Gamer Confession: The Shame Pile Vs My Brain

The shame pile. That growing list of games that you haven’t quite got around to playing. Or have played for a few hours so but “you’ll get back to them”. Some call it a backlog, others a to-be-played list. To me – it’s the Shame Pile.

This article started out a different beast to that which you’re reading now. It was initially intended to be a semi-serious look at my pile of “to-be-played” games and to help begin, through the process of writing, a plan of action to help me get through the backlog. Each time I started to write though, I kept coming back to how my gaming habits are a fairly accurate representation of my state of mind as much as they are of my available time. Even naming the to-be-played games as the “shame pile” shows something about me more than it does the games themselves or even the pile’s existence.

My shame pile is currently pretty big – physical games totals around sixteen titles. On top of that I have somewhere around twelve Xbox 360 and Xbox One digital download games to add to the list. Then there’s the ever growing list of un-played Steam games over on PC. Having decided to not cancel my Deus Ex: Mankind Divided pre-order (which sparked my “am I a gamer?” crisis) I have failed to prevent that game from being added to the pile – joining such titles as Rise of the Tomb Raider, Hitman, Metal Gear Solid V and The Witcher 3 as a game I’ve sunk some (in the case of The Witcher 3 a great many), but not enough, hours into. My good wife also recently bought me Gears of War 4 so we could play co-operatively.

As can be seen, the list of games grows as I continue to purchase new games. I know exactly why this is, but am seemingly reluctant to curb the behaviour. Rather than thinking logically: I have plenty of games to play already and that new title isn’t going to become unavailable, when my mental state drops – either through an approach to a depressive episode or during a prolonged period of anxiety – I comfort shop. Some people comfort eat. I comfort spend. A new game is a good target for such a purchase as I enjoy gaming and it gives me an escape. Unfortunately, other behaviours become apparent during my periods of chemical imbalance.

The first is that my ability to make decisions is impaired. In the evening, once my daughter is in her bed and all is relatively quiet I have a good three or four hours before I head to bed. I think we’re all agreed that this is ample time to get in a bit of gaming even if it’s just one or two evenings a week. Yet I will become listless. I’ll wander (mentally or physically) from room to room trying to decide what to do. Should I read? Book or comic? Watch a film or show? Which? Play a game? What platform? Which game? I’ve spent many a long hour just sat on my gaming chair staring at the collection of boxes. Wasting time trying to decide what to play rather than just getting on and playing a game.

I also have a weird mental block about playing more than one “serious” or “big” game at a time on any given console. Something in my mind twists away from the concept. You’d probably think that would make the above listless indecisiveness less of an issue. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The two conflicting behaviours have a bit of a fight in my head. Which delays me more … which means less of a decision is made. There’s no real logic to this, I know. The rational voice in my head knows that, but it gets drowned by the shouting, irrational behaviours.

On top of this, I start to feel guilty about not playing the games. Especially as I stare at the cases attempting to find something to play. At the same time, I have a desire to buy new games that appeal to me as and when they are released. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a sucker for added-content and will fork out for “collector”, “day one” or “vendor specific” versions of games (or even strategy guides). This is compounded by the fact that I am a host on The Next Level – the gaming podcast on this very network. There’s a bit of a feeling of “I should be gaming more” alongside “I need to play new games so I can actually talk about them or review them on the website”. This has reduced a little over the last year as I’ve altered the format of the podcast a bit, however, it’s still there in the back of my mind … because I should be writing more gaming content for the site!

I’ve started to work towards tackling the backlog of games in the Shame Pile. I’ve compiled a list of the physical and digital games I own that I do genuinely really want to play. This is specifically console games – I’ve excluded 3DS titles and my massive Steam and growing GOG libraries to give me something of a focus. I’m definitely more of a console gamer now for several reasons, although I do enjoy PC gaming immensely. The list includes the estimated number of hours the main gameplay will take (taken from the rather excellent How Long to Beat website). I’ve also checked out a couple of trade-in sites to see if it’s worth just writing off a title or two. Next I need to see if there are any titles there that I only want to play because they are there.

The next step, I think, is to figure out both an “order to play in” AND start playing more than one game at a time. This is a daunting prospect. I know it shouldn’t be but that’s brain-chemistry for you. I started last night in fact. Wound up lying down staring at the ceiling and pondering for a while, coming to no conclusions. Combined with this, I generally need to improve my evening and weekend time management. Start planning certain activities for certain days. With the Christmas period fast approaching, I’m hoping to make some headway – if not into the backlog themselves then at least into breaking some of those mental shackles that ultimately mean I don’t get ANY gaming done!

I’d be interested to know how other people manage their backlog of games and even whether they acknowledge them. Let me know in the comments.

GS Blogger: WedgeDoc

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