The transition into the next generation of game consoles has caused a bit of a lull in new releases, making it the perfect time to finally attack that dreaded pile of games you’ve accumulated over the last few years. It’s the perfect New Year’s resolution for the busy gamer — to finally get through that game or games you’ve been itching to play but haven’t even taken out of the wrapper. But how do you do it? The dust has settled and the games haven’t moved yet, so what can you do differently?
As someone who got through some shameful backlog games this year (Metal Gear Solid 3 and 4, Alan Wake, Resident Evil 4, and Eternal Darkness to name a few), I’ve got a few tips that genuinely helped me sit down and commit to finishing some games. This is a serious epidemic, people, and someone has to do something about it!
Pick a game and stick with it
You need to mentally establish that the game you choose is going to be the game you will play until the credits roll. There can be more than one game but they have to be for different circumstances — a game for your free evenings at home, a game for your phone, and a game for a portable system would be an acceptable way to divide this. I can’t tell you how many games I’ve bought, played for an hour, and then left on the shelf for months or even years before returning to them. But by picking a game and making that mental commitment (along with the rest of these tricks) I’ve had a lot more success sticking with a game and finishing it.
Pick the right games
It can be really satisfying to finish a game, and if you haven’t done that in a while that might be a big part of the problem. It’s a silly thing, but there’s a bit of an endorphin rush and sense of satisfaction that goes along with seeing the credits roll on a game. So if everything on your plate it half-finished, my suggestion is to take some care in what game you choose next to play.
Don’t go for a 60-100 hour RPG right out of the gate. Pick the shortest game on your backlog. A two-hour indie game might be enough to give you that itch to start finishing your games. Also take care to not pick something unexpectedly long. HowLongToBeat.com is a great resource for getting average lengths for games. You may think a visual novel game like Phoenix Wright is a brisk cakewalk, but those games can be over a dozen hours. You might not be ready for that yet.
Once you establish that itch, you can start tackling longer games again. I’m still working my way back up to something like Dragon Age: Origins, though some RPGs like Persona 3 are actually really easy to come back to after long periods. It really depends.
Don’t sweat the collectibles
If you’re having a hard time finishing your games, then you absolutely shouldn’t be completionist with them. The extra collectibles and goodies in games are often there to pad out the length and give something extra for someone who wants to squeeze out every last drop of value. If you’ve got unplayed games just sitting there, then you’re clearly not starved for games.
Skip the dumb collectibles, unless they’re really giving some extra layer to your experience. Be careful to recognize when your habits or OCD tendencies are causing you to spend way too much time with a game. Eventually those hours of wandering around collecting feathers start to add up and the wasted time will wear on your future backlog prospects.
Get a backlog coach
A backlog coach is one of those rare, beautiful people that make finishing your games so much easier. They come in the form of a friend or loved one who enjoys gaming with you or watching you play. If you have two people invested in a game, then finishing it becomes exponentially easier.
If you have a gaming friend with similar tastes, pick a game you’re both mutually interested in and take turns playing it. Passing the controller while playing through The Thing on Xbox was great experience that became a ritual between a friend and I for a few weeks, leading to plenty of memories and silly inside jokes…and a finished game on my backlog!
I feel extremely lucky to have a girlfriend who likes watching me play games as much as she enjoys playing them. This has limited my backlog choices to more cinematic, story-focused games (Dark Souls is out), but I’ve also finished so many more games because she’s the one shoving a controller in my hand. If you have someone in your life that likes watching, let them pick out your next game from the pile and you might be surprised by how fast you’re back on track.
Don’t fear the old stuff
Gaming is a fast-moving hobby and the closer you follow it the more it feels like you have to play whatever the new hotness is. That said, if you have decade-old games you’ve been meaning to play you might want to prioritize those over the latest and greatest. The truth is, those games are classics for a reason, and most games that are popular now won’t matter in a decade. If you stick to the true classics, and let 2013’s big games sort themselves out without you, you might have a lot less “must-play” games in the long-run.
That goes double for HD remakes like Wind Waker HD, because you can play a 2013 game and an all-time classic — it’s two birds with one stone!
Don’t stress out
Seriously, we should probably all admit that the stress over our ever-growing gaming backlogs, unread novels, and overloaded Netflix queues is dumb. I’ve seen people worry about it more than they actually do anything about it, and that’s the sad thing. When you have so many great choices you tend to have a hard time picking anything. Recognize that it’s all fun, and that what you’re looking for is a fun, memorable experience — and hopefully a little more art in your life, if the game is truly great — not just another checkbox on a long list of played games.
So get out there, play some games, and share your tips and backlog triumphs in the comments section below!
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