The Habit, or, There and Back(log) Again

Per the polite request of a @Rudie, I list and reflect on the games I’ve played this past year. I never shut up about it so you likely know about my preposterously large backlog of games across several platforms, particularly PC.

This past year I’ve renewed my efforts not to acquire many new games and whittle down my backlog. I played 120+ games in the past 12 months, though only a handful to completion. I probably played more games in the past year than in the 4 or 5 preceding it. A function of having a lot of downtime, but also maybe a sign that I’ve stopped being daunted by the playing all these games “fully” and I’m willing to cut my losses.

A clear pattern emerges, reading my old posts: I’ve grown extremely resentful of and impatient with barriers to progress and it commonly causes me to abandon games, even near completion. It’s probably a time-anxiety thing. I never feel like I have enough time, or ever will have enough time, to do all the things I want. So I have little tolerance for spinning my wheels in videogames. Bodes poorly for my chances of playing From Software’s stuff considering I’m bad at those.

Here’s games I bailed out on after I either hit my limit for tedium/aggravation, or that otherwise I played for a while and said “Okay, I get it”:

  • Environmental Station Alpha
  • Little Nightmares
  • Hotline Miami
  • Unraveled
  • Jotun
  • Enter the Gungeon
  • Remnant: From the Ashes
  • Curses 'n Chaos
  • Flinthook
  • Odallus: The Dark Call
  • The Messenger
  • Children of Morta
  • West of Dead
  • Visual Out
  • A Good Snowman is Hard to Build
  • Swords of Ditto
  • High Hell
  • The King’s Bird
  • Super Exploding Zoo
  • Hue
  • Unreal
  • Dishonored: Death of the Outsider
  • Ruiner
  • Nice Weather We’re Having
  • Etherborn
  • Bound
  • Project Warlock
  • Red Strings Club
  • Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse
  • Rayman Legends
  • JYDGE
  • Finding Teddy
  • Light Matter
  • Wonderboy: The Dragon’s Trap
  • Valdis Story: Abyssal City
  • Stories: Path of Destinies
  • Chroma Squad
  • Roundabout
  • Capsized
  • WRC Powerslide
  • Skulls of the Shogun
  • Prey
  • Pony Island
  • Lifeless Planet
  • Always Sometimes Monsters
  • Entwined
  • Toren
  • N++
  • Superhot (non-VR)

There’s probably more games that qualify for that list but I want to categorize them differently.

Notable exceptions to my distaste for timesinks exist. The period I’m reflecting on begins with me putting Stardew Valley to bed, a game I spent so much time with that after I was finally done my wife Melissa asked “What’s going to be the new Farming?”

The answer was Yakuza: Like a Dragon. Make me care about your NPCs and I can slog through nearly anything, I guess. (Melissa said, “I guess your Yakuzas are your new Farming”).

There are some games that I’ve put aside but that I think I will return to:

  • Assault Android Cactus
  • Cryptark
  • Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor
  • Mushroom 11
  • VA-11 Hall-A

Some games I didn’t complete due to factors beyond my control. The Witness made me awfully, horrendously motion sick for reasons I can’t explain. I couldn’t convince myself to pick it back up after my first session eventually left me lying on my couch feeling ill for a few hours. Others were glitches, dead servers etc:

  • Planet Alpha
  • Archimedes
  • Datajammers (froze my PC! Game lives up to its name!)
  • Regimental Chess

Yet other games I anticipated merely sampling, only to gobble them whole. Some only because they were so short they were done before I could get bored. Some I almost abandoned, then came back to and wound up liking a lot.:

  • Concrete Genie
  • Small Radios, Big Televisions
  • Hohokum
  • Rakuen
  • Piku Niku
  • Yono & The Celestial Elephants
  • Aer: Memories of Old
  • Gravity Ghost

Some games I almost instantly hated on the basis of wretched writing, aesthetics I abhorred, or mechanics/UI/controls that still make me angry just thinking about them:

  • Frostpunk
  • Tormentor x Punisher
  • A Valley Without Wind
  • Road to Ballhalla
  • Joe Danger 2: The Movie
  • Escape Plan
  • Butcher
  • Submerged
  • Jay & Silent Bob Mall Brawl
  • Between Me and the Night

When I’m feeling low and don’t want to be challenged at all I play walking sims and visual novels, and other things that are more about vibes:

  • Hatoful Boyfriend
  • What Remains of Edith Finch
  • Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
  • My Exercise
  • Draw Nine
  • Burly Men at Sea
  • Sadhana
  • Bird Alone
  • Florence
  • Hitchhiker (prototype version)

When I’m feeling brainy but not dexterous, I go for adventure games

  • Lilly Looking Through
  • The Little Acre
  • Samorost 3
  • Whispers of a Machine

Okay let’s talk about Sonic for a second. This year I finally came to grips with the fact that I just don’t really love Sonic games in the Genesis style. Sonic Mania convinced me of this. I played Sonic Forces right after it which is definitely not a good game but is one I enjoyed plowing through over the course of an evening. I might just wear my dunce cap with pride on this particular aspect of my tastes.

