Clearing Your Backlog The Honest Way

Over a hundred games on Steam. 50 or so on the PS store. A handful of physical games for every console. That was my backlog, things I hadn’t touched or had strayed away from for some reason. Especially with the advent of digital downloads and ridiculous sales, almost all of us have numbers like this of games we own but have not finished or even started.

A month after tallying my personal numbers, I’m down to 10. 10 games I own that I actually want to finish, including what I just bought in the Steam Sale.

How did I manage this? I was brutally honest with myself. I divorced this pile of games from obligation to finish them because I spent money on them. I didn’t think about the True Gamer obligation to complete some classic monstrosities in length I own like Xenogears or Final Fantasy Tactics. My own need to complete everything had been long-deadened by the sheer amount of backlog games I was looking at. I thought about what I would LOVE to play.

I started with 30 or so games. Played them until I felt like I’d seen what there was to them or done what I could. Some grabbed me all the way, some didn’t at all. Some I parted with sadly, maybe to come back to in some future vacuum of time. With every game, it became easier and easier to say “I don’t need to finish this. I’m personally done with it.” I looked at the list and thought, what would I LOVE to play right now? Forget what I feel like I should play or what I feel guilty for not playing. In my heart of hearts, what from this list do I actually want?

My original goal, by the way, was to become kind of a free agent–to be able to actually take all the recommendations people throw at me and follow up on them. I’ve felt a lot better about looking at my games since doing this, and I want to recommend it to every one of you. Seriously, it’s a lot more fun to play games that actually make you smile than guilt-tripping through the backlog to say you did. We only have so much time in life.

So does anyone else have interesting strategies or stories? Does anyone feel unable to honestly put down games and say that you’re personally done?


I have not read that book about the art of cleaning up, but I’m familiar with its concept of “pick up the thing, if you don’t feel anything, get ride of it” and basically did that with my steam library. I made steam categories and just put everything I will likely never play in a "be honest with yourself’ pile. I didn’t get all the way down to 10 like you, but I got to where opening steam doesn’t give me anxiety about what to play anymore.


I’m in your exact position but I’m having a hard time not feeling guilty about dropping or ignoring a game, especially if it’s one that’s been highly recommended but I simply haven’t gotten into. It’s like I’m missing something?

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I’ve run into this with a few universally acclaimed games that apparently just aren’t for me, or games I really wish I could play that are too long or mechanically intense. I just think about the feeling of earnestly enjoying a game and chase that rather than trying to squeeze something enjoyable out of an experience that clearly isn’t working.

It was very hard the first time, but it gets easier every time you do it and before you know it, you’re dropping games left and right and having a great time with the stuff you really love.

If the guilt is about missing something, consider that by trying to make the dropped or ignored games work, you’re also losing time that you could spend digging all the way into games you really enjoy.

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I play 30 minutes and then decide if I really want to see more of this game or if I’m going to move on. I ended up passing on maybe 20 games over the past month doing that.

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I started being much better at this when I sold off my childhood games. There were absolutely games in there (Super Mario Sunshine, for example) that I’d never finished but wasn’t going to go back to. Since then, I’ve been pretty remorseless about writing games off and moving on. I have a fairly good idea about what my tastes are and I act accordingly. There’s a lot of ‘good’ games I haven’t picked up on Steam and probably never will. I’d rather appreciate Fallout: New Vegas from afar then sink time and risk not enjoying it.

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This is definitely one of the best ways to do it. A while ago, there was a limit on the #content we had available to us - whether that was because of not living online like we do today, being limited by financial means like actually being a child, just not having access to things like we do now. In recent years in particular, that paradigm has flipped - there is now more content than people can possibly consume, more ways to access it easily and cheaply, and a new need for curation that didn’t need to exist before. I guess we’re all trying to find ways of blocking out what’s not as important to us, but that’s pretty difficult to do a lot of the time.

I’ve got boxes of 360 and PS2 games in the cupboard, a steam category that had holds over half my owned games that I’ve put aside, hell I even made a google spreadsheet just to keep track of everything I owned gaming wise. I guess for me it was like you said, you just need to be honest with yourself about what’s actually important to you. I don’t actually care about Halo, Gears of War, Hitman, a bunch of racing and shooting games, a ton of old school JRPG’s. I’ve passed over a ton of titles that I would’ve otherwise “wanted” otherwise - Prey is a good example. It sounds great, people I respect love it, but I don’t do scary shit. I’m glad it exists and people love it, just not my thing.

Basically, just do what makes you happy yo. Games are meant to bring you joy! Let them do exactly that :slight_smile:


Basically, I get through having ‘too many games’ by just rejecting the idea of a backlog in principle. It’s a work concept, and this isn’t supposed to be work. If you want to play it, play it. If you don’t, don’t. Whether you do or not might vary from day to day, and that’s fine.

If you bought the game because you thought you’d play it but didn’t then that’s okay too. The money is gone now, either get round to it or don’t.

No backlogs, no pile of shame. Just games you want to play right now or not.


Gamefly helps with this.

I have a very buffet style approach to media. I try it out, just to see what’s what and if it catches me immediately, I’m all in. If it’s interesting, but doesn’t grab me, I add it to the backlog (since some things take more time to reach that point). If I’m not interested, I forget it.

About twice a year, I’ll get a Gamefly subscription for a month or two and try out as many games (normally AAA that I’m curious about) as I can within that period. I limit myself to a week per game. If I absolutely must keep playing, I’ll buy the game from Gamefly and keep moving down my queue. Doing that allows me to try out all the hot titles of the year without investing too much.

