You Can't Buy Time

As someone that has a small child who they care for every day and then has about 120 minutes available for TV Video Games at the end of it, been baffled by my own habits. For one I stress buy video games and more recently retro handhelds. I grabbed Dragon Quest XI a game I’ve tried 3 times and bounced off of each time during Black Friday.

As this descent into Yahoo Auctions continued, I kept wondering what the hell is my brain getting out of this. It took me 4 months to beat Like A Dragon. I don’t need more video games ever again. Anyways time to buy Mudrunner. Oh Donkey Kong Land for Game Boy? Sure.

I started looking at Playstation 2s casually on YA. Which was a real “we need to take stock moment.” What I realized, in my aging manner at 37 (23 years of life left given family average) is these purchases have all been this wistful dream of buying time. Yes buy the 80 hour RPG because you’ll have the time to play it in the future, sometime, surely. Look at that free time you have from that game, that exists and will happen.

This really snapped into focus and I’ve felt a lot better and haven’t been looking at buying anything. Oh. I’ve been trying to buy time that I don’t have.

I absolutely refuse to be a Halo Dad, so will never game “on the clock”.

Wanted to tag @Mikey who has been blowing through piles of smaller games which has been very fun to read, but know has been struggling with this idea of “Backlog”. And I am recovering from a stomach bug and have a screaming baby, but there is something to the Promise of Time.

Anyways thought that was interesting enough. Maybe since I know ~exactly how much free time I have this year~ I could get real spreadsheety and write out the year’s play in advance. Not sure if that would be extremely sad or not.


I’ve been doing a very funny thing – I’ve been playing a lot of games that I ~expect~ to bounce off of. They’re low-hanging fruit; if I wind up liking a game it’s a pleasant surprise mingled with regret, because, well, I’m gonna play a lot of this thing but it’s sure taking a bite out of the time I’ve got left.

Conversely when I don’t like a game, it kinda sucks, but hey, I can cross one of the list quick! This is a really weird way to look at things, I know.

I’ve had a fire lit under me lately because maybe I’ll have a wee bairn of my own sometime in the next year or so and similarly I don’t think I could play a video game with a clear conscience unless I’m the only one awake.

Rudie I want you to know that I sympathize very deeply with your stress-buying of games (and subsequent questioning of what the heck you are doing). I think “buying the promise of time” is an extremely apt description. It’s a bit like in one of my other stupidly expensive hobbies, photography, where surely I’ll be motivated to create things if I just have this one more piece of gear. But that fancy new lens, or whatever, just turns into another thing that gets stuffed into a camera bag and lies dormant in my closet.


Also I am 37 and have a rough expectation of this being my lifespan due to family history, startling parallels abound


I think it’s a healthy thing to do every once in a while to sit in front of your (physical or virtual) pile of games that have been unplayed for way too long and evaluate:

  • does just looking at this arouse any kind of curiosity in me? if not, sell/give it away or banish it to a “retired” folder you’ll never look at again
  • sit down and play the game for an hour. if you are bored or don’t make it to the end of the hour (because it sucks), toss it. if you want to play more at the end of the hour, try to rate it from 1-5.
  • your “real backlog” is anything that made it through the process 3 or higher. if we’re being honest with ourselves about the amount of time we have to play these games (I’m not), it should probably be games rated 4 or higher.

I’ve been doing this with the PS4 games Sony gave me over the years as part of PS Plus and the “stay at home” promotion recently, and it’s been a lot of fun just to play a bunch of random stuff with no commitment and then “toss out” 80% of it by the end

Yes, this does mean “hidden gems” will inevitably pass you by because you misjudged them through this process. This is why you have friends who can play different things and recommend/bash things accordingly. Specifically, knowing how your individual friends’ tastes line up with yours can be a big help in re-evaluating games further down the line. Some SB posters have completely polar opposite taste in games to me so I can be pretty sure that any game they like is going to be miserable and a complete waste of my time! That’s helpful knowledge!

Other tips:

  • budget for monthly entertainment if you do not already and enforce it strictly
  • avoid looking at storefronts unless you are checking with a specific title in mind
  • look up free giveaway games ahead of time and only redeem them if you think you actually care about that game. backlogs are not just a guilt burden, but an organizational one

I’m not perfect either, I stare at shit on eBay constantly but my budget for the month is gone already so it’s not like I’m gonna click the button to buy it


Wow, @Sakurina more or less described how I choose what to play…

I think something that makes time-budgeting easier for me is that I don’t really think about what I own so much. Options for streaming movies and emulating games/buying them for <$20 are so vast that I’m in a state where any choice seems viable. I don’t need to worry about the sunk cost of money I spent because I’m only going to buy a game once I decide I want to play it. So my “backlog” isn’t a list of games that I own but haven’t beaten; it’s a list of games that I think I want to play but haven’t yet. I’m not sure if that makes total sense, but it’s felt easier for me than it did when I was younger.

Rudie, Donkey Kong Land was released in 1995, so you should play it in…June.


One of my goal’s last year was to buy no more than 6 games for 2021, which I managed to pull off. I bought them all in the first half of the year, yet I didn’t find time to reasonably engage with more than 3 or 4 of them.

For this year, I bought myself 3 games from 2021 on Christmas day to last me through 2022.

My plan now is to keep a wishlist of 2022 releases throughout the year, pick 3 of them as a gift to myself this coming Christmas, and have them last me through 2023. Rinse and repeat.

We’ll see how that goes.