One night I wanted to see if I could play a good Descent clone, so I played Overload and Forsaken. The former was meh, the latter was pretty awful. I’ve only ever actually played a few minutes of Descent but I feel like there ought to be more games of its style than there seem to be out there.

The 800 pound gorilla in the room is Magic The Gathering Arena, which a friend talked me into starting up and which immediately took a hold on me like I was in a comic book shop circa 2003. First game I’ve played online against strangers in over a decade. I fell off a few months ago but I might get back into it again.

So in some cases like the above, you can go back home again. However, revisiting other old games via their sequels proved unfruitful:

  • Bioshock 2
  • Borderlands 2
  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

But hey, you know, I actually do finish games sometimes, and I even walk away having liked them!

  • Dishonored 2
  • Monument Valley 2
  • Helltaker

Then some I do finish and my feelings afterward are more muted

  • Desert Child
  • Home

You know what kind of games I absolutely never finish, despite my best intentions? Shmups, or anything somewhat shmuppy. I am a Shmuppet Baby who should stop spending money on them. Every one, I play for 90 minutes, swear that this time will be different, and then I never play them again. This year’s crop:

  • Steredenn
  • We Are Doomed
  • Dub Wars (also a rhythm game, which like shmups I can only ever flirt with)

Let’s take a moment to divert into what I played on my phone:

  • Sky
  • Slydris (I’ve been circling back to this one for the better part of a decade)
  • Eden Obscura
  • Dangle Dash
  • Night of the Full Moon
  • Renal Summer

Renal Summer has a strange premise, that one’s worth looking up just to read the description even if you’re not going to play it. Feels too weird for the Play Store, that’s for sure.

Finally, let’s list some games that knocked my socks off. These came straight out of left field and captivated me:

  • Steamworld Dig/Steamworld Dig 2
  • Anodyne/Anodyne 2
  • Action Henk

These were some of my very favorite games of the year, and I’d have never seen it coming for any of them. I guess in the case of the sequels I wasn’t surprised. Action Henk pissed me off with a difficulty spike near the end but otherwise it’s so damn tight, it’s rare for a game to grip me so strongly purely on its mechanics.

Anodyne I feel like I’d kept seeing and hearing about but I was surprised that I liked it so much, I was primed to pooh-pooh the hype. The sequel managed to be very strong in its own ways, too.

The Steamworld games I thought would be wholly unremarkable but they turned out to be a real good time.

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Loved Reading This Thanks!

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I’m a real dweeb so my Steam library is organized into 4 categories, from the opening lyrics of House of Pain’s “Jump Around”

  • Pack it up, pack it in (games that I am done with barring unforseen changes of heart/whim)
  • Let me begin (games I have yet to play or are being played)
  • I came to win (score-attack games mostly that I occasionally dip back into)
  • Battle me that’s a sin (multiplayer titles, basically collects dust)

In terms of my backlog I mainly look at the first two categories, and it gives me great pleasure that after years, the number of games to play is less than the number I have played/put aside. My Steam library is of course only one slice of the pie, but it’s the second largest (after Itch, thanks to those mega-bundles a few months ago, but that’s a whole other can of worms).

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I also Love This.

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if I shared the ridiculous spreadsheet I use to decide what game to play today, I would be chased off the forum for being way too into spreadsheets

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Idk I think some mfs in these forums love a good spreadsheet

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Pls share

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Here it is:

Platform: Red means was in one of my past game of the year rankings, so it can’t be considered for this year’s game of the year ranking. Green means new purchase from the year in progress.

Est Time: Estimated time to beat according to How Long to Beat.

Est B%: Judging by walkthrough chapters or level count, how close I am to beating the game. Anything below 30% is red, because that is generally where I feel like I’ve developed an opinion of the game. Anything above 90% is green to indicate there is just a little push left.

Est Remaining: Factoring in the estimated total time and the beaten percentage, how much estimated time is left to beat the game. Anything below an hour is green, anything below 7 hours is yellow.

Rating: Enjoyment level with the game. There is a level 6 on top of the level 5s which are a bunch of games I haven’t played enough to have developed an opinion about. Generally when I get around 30% I rate them.

The entire framing of this spreadsheet may make it seem like I am obsessed with beating games, but as this list of 5 star and 4 star games makes clear, I am pretty good at getting about a third of the way into a game and tapping out to go play something else. This spreadsheet lets me quickly look at the games I enjoyed the most and see how much time I could be spending experiencing more of them, and lets me think about whether I am spending my limited gaming time in the way that would bring the most enjoyment to me.