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I use Backloggery because I like cataloging, not because I feel compelled to beat every game. If I spend money on something, I do think I should look at it earnestly, but I’ve thrown around 5 games off the pile in the past week because they didn’t hold up to scrutiny.

What’s really helped me manage things is discerning between what I actually enjoy playing, and what “seems like a game/genre I should be into”. Even if something is meaninglessly cheap, that really doesn’t mean I need to buy it.

Honestly, supporting awesome creators has become one of the primary reasons I spend money on games at this point. If I don’t play their game for a few years, who cares?

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These kinds of posts make me physically hurt because I’m deep in the backlog prison of shame and I see you happy people on the other side and I want to be like you but I just…can’t.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened, but I realize I’ve become a monster who thinks more about buying video games than I actually do playing them.

“Hmmmm ARMS looks cool. Just get it. You’re bound to play it a little bit!”

“Wolfenstein: The New Order for 10 bucks? That trailer for the new one was pretty cool. Gotta buy that!”

“Firewatch AND Oxenfree for $20?! It’d be stupid to not get those!” (For what it’s worth I did play Firewatch)

Meanwhile Persona 5, Horizon and all these other games already in my backlog sit there unloved.

The rough part is I really do WANT to play these games, my hope is that I’ll find some kind of catharsis by constantly whining about this until I’m motivated to get tough and at the very least reconcile that I’m never going to finish some of these games I own.


Also, to be slightly less dramatic, at some point I’ll probably just do this.

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I was doing the same kind of stuff just last year. All of this got pretty real looking at games I just bought for $30+ and realizing I didn’t actually want to play them at all.

If the urge to buy is the main thing, something I do when I want something but know that it’s just an itch is to count up each dollar that I’d spend on it, even have the dollars physically in front of me sometimes. Think about it in the most concrete way possible and consider what else it could buy. Then weigh that experience against your want for the game and if you still want the game enough that you’re willing to forego all the alternate destinies of that money, go for it.

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This sounds ridiculous but I usually deal with this by buying one game at a time, even when there might be multiple deals going on like during the summer sale.

I find that I enjoy and focus on a game much less knowing I have multiple others waiting to be played. I’ve had more than one occasion where I bought 4 or 5 games at once and couldn’t really get into any of them thinking about how I should also make time for the other stuff I just purchased. The best way to curb a backlog problem for me is to be honest with yourself and buy games at a reasonable pace, don’t load up on shit just because it’s cheap, it’s not worth the stress.


Does it count as a backlog if you don’t actually OWN the games. Cause… Boy. Being broke is not conducive to enjoying this hobby one bit

I think I’m at the point where when I buy an individual game I pretty much play it immediately. Maybe I’ll never beat it but I will at least give it a solid shot right from the jump. That makes me PS4 backlog rather manageable. Honestly can’t remember the last PS4 game I bought that I didn’t drop at least 5 hours into. Some games like Dark Souls 3 I bought and I accept I’ll likely never beat. Same for Dark Souls II (though it is the DLC bosses that are hanging me up more than anything there so I feel way less bad about it). The game that probably maybe realize I can’t just buy individual games was Rimworld actually. Idle Thumbs talked it up so much. It sounded so cool. I played it for 30 minutes.

Problem with PC gaming is bundles. I don’t have to be pulled in by one game I’m real interested in. A few games that look neat for a cheap price will rid me of my money easily enough. Been sub’d to Humble Monthly and I don’t regret it but will admit I’ve paid early some months for games I never end up playing. I’ll never regret a good looking bundle even if I play just one or even none of the games. I see less as a badge of shame and more like a pile of potential. Maybe I’ll never actually get to Total Warhammer or Inside but I’m glad they are there for when I finally have the time and desire. If it neither of those things come to me then it isn’t a big deal.

I don’t have a sense of obligation to play my backlog but like danlur there are lots of games in my backlog I WANT to play. I just accept that doesn’t mean I’ll get to them and it’ll likely be because I put something either more important or something that I really enjoy in front of it.


This calls for a “donate your backlog” movement.

This is something I’ll definitely wanted to do for a long time. I’ve had random Steam Sale games piling up for years now. This seems like a good strategy to pare things down.

Although this all has to wait until I finish Persona 5 lol.

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My backlog… Eh, yeah, there’s one. And I don’t think I’ll ever beat it. Which is great. Now there’s always something to play, right? And at the very least I’ve paid the developers for their work. It’s just a shame that I won’t always see their work.

Treating it as a backlog of things I must do, or viewing it as a problem seems unhealthy. It’s not a bad idea to look at what I have every once in a while and reconsider some things, but I don’t want to have it as a dark cloud in the back of my mind whenever I play games.

So does anyone else have interesting strategies or stories? Does anyone feel unable to honestly put down games and say that you’re personally done?

The only answer I can give to the first question is: start a game -any game- and try to stick with it for a good few hours. Actually starting it is often enough to make me want to finish it.
As for being done with a game? That’s up to whatever game I’m playing. It’s often simply when the credits roll. I don’t need “100%” or a max. level character, see the end-game, experience all the ending, do lethal and non-lethal,etc. And it can feel good to just play through a game once and stick to all the choices you made.

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A thing that helped me to do this was to dedicate myself for at least six months (maybe a year) to the following principle: “I’m not going to buy it unless I’m going to start it right now.

If you can cut yourself off from acquiring stuff because “It’s a great deal,” you can cut down on the rate at which your backlog accumulates–and then, after doing that for half a year or so, it’s much easier to say “This thing has been in my backlog for six months and I haven’t touched it. I’m going to admit to myself that I never will.”