All gamers have the same boss battle hanging over us: The Undefeated Backlog. With every big game sale, we strengthen that enemy, adding to the endless library we will never touch. Gamers promise themselves that they’ll tackle that backlog one day and play some of those untouched games, but let’s be honest with each other: that day has never come. Until now.

Early last year I was unpacking from another move when I came across boxes and boxes of video games. As I began to organize them, I realized that there were many titles I didn’t finish or even start. And I had yet to even glance at my list of digital games. It was then that I vowed to change, to do the unthinkable and take on the greatest boss battle of all time: My Backlog of Video Games. And I was going in with a plan.

Check your Equipment and Resources

Like my usual major boss battle preparation, I counted my resources and strategized. I was in this for the long haul, and I had to know exactly what I was up against. So I catalogued my video game library, hard copy and digital, noting which games I’d started and which ones I had completed the main storyline in. The results were less than impressive. I hadn’t started or completed even 50% of my games. The majority of the finished games were in my Xbox library. The older consoles and handhelds had many unbeaten and untouched games. Extremely disgraceful for a self-proclaimed gamer such as myself. I decided to save those for last and tackled the console type with the most played games for the easiest round 1 victory!

Pick a Strategy

I finally settled on playing my Xbox games first, dating back to the first original Xbox from 2001. With my games list organized, I had to choose my method of attack. Did I play in alphabetical order, by release date, or perhaps completely at random? I vetoed games without a campaign, as they couldn’t technically be completed. Eventually (with the help of Twitter) I settled on a mix. I would choose games by their release year, picking from the batch to leave some choice in the games I would be playing. I knew I would struggle through some games and mixing them up instead of saving them for last would keep my stamina going strong. And yes, I am an organized nerd who keeps track of their library with an excel sheet and a convenient iOS app I have recently discovered called LiBib.

Distracting Side Quests

I started this journey last year, and I am happy to report I made it to games published in 2009. This is quite a personal feat considering the many distractions I had not quite prepared for in real life, like the new exciting games that I just had to experience right away (AC: Origins). It also gave me a much-needed break. Gaming fatigue, especially with vast open world games or the ever daunting repeating side quests, can knock all my gaming energy out of me. I am even more thankful now for fast travel points after spending hours walking across the entire Fallout 3 wasteland just to reach a quest marker. Pure boredom almost made me quit before I was able to remind myself that I wanted the experience of completing the game. If gamers from 2008 had to traverse in a computer-generated empty wasteland for hours to beat the game, then I would too.  Afterwards, I rewarded myself by skipping ahead to 2015 and playing the very enjoyable indie title Tacoma before returning to my backlog. Side quests like this can be dangerous, with the strong temptation to stray so they must be approached cautiously.  

Knowledge Experience Points

I have discovered so many hidden gems within my backlog. Games I might not have otherwise played if not for this journey, such as the original Prey (2006) where you play as a Native American protagonist, or even Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, a game full of satire and over-the-top 80s action. There is a new sense of discovery in playing older games. The gaming industry seems to  move at such a rapid pace, and many brilliant games are swept aside for the latest AAA title. I am rediscovering them with a new perspective and sense of appreciation as I follow the evolution of video games year by year. Even the dated graphics don’t bother me nearly as much as expected. Pixelated games are making a comeback and after growing up playing Atari and Nintendo, it feels more nostalgic and comfortable than anything. At the end of the day, if I am enjoying the narrative, I can look past clunky controls and just enjoy the experience for its time, instead of comparing it to the latest and greatest. Isn’t that the point of gaming? For the player to be able throw themselves into the narrative and just have fun? Don’t forget about the added bonus of financial savings. I’m not buying as many new pricey games, resorting to sales and used video games stores for cheap offerings instead. A used game from the $10 sale bin offers an experience as unique as any newly released $80 game.

Main Quest Still in Progress

There is still much to be done before I can beat this Boss Battle. I have nine more years of Xbox games to finish and thanks to Xbox’s Games with Gold program and my love for buying used games, that list grows longer every month. I have barely touched my pile of PlayStation, Nintendo and PC games, but I do have a thorough plan of attack. I know where I need to go and how I can achieve beating the Backlog Boss. I will be following up this piece with games from my backlog that I think need more love or another visit. 

I challenge you fellow gamers to the same Boss Bottle. What are some obstacles you encounter when tackling your backlog? What is an older game you’ve discovered lately?

Stephanie Gerk
A hermit who enjoys video games, comics, and everything science fiction.

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