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Did you end up pulling this manually for each game? I started doing that but it was driving me up the wall to do this for every game I played.

I don’t care to plan my games that i will play but i love to document what I have played. Here’s what the raw data looks like:

But this is my favorite part:

Screen Shot 2021-05-25 at 13.35.56

I need to update this because I’ve spent a lot more time in a few games and finished some others.

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Yeah, I only have about a hundred unbeaten games so it wasn’t too bad

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For my spreadsheet instead of using time played I just give a general feeling about how much of the game I feel like I’ve “seen” or experienced, especially because I play a lot of arcade games / roguelikes that can have long tails and maybe not set ending points.

I basically come up with a “seen” number and an “interested” number for each game on my list, and then it calculates what game is best to start (lowest seen & highest interest) and what game is best to continue playing / finish (highest seen & highest interest).

Starting a game or continuing a game requires different moods or frames of mind for me, so that’s why they’re split like that, and tends to be how I think about games anyway. “Do I want to have a new experience?” or “Do I want a deeper understanding of something?”

The interest column is just so I have a way to weigh intangible feelings about a game.

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In fairness to myself I don’t think I directly purchased on of these, but I did download and install them which is still a cost.

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Also I think my next “project” is going to be playing through my remaining 3DS backlog as I find myself eager to divest myself of one additional piece of gaming hardware before I even entertain getting anything new.

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So let’s break down my extant 3DS backlog, much of which is stuff I played and walked away from and now I will either play For Real this time or walk away from forever.

  • Twinbee and Kokuga. Shmups! (Fuck!)

  • Donkey Kong 94. (Played a fair bit of this one and I remember liking it but I don’t remember much about it at all!)

  • Aeroporter and Box Life I will probably play 30 more minutes of, each.

  • Pushmo though, I might spend more time with.

  • Yumi’s Odd Odyssey (gosh I do not like the localized title of this game) is one that frustrated me a bit when I originally played it. I’ll see how I feel this time around.

  • Crimson Shroud was tight, I really want to try to see it through.

  • Inazuma Eleven might be a taller order.

  • Box Boy will get some more time from me but I don’t know how much.

  • Azure Striker Gunvolt, maybe I’ll just uninstall and pick up one of the collections of the series at a later date on another system.

  • Dillon’s Rolling Western I feel like I could have been more patient with and I’ll try again.

I’ve got a demo for The Denpa Men 3 that I guess I’ll check out.

Then there’s the three big games.

  • Etrian Mystery Dungeon
  • Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright
    (These two games represent my attempt to sample 4 different series in their weird combinatorial offshoots)
  • Fire Emblem: Awakening – I’ve never played one of these. This is also the first game I bought for this system and I never played it lol.
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Welp. I never knew this existed, and now I NEED a copy.

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So I basically shitcanned that whole list of 3DS games last night, with the exception of

  • Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright
  • Etrian Mystery Dungeon
  • Inazuma Eleven
  • Crimson Shroud
  • Fire Emblem: Awakening

i’ve talked about this many times but i basically can’t play new games anymore, i just can’t generate any interest for them whatsoever in most cases

even when i’m sorta attracted to them there’s usually some dealbreaker. you know, there don’t seem to be any good mahjong solitaire games out there right now - in the activision shanghai mold, i mean. the best one i’ve found thus far is Microsoft Mahjong, which has ads and the only way to get rid of them is pay monthly. you can’t even permanently remove the damn ads! lol

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Can a mod move this to KoP I think I want to update this thread sometime in the future

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So I haven’t come back to any of these really, in fact, Mushroom 11 I put to bed entirely.

Let’s kick off some self-indulgent reflection here. In the time since I last wrote in this thread I’ve played some more stuff. I got hooked on Spelltower again until I forced myself to delete it off my phone, and got mad enough at Ordia one day that I deleted it off my phone. Both are pretty good games if you need to kill some time.

I got a Switch and Pokemon Sword. Which I was enjoying a lot, then one day I put it down to go to sleep and I never picked it up again because maybe the spell was broken. I’ll probably circle back. I’m amazed I haven’t bought anything else for this system yet. Maybe soon.

For some reason The Project right now is playing through my GOG backlog. It turns out I can barely stomach old-school PC games anymore so after I finish this chunk of the backlog maybe I’ll delete my GOG account so I won’t over-optimistically buy another handful of Must Play Classics that I’ll never get much out of. And I’ll stop claiming freebies that really do nothing more than just add to the psychic weight of my library.

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Ultimately I played a fair chunk of Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright, Etrian Mystery Dungeon, and Fire Emblem: Awakening before trading in my 3DS for the Switch. Maybe I’ll go back to the other two via emulation sometime.