Leaning on your backlog

It’s that time of year where bloggers publish posts about their New Year resolutions, and one which often makes an appearance is dealing with the backlog. That sense of discomfort experienced when looking at your pile of unplayed titles is a feeling we’re all too familiar with but perhaps not so good at managing. So how do we go about changing that in 2019?

I started a new job back in August which was a slight shift away from what I’d been doing previously, so I read several books about IT best practices and methodologies to get up to speed. It was while working through The DevOps Handbook recently that the realisation struck me: some of the principles here could be applied to help us overcome our backlogs. I know looking to an IT book for guidance on managing your games sounds kind of strange but hear me out.

A Lean way of thinking

The DevOps Handbook, book

First up is a brief definition to provide some background: ‘Lean’ is the extension of manufacturing principles to the development and management of IT. Its main concern is the elimination of ‘waste’ that contributes to poor customer service, higher costs and lost productivity; and it focuses on elements within IT operations which add no value to a finished product. (I won’t go into further detail but there’s plenty of information on the Lean Enterprise Institute website for those who are interested in finding out more.)

The philosophy may have started in manufacturing but this principle of ‘eliminating waste’ can also be extended to our backlogs. And if Lean can bring about benefits such as reduced lead times, lower costs and increased morale for IT organisations, then perhaps we could also experience the same positives when it comes to dealing with our increasing pile of games!

Getting rid of the waste

This way of thinking recognises different types of waste and I’ve taken those listed below from The DevOps Handbook. Now all we need to do is consider how to get rid of each of them and make our gaming lives a little easier.

Waste Definition Advice
Partially-done work Any work that hasn’t been completed or is sitting in queue. This becomes obsolete and loses its value as time progresses. We’ve all got those titles we started and abandoned halfway through with the intention of returning to them ‘someday’. Maybe it’s time to admit that it’s never going to happen and not feel guilty about crossing them off the backlog.
Extra processes Any additional work being performed that doesn’t add value to the customer. Finding every collectable and hitting all of the achievements extends the length of time it takes to finish a game, as well as delaying moving onto the next one. It’s not always necessary to 100% a title to truly appreciate it.
Extra features Features built into a service that aren’t needed by the organisation or customer. With several game modes, additional multiplayer versions and numerous DLC downloads, today’s releases are continuously getting bigger. However, sometimes the standalone title can be enough for a player on its own.
Task switching Switching and managing dependencies between work, adding additional effort and time. Some people enjoy the variety of playing more than one game at once. Having several on the go can extend the time it takes to complete them though so if you’re looking to get the backlog down, think about concentrating on a single title.
Waiting Delays between work requiring resources to wait until they can complete the current work. It can be hard to find the motivation to pick up the controller after you’ve been at work all day, but it’s easier to get through your backlog if you play regularly. Waiting for the weekend to arrive doesn’t always work out.
Defects Incorrect, missing or unclear information, materials or products. Made it partway through a game before a bug gets in your way? It could take a while for it to be fixed so unless there’s a readily-available solution, perhaps it’s time to cut your losses and remove this one from your backlog.
Heroics Performing unreasonable acts (such as late nights) in order to achieve goals. As mentioned above, you’ll make it through your backlog if you play regularly rather than pulling all-nighters. You’ll often find more enjoyment in taking your time with a game rather than rushing through it in one sitting.

Changing the way we view our backlogs

Video games, cases, boxes, pile, backlog

The section above may have given you some ideas about ways of making it through your backlog, but there’s something else I’d like to ask everyone reading this to consider also. I mentioned earlier in this post that a benefit of the Lean philosophy is increased morale. Is it possible that those positive vibes we get from doing something about our backlogs is more important than actually reducing it?

Let’s be totally honest with ourselves here: the truth is we’ll never make it through every one of our unplayed titles and it’s the fact we think we might do which causes the anxiety in our stomachs every time we look at our full libraries. Forcing ourselves to play something simply because we bought it or because of how long it’s been sitting on our shelves is counterproductive. We’ll never truly appreciate it as much as we would have if we’d gotten around to it in our own time and as gaming bloggers, that’s so important.

Although it’s good to work on your backlog, let’s leave the gamer-guilt behind in 2018 and be proud of our libraries in 2019. After all: the larger your pile of games, the more peace of mind you have that there’ll always be something there you want to play.

22 thoughts on “Leaning on your backlog

  1. Came into this expecting the usual “I’m downsizing my collection” post that I’ve seen several times before (and which always make me a bit sad, as a collector), came away thinking this was a very healthy, positive way of looking at things. Those different types of “waste” are all very plausible and all eminently possible to deal with without feeling like you have to throw half your collection in the bin/on eBay to be “productive”.

    I don’t worry too much about my backlog these days, despite it regularly expanding. Since all the “big” games I purchase are ones I intend to cover on MoeGamer at some point, I know I’ll get to them eventually; there’s no rush. A good game is a good game, regardless of platform, regardless of how old it is. And in the meantime, it brings me great pleasure just looking at my shelves and taking pride in my collection! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Learning not to worry about your backlog is something you learn over time, I think. When I first started blogging I was worried about keeping up with new releases while making it through the games I already had – then I thought ‘To hell with this!’ and actually started enjoying myself! I’m now like you and know that if I want to play something enough, I’ll get to it eventually.

