separate from consoles, I split my time between one portable and one home console game. That still happens on occasion; when I’m traveling, I might only bring my iPad, and that means leaving behind one game and picking up another. But in general, I’ve found that I just can’t focus on multiple story-driven games at the same time. Maybe if I was really into sports or shooters, I could juggle Madden and Final Fantasy, but that just isn’t me. Maybe it’s you though?
Well, after 3 playthroughs I think I’ve accomplished all I want out of #HeAdLiner: NoviNews. 70th game played this year, 56th completed.
Hoping to see more of @unboundcreation‘s games on Switch in the future!
— Anna Marie Privitere (@amprivitere) December 8, 2020
Also, remember ultimately you are in charge of what defines a completed game. I’m not a big fan of post-game; I often don’t feel the need to get every ending, or even the best ending, to consider a game completed. I do try to shoot for ending credits, and/or the completion of the game’s main storyline, and this is mandatory for all RPGamer reviews. I have one friend who considers a game finished when they’re bored with it and another who only considers a game completed if they’ve achieved a platinum trophy.
#5: THE FIVE-HOUR RULE
Is there anything worse than plonking down good money for a game, only to discover you don’t like it? The urge to soldier through is real, and when I started tracking games it became obvious when I totally loved or hated a game. After a year of tracking, I finally realized I need to just be okay with not enjoying a game, and set it aside. Do I still beat myself up sometimes for failing to finish a game? Sure. But after a couple of years of experimentation, I found that if I wasn’t enjoying a game by the time I’m five hours in, it’s time to put it away. Digital games get deleted; physical games get sold off.
Of course, it’ll also depend on what types of games you’re playing. RPGs tend to be long, but I can usually nail down if I’m going to enjoy or bail on a visual novel within the first 90 minutes. How much time you’re willing to commit to a game is up to you — I found two hours wasn’t enough and ten hours was too much. I call it a rule, but it’s actually quite flexible; I decided to stick with Criminal Girls and it ended up being one of my favourite Vita games, while I bounced on titles in a series I enjoy, including Let’s Go! Pikachu, Atelier Rorona ~The Alchemist of Arland~ DX, and The Mana Collection at various points and instead thoroughly enjoyed Pokémon Shield, Atelier Meruru ~The Apprentice of Arland~ DX, and Trials of Mana.
#6: SCREW THE RULES (OCCASIONALLY)
I know that when I add an MMORPG into the mix my total games completed goes down, and because I’m a filthy casual who loves Match-3s, I’m always going to have some games I’ll never finish. When I first started meticulously recording my gameplay progress, time spent on these ‘unwinnable’ games started to feel strangely like a waste of time, even though I love playing WoW with friends and I have an amazing guild in HomeScapes that is super positive and delightful to chat with. Yes, really!
I had to let go of the idea my gaming time had to accomplish something. Once I did, I was admittedly a little worried my backlog would balloon, but I actually found I was finishing even more games. Sometimes it just needs to be okay to set aside the guidelines and just play something for funsies without an end goal. I have found categorizing these endless styles of games and limiting myself to one per style tends to help balance my time. How you balance games as a service versus games that have a distinct end is a personal choice, but don’t hesitate to experiment.
How bad is your backlog? Any of these guidelines you plan to adopt? Leave a comment below or tweet me @amprivitere (where you can also follow along as I talk about the games I’m playing recently)