Backlog guilt; do we need it?

Backlog Guilt

Do you ever get that overwhelming feeling of looking at a specific game and thinking ‘I want to have this game beaten before I die’? I have had this feeling with a few different games, but I’m sure that I’m not the only one that, as a gamer, feels incomplete because I have not finished or played certain games and so they feel somewhat ‘missing’ from my life. It is a strange kind of pressure, because ultimately games should be played to be enjoyed, not out of a sense of obligation.

Could it be because the game is considered paradigm-changing enough to be significant? Do you feel the pressure to experience it for yourself? It could be because you didn’t enjoy the game as much as everybody else did, and put it down early. Either way, you still feel that overwhelming sense of obligation toward completing it, but does that obligation really make sense?
It is a feeling similar to backlog guilt; that anxiety that we all face when we look at our massive Steam library and see the hundreds of games that we spent money on because of a sale, but never got around to playing.

Order1886_smallLast year Editor in Chief Björn felt the backlog guilt burn, resulting in a rather enjoyable playthrough of The Order 1886. Curious to his findings? Read the article here;
Games from the Backlog: The Order 1886

But, let’s try to also answer the question, should we feel such an obligation?
How many people hate ‘required reading’ lists? I’m willing to wager that there are more than a few. I hated them in English class, because I loved reading. This seems paradoxical, but made sense in a way; reading was a hobby that I enjoyed, and the act of making me do it made it feel like work. A famous quotation, attributed either to Confucius or Marc Anthony, is interesting in this context:
“Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life.”

Is this quotation really that accurate? Many online journals don’t think so, particularly the ones giving out employment advice; a Google search will lead you to a few articles that dispute the quotation.
Instead, many experience something that seems counter-intuitive; when working in something you love, the thing that you loved starts to feel like work. Perhaps this is why required reading gets hatred. It is taking something that many people loved and turned it into an assignment, into work.

Perhaps we can apply this lesson to our backlog guilt, and our lists of games we want to play before we die. If we have to force ourselves to play these games, are we really enjoying them? Or are we turning them into work? As our chosen hobby and pastime, maybe we as gamers shouldn’t feel guilty about the games that we haven’t gotten around to beating. It is the games’ job to be entertaining, not the gamer’s job to be entertained.

So, there’s no need to feel guilty. Let yourself have that backlog, and don’t panic too much about getting through it. You may find that you enjoy those games more when you get around to them in your own time, rather than forcing yourself to play something that you’re really not in the mood for.

Stephen 'Stev3l' Lister
Writer and gaming enthusiast. Enjoys a wide variety of games including Prison Architect and Zelda. Also writes his own video game blog! Likes dogs.