Backlogs and the pile of shame

I think whatever direction your hobbies take you, if it involves consuming media you’ll be familiar with the concept of a backlog or “pile of shame”.  Over the past couple of years I made decent headway into my reading backlog, and am going to attempt to apply the same process to my gaming pile of shame.  If I thought about it too much I expect I’d also have a sizeable backlog of of films and TV shows to tackle, but let’s skip that for now…

At the start of 2014 I was setting some goals for the year, one of which was to return to reading for pleasure. I had been neglecting this as a hobby, but notably not cutting back on buying books… I discovered Good Reads and their annual reading challenge, and set myself a modest target of 20 books for the year.  Once I joined the site I  added my pile of shame to it, a pretty easy process of scanning barcodes. Next I created a shelf on there called “2014” and selected 20 books from my backlog that I thought I might like to read that year.  I didn’t force myself to stick rigidly to the list, but it was definitely helpful to have that narrower field to choose from when picking the next book to read. Obviously other books turned up during the year demanding immediate attention, but by the end of the year I had read 22 books, 13 of which were from my backlog, hurrah!

Come 2015 I started my new list with a revised target of 30 books, and started the 2015 shelf with the remaining unread titles from my 2014 one.  I had learned some lessons too. A nice balance of fiction and non-fiction is good, and also make sure the ratio of light reads to hefty tomes is considered.  (I wasn’t ready to tackle The Idiot and Crime & Punishment in the same year.) I blitzed the challenge in 2015 reading 50 books, although this was boosted by spending 5 months commuting for 2 hours a day, and took another 22 books out of the backlog. I’m now under way with a new challenge for 2016, although I kept the target at 30 books as I no longer commute.  I am confident that I’ve made the process into a habit, and am happy with the balance of new and backlog books I’m reading.

During this time I had started to wonder if I could take the same approach to my videogames. Thanks to my multi-platform lifestyle the gaming pile of shame is even bigger than my reading one ever was. There are a number of gaming equivalents to Good Reads, but with varying success in their implementation.  Backloggery was the first I tried, and although it seems to be popular I just didn’t get on with it.  At the end of 2015 I discovered Grouvee, which had the great first step of allowing me to import my Steam library which houses the vast majority of my games.  I manually added games from other platforms and then tinkered with the data.  I spent some time filtering out the games I’d already played, games I have no desire to play (bundle fodder) and those I dip into but don’t really have a point of completion (mostly multiplayer titles) to refine a ‘sensible’ backlog shelf of around 200 games. I have begun applying the same process I used for Good Reads and produced a 2016 shelf. I’m pretty terrible for games tourism and rarely finish games, so I am hopeful that this approach will help me focus.  I am also aware that the ‘cult of the new’ is likely to affect me more with games than it did with books, so I expect to be playing more new games through the year than going back to older ones, so I am only aiming to complete 10 games from the backlog and not setting any overall target.

Other things I’ve taken on board to help me get this under control:

  • It took a while to stick, but I’ve been repeatedly telling myself that it is okay to stop playing games I’m not enjoying. For many I expect this seems obvious, but you’d be surprised.  I might come back to them later, but I felt a definite sense of relief abandoning my games in progress on Fallout 3, Skyrim and the Last of Us.  All games I still think I’m supposed to really like, but I simply wasn’t enjoying.  I may come back to them when I’m in a different mindset, but if I do I’ll start again from scratch.
  • I’ve decided to start a small games journal for logging games as I complete them.  It’s unlikely to amount to anything I’ll share with anyone else, unless a particular game inspires me to write a blog post, but I think it’ll help motivate me to progress.

In case you’re interested, these are the current books for 2016. I’ve got 22 lined up so far.

My 10 games for 2016 on Grouvee are here, this includes finally replaying MYST, but this time the Masterpiece Edition of realMYST (versus the one I originally played through back on Windows 95) and also I really want to crack the 1cc on Space Giraffe now it’s Backwards Compatible with the Xbox One, and obtain the Long Neck Long March achievement for beating the game on one credit.  The rest are games I either have started at some point but never quite finished despite enjoying them or games I’ve always meant to play but never quite got round to.

I do wonder what other people do in order to reduce their piles of shame.

Wish me luck!

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