      The one thing I would like to do though is clear out my Steam library. Not necessarily to reduce it, but to get rid of the stuff I’ve admitted to myself I’m never going to play so it’s easier to see the titles I’ll enjoy when I get to them. 🤔

      Liked by 1 person

      • There is a “Hide” function in Steam now, I think, so stuff you know you’re never going to get to can be “out of sight, out of mind”. You might even be able to try for a refund on stuff you’ve never even started up!

        My Steam library is a mess, too. Since getting super into physical collecting, I’ve doubled up on a lot of Steam titles with console versions. I’ve also started using GOG a lot more, since I prefer their DRM-free approach and the fact they’ll let you download a standalone installer for every game, allowing you to easily back it up and/or make your own physical copy of a game.


        • Aha – I found the ‘hide’ option in Steam! That’s going to make it so much easier to sort out my library. Thanks for the advice. 😀

          We started going to the London Gaming Market last year and I bought a few old games the last time we were there… I have a feeling it’s going to be a slippery slope.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I did much better last year with my backlog, completing a few games I’ve owned for years and never made it round to, great feeling.

    I started treating it like a SCRUM backlog, a list of all the games I own, in the order I want to play them. I decided on the “definition of done” being completion of the main campaign, any additional activities, DLC or multiplayer were just considered an extra, because I enjoyed the game so much. This frees me up to jump back into something and do one extra mission or something, when I’ve got that 30 mins spare to play.

    The painful part has been consoles, my backlog there is ridiculous and I’ve got the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro, so I know I’ve spent close to £1k on hardware I feel like I’m hardly using, which really bothers me because it seems wasteful. I try to remember what I *have* managed to play on there. That’s the key in my opinion, be kind to yourself and celebrate the things you HAVE find, don’t think about what is left to do, that will always be a long list 😎


    • I think that’s where a lot of our gamer guilt comes from: we look at our hardware and game libraries, see how much money we’ve spent on them and then compare this to how much we’ve actually used them. What we’re not so good at is comparing the cost to how much enjoyment we’ve received! Like you said, there’ll always be a long list and admitting you’re never going to reduce it to zero takes away the pressure to do so.

      I like the idea of a SCRUM backlog… that would certainly make it easier to find the titles in my library that I want to play… 🤔


  3. The 100% completion thing does get me. Whilst I’m not a completionist, when I first start a game I do like to explore every nook and cranny for interesting stuff. That does out as the game goes on and I get more invested in the game’s main content.

    With that said, I actively wanted to get everything in Spider-Man as I enjoyed playing it so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it’s OK to get 100% on the games you want to, just not on every single game. There are so many games that the DLC or extra missions are just boring and not a big deal.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s totally in my nature to be a completionist, so sometimes I have to consciously remind myself it’s ok to not hit 100% if I’m ready to move on. It aggravates my inner-perfectionist but at least it means I make it through more than one game a year. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s a great list! Truly needed for us gaming bloggers and gamers in general. The backlog is a real problem, and I think a lot of money can be saved and time as well if we just play what we have.

    What I like to do is, I will rarely buy a game when it releases. I will be playing other great games, and wait till later for that one to drop in price. In the meantime, sure I’m missing the “hype train” on the game, but I’m catching up to other games in the mean time. Then I will pick that one up, play it, while waiting for the other “OMG YOU HAVE TO GET THIS GAME” title is out for $60+tax. Then I pick it up later for $20-$30.


    • Yeah, that’s definitely a sensible approach! It gives you time to find out if all that hype was worth it and figure out if it’s a game you’ll actually enjoy playing before spending your money.

      Plus, I know what I’m like: if I stopped what I was currently playing to pick up the latest release, I’d never go back to what I was originally working through and wouldn’t complete any games. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Things on the XIIIth: January 2019 – Livid Lightning

  6. I’m not sure if there’s a single specific right way to handle the backlog. I think it just involves being efficient with one’s time. I also think every game has a wall you have to push past before you’re fully invested. Once you’ve gotten past it, you’re in it for the long haul, and that goes a long way in seeing them through to the end.


    • I completely agree! There’s no single way to handle a backlog, and what constitutes a backlog for one person won’t be the same for another. Maybe we need to change our perception and view our libraries as opportunities to find a new favourite game rather than a mountain that needs to be climbed. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I know that I have a huge, ending backlog of games. Because I collect games, I have a ton of games that I haven’t fully played besides testing if the game works or not.
    I even have a ton of games I have played until the middle or almost near the end.

    I get easily distracted by other (and new) games and I don’t want to focus too much on one game and have a game burnout. Besides that, since I write an article every week on a new game, I have to keep playing different games as often as I can so I have a new game each and every week. Thankfully, I have played a near endless list of games so running out of games won’t be a problem.

    So, how do I handle my backlog? Well, I make a pile of the games I have started playing and I have written an article about and during weekends or holidays, I just pick a game from that pile and continue playing it. Sometimes I put games on the pile again when I feel like replaying or beating a game again.

    So yeah, I have somewhat given up on beating games. It’s quite rare for me to beat a game or to finish it. The advantage that I have is that I never have a moment that I don’t have a game to play 🙂 But a huge disadvantage is that I sometimes put a game down for so long that I actually forget parts of the story and I can re-experience it all over again.


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