Even if I were an immortal who never physically aged I’m not sure the time could be valuably and eventually spent on playing all the games I want. I think I’m at a stage of life where I still want to participate in games without actually playing them regularly or in a time intensive way. When buying a game nowadays it almost feels like half of the purchase is me feeling like I am giving my younger self (who had to endlessly scrounge and save money just to buy one new release every few months back in the day) the future self satisfaction-fantasy of being able to have it on a whim.

I’ve been rereading the Life Changing Magic of Tidying and there’s a part that talks about how the stuff you get rid of or bought then barely used, is to teach you what you do or don’t actually value. The value of these wishlist fillers is they show you what you really value. This is magical consumer logic, and I want to rip the desire chip from my brain sometimes, but if I can’t just delete this list I’ve gotta do the mental gymnastics.

@sakurina’s method is excellent and I also do similar. Be honest with yourself about the time and pleasure.

My additional suggestion is to cumulatively howlongtobeat to see the comparative hourage (if known) of the whole list. It probably biases against longer games but you get a better sense of what that first hour promises. But also, you can budget the time if the interest is there. If you have x hours a week then your list is going to take x months or years to get through. More and more I’ve been looking at this alongside other interests to really identify the weeds.

I have a new year’s resolution to play no more than 18 games this year and I’m smashing it so far.


i love to drop games as soon as i feel the first bit of boredom, which is sometimes like 12 minutes in. this only sucks when i bought the game for a high price, like what happened with Disgaea 6. i deeply regret this.

i used to feel bad, like i was missing something but uh there’s too much stuff out there and

^^this helps a lot

i’ve also let myself indulge my longer obsessions with games without feeling bad as well. ive got 25 hours in Noita and about the same in Nioh 2, and I’m good with that because I have enjoyed most of that time! could i have been playing other “better” games? sure, but i’m okay with knowing what i like and indulging that.

the biggest issue for me is that i can spend too much time playing games vs. doing other things. it’s easy to fall into a habit of games because it’s easier than most other things for me. i don’t ever drop my responsibilities for games, but i do drop my creative works or other unnecessary projects.

my latest attempt was to say “i will not play games except socially”, which worked for a month or two! it was kind of nice to be like “if i’m going to play a game i have to stream it at least”, which i’m not always up for doing, y’know?

i’ve fallen off that though, so i think i need to pull back a little bit.

honestly part of it is even finding projects outside of games that interest me. i think a lot of it has to do with my general energy level.

anyway ramble ramble point being i will quit games for the smallest offense, i try to find a reason that i’m continuing to play a game, and i’m okay indulging my taste because there’s already too much to play. the big piece missing is purposefully keeping track over the longer term of smaller games i am interested in rather than just sort of expecting that they’ll resurface eventually.


Honestly it feels liberating to have this up my sleeve after enduring games, that did far worse, to completion when I was younger. I can simply say ‘no lol’ to all that frustration and move on to the other hundreds of potentially better experiences.

The community is the safety net/reconsideration matrix as Sakurina says.


As someone who plays lots of esoteric games as well as whatever AAA slop my mood strikes me to try, and has a Steam account over 3k games large where I’ve played maybe 60% of them once: Backlogs are fake as hell. If I don’t acknowledge it, it doesn’t exist. That’s my stance and I’m sticking to it.

I think gaming culture is too fixated on “finishing” games, especially in an era where games are being specifically designed to be unfinishable (multiplayer-only, live service, NG+++++, etc). Games are meant to be enjoyable! If you aren’t enjoying it, why bother?

I think in this respect buying physical is better than digital, because then at least you can pass the game off to someone who might appreciate it more, and avoid the decision paralysis that comes with looking at several hundred unplayed games that you don’t feel in the mood for. I can’t Kondo my digital libraries except to “hide” the games, which as a person who loves sifting through the muck of gaming, I don’t particularly want to do.

Then again I usually wait for games to drop to $1-5 and then buy like 10 at once for the price of a current release, so I don’t have much guilt around wasting my money. I haven’t bought a modern game at release in years, except Destiny 2’s expansions, but that’s because it’s my “lifestyle game”.

Echoing everyone else’s sentiments about SB as properly-tuned recommendation engine too. This is the only place on the internet where I generally listen to people’s opinions on games. And I know people find interesting stuff from my random GUPT updates (shout out to Tactical Nexus lmao). It’s nice to have a social gaming circle where people aren’t constantly recommending each other the new God of War or Kena Bridge of Spirits or whatever.


It comes in waves for me. I buy lots of stuff, then at some point I get sick of having lots of stuff, then I sell all my stuff. I’m still in the collection phase right now.

Like, I’ve been buying a shit ton of games and consoles in the last couple years and I treat them as physical reminders. To remind me of a possibly enjoyable experience I might have when I eventually play them. Oh boy.

I got into minimalism in my late twenties and sold almost everything I owned because I couldn’t deal with it anymore. Now in my late thirties I find myself deriving a weird sense of joy out of arranging plastic cases housing plastic discs and carts on shelves. Have I lost it again? Given up? Oh boy oh boy.

I’ll never play all the video games, but I’d like to try anyway. I am so fucking privileged. Also egoistic and lazy. Immature, surely. I’d rather play video games than raise a child. Fuck. Oh well. I hope it’s better this way. Maybe I can’t buy time but maybe I won’t regret how I spend it? Maybe? I love my stupid hobby!

tl;dr: I collect lots of plastic tokens because I am a child and I hope that’s ok.


I probably don’t advise dedicating yourself to making a new gameplay video