When you hear the term “spring cleaning,” you probably think of old mail you might be throwing away or that bathroom that needs scrubbing. This is usually a physical process of tidying up your space. But for gamers, their digital space can often become much more cluttered than their physical space. Example: the dreaded backlog.
“Backlog” is a common term gamers use to describe their untouched game stacks. Bought Forbidden Horizon Westbut I’ve been too busy with Ring of Elden to start it? It’s in the backlog now. Do you grab free games from services like PS Plus every month but never download them? They are stuck in the purgatory of the backlog. Bought the latest indie pack from itch.io, which is raising money for Ukraine by giving backers 1,000 products? Your backlog will never recover (but at least that one was for a good cause).
The backlog is not a physical thing; it’s more of an anxious state of mind. It’s not the thought of playing every game you own that can feel overwhelming, but simply keeping track of it all. When you start tidying up your living space, it’s also a good time to organize that backlog. Here are some ways to tame the most fearsome beast in the game.
The most important step is simply to get organized. It’s easy to grab tons of free games from dozens of platforms and completely forget what you own. How many times have you purchased a game only to find you already own it on Steam thanks to a Humble Bundle you forgot?
There are plenty of tools out there that allow gamers to keep track of the games they own, but my personal pick is Grouvee. The free website is essentially the game’s mailbox. It allows gamers to rate and review games, as well as add them to shelves and lists. I use it a lot to track my own backlog as well as my favorite games I play in any given year.
What’s great about Grouvee is that it uses the Giant Bomb API, which means it pulls data on just about any game you can imagine. It’s also an incredibly easy to use tool, allowing you to create your own shelves. Want to create one for each platform you have games on? You can easily set this up and start adding games to the list.
Those who want to support the project can also upgrade to Grouvee Gold to remove all banner ads from the site and gain early access to new features. Grouvee is just one of the many tools you can use. Heck, even a good Excel spreadsheet can help you stay organized. As soon as you start writing games, the less daunting it will feel when trying to manage your backlog.
Create a Steam Collection
If you’re specifically trying to organize your PC games, you might want to dive into some of Steam’s deep features. The launcher is lacking when it comes to filtering, but collections help fill that gap.
Steam collections basically work the same way as a Grouvee shelf. Create a new collection, name it, and start dragging games into it. It’s as simple as that. Using this feature, you can put all the unplayed Steam games you own into a backlog collection and delete them when you finally start playing them. This will keep all of your tracking centralized in one place, which is handy.
You won’t have quite the same luck with every other platform, though there are small workarounds you can use to see which games you haven’t hit. For example, the Epic Games Store lets you see how long you’ve spent in each game. If you haven’t touched a game at all, you’ll see a dash in the Time Played column. Use apps and platform tools like this to create a visual system for your backlog.
Organize by game time
Once you’ve organized your backlog, the next overwhelming task is figuring out how to start checking out the games on your list. When you have dozens of games to play, trying to figure out where to start can be as paralyzing as scrolling through Netflix.
There’s no perfect method here, but if you’re trying to check out a lot of games on your list, I recommend removing the shortest games from your list and getting to work. With this method, you can eliminate several games in a few days, reducing the list to a manageable size.
To do this, you might want to bookmark How long to beat. The website allows players to upload data on how long it took them to complete any game and creates an average game duration. It’s a tool I tend to use before starting any game. If I only have a weekend of free time, I don’t want to start a 60 hour game. It has saved my life countless times, especially when it comes to keeping my order book tidy.
What’s particularly useful about How Long to Beat is that it will let you know how long a game will take if you release it, do a fair share of additional content, or aim for 100%. If you’re just trying to rush through games, this first stat will be especially useful for managing your time. I find that averages tend to match my own playing habits, so it’s a reliable tool.
drop the games
Even with these tips, sometimes you have to face the reality: you’re not going to see all 1,000 games gathering dust on your computer. And it doesn’t matter. In fact, you should be comfortable with the idea that you don’t really need to play every game you own.
I was here. When you get a game, you feel like you have to play it. Why let something you bought go to waste? It’s just anxiety, but the truth is that games should be fun. If the thought of playing one stresses you out, there’s no reason to play it. If you have no problem throwing away your old clothes, you should have no remorse about deleting games or resolving to never play them.
If you still insist on trying everything you own, don’t be afraid to bounce on a game when it doesn’t click with you. There’s very little reason to keep playing something you don’t like. I played two levels of Sifu before deciding it wasn’t for me and I’ve never looked back since. It ticked off my backlog permanently, even though I didn’t see the end.
Tackling a backlog is an art, and sometimes that just means adopting healthier habits. Take a hard look at all your games this spring and ask yourself how much you really want to play. Believe me, your giant list will shrink in minutes.