Last year around this time Mat C started a project where we all confessed to our “backlog” sins. This was particularly useful for me, since at the time, I had also made a sort of New Year’s Resolution with my husband. “No new games, until you beat games you already own.” Seemed simple enough, and with the Log of Shame I did my best to tally my ratio of new games to games completed.
But there were some problems.
How should I tally games like Civilization V, which I played several times? Did winning a round constitute “beating the game”? Was I letting myself down if I went back and played a game I’d already beaten before? What if I played an MMO? What about games that are free, or given freely – count against my tally, or not? Mat of course handled a lot of this in his FAQ, such as the role of mods on one’s log of shame. That didn’t stop me from finishing the port of Final Fantasy IV for the DS, because I’ve had it for years and had been putting off fighting the final boss. But since I’d beaten this game before in other formats, I’m not sure if it had a positive impact on my log or not. It also didn’t stop me from picking up a new stack of titles during the holiday season. I finished… a couple?
Yesterday I learned of the “Four in February challenge.” The idea is to beat four games from one’s shameful backlog in February 2013. I thought, “my log is pretty huge; I should do this.” Then I realized that I didn’t actually want to add another duty to my “to do” list. I like games, enjoy them, and use them to unwind. Since I have the luxury for now of playing and reviewing games of my own choosing, why make that any harder than it is?
This year I got the gift of an OnLive subscription. That’s 200 new games – some indie, some older AAA games: mostly games I have not played before, but some I have. Some I’m interested in, some I’m not. I’ve played several, finished one. Does all this count toward my log of shame, knowing that all the games will disappear next January?
I once signed up for an account on The Backloggery. I looked there today, and there it still was. I hadn’t touched it in four years (“now playing” said Fallout 3). I hadn’t even finished inputting the games I owned at the time, and now among the myriad options of indie bundles and new consoles and Steam sales I may have a hundred more. I realized that even trying to log every game in my collection was a huge project – a fool’s errand – an unnecessary chore – and closed the account.
I keep looking at that word “shame.” It shows up on Mat’s logs; it shows up on the Four in February page. We’re ashamed because we bought a consumer good, but then didn’t fully consume it. It’s the same kind of shame associated with owning a library of classic books, but not actually reading them. The shame of loading documentaries onto one’s Netflix queue and then deciding to watch braindead television specials instead.
I think I’m exhausted by shame. I think I’m ready to stop feeling ashamed of the media I choose not to consume. We have lots of options these days, and most everyone leaves something on the table. Statistics and anecdotal evidence both back me up on this. I have the ability to play nearly any game my heart desires. My options are functionally endless. I should feel happy and privileged. I am surrounded by a potential lifetime of media joy.
I am not the type that sells back games for pennies at the GameStop. I keep them. My collection is therefore enormous, ranging from Commodore 64 and NES carts all the way up to PS3 exclusives. I’ve decided to think of it not as a backlog, but as a library. I can reach into there at any time and find something that interests me. Then I can enjoy that at my own pace, regardless of its age or its “finishability.” I feel lucky to have those options, but it’s silly to feel ashamed.
Of course Mat will surely say this is just wimping out on my part.
Pictured in the header: literally a random assortment. I can’t turn my head and spit in this apartment without hitting four games I haven’t finished. Neither the photo itself nor the promise of spitting are to be considered statements of intention.
Email the author of this post at firstname.lastname@example.org.