My Endless Backlog of Video Games

With Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 about a week away, it’s an apt time to talk about video games, and specifically the problem I have stockpiling games and not playing them. I am staring right now at a stack of games I bought (or received as gifts) that either remain unfinished or unplayed.

The unopened ones:

  • Ghostbusters
  • Mafia II
  • L.A. Noire

The opened, but unfinished:

  • Batman: Arkham Asylum
  • Red Dead Redemption, specifically the Undead Expansion
  • Battlefield 31
  • Legends of Wrestlemania2

I didn’t pay full price for all of these, and as I said, some were gifts, but this number is about equal to the number of story-driven games in my collection that I have completed. This phenomena is fairly explainable: I tend to binge game on Call of Duty and sports games, and that doesn’t leave time for much else.

For the last three years, a new Call of Duty game has come out in November. I then spend a couple of hours a day over the next several months playing nothing but Call of Duty. When I quit, which is usually a cold-turkey, just stop playing out of nowhere move, I usually take an extended period of time off from gaming. Then NCAA Football comes out in July and I play that like crazy for a couple of months (although the last two years it has sucked), then it’s time to get in shape3 for the next Call of Duty. Then the cycle repeats.

Diablo 3 showed up in late May this year, and filled the normally empty video game void in the spring. Of course, it would have made more sense to play one of the many games I had sitting around already, but it didn’t play out that way. And so I wonder how I got stuck in this infinite loop? Why do I keep buying games I don’t play? And how do I get out of it?

My theory about why I am stuck in this loop has to be what I perceive as an addiction to the “grinding” elements of games like Call of Duty and Diablo. I love getting experience (XP) and leveling up my characters. And in Call of Duty, once you reach the level cap, you can wipe it clean and do it again and again and again. Unfortunately there is no real reward for this. The game doesn’t become better, and because there are only a dozen or so maps typically, the game is just on repeat for the most part. I used to think the excuse included “playing with my friends”, but I spent plenty of time playing on my own.

Since I have acknowledged this issue, you would think that I would stop buying games. But that hasn’t happened. I already mentioned the unopened games I have. I thoroughly enjoyed Red Dead Redemption and and confident I will enjoy L.A. Noire, but that hasn’t motivated me to play a game that has remain sealed for almost a year at this point. A lot of the other games I mentioned I bought on sale. But as the backlog grows (Assassins Creed 3 just came out), and I buy sports games intermittently (usually NBA 2K every other year), there just isn’t time for these games.

The question is, how do I fix this problem? In a perfect world, I would find a reason not to buy Call of Duty one year, but that hasn’t happened and doesn’t seem like a realistic possibility. Part of that is that we do a 24-hour gaming marathon every year, and Call of Duty is the focus of it. Part of it is that I really do enjoy the Call of Duty games. It’s clear there isn’t going to be a year where the game isn’t released, and once I have it, the carrot of leveling up my character exceeds my desire to play any other game. Perhaps, I will find the energy to play through some of this backlog in the spring. But the real reality is that I need to stop buying games I don’t play.

I wonder how other people handle the backlog of games, and problems like this.

  1. I only played an hour of so of multiplayer []
  2. Not sure if I played more than a couple hours of the story mode []
  3. I realize the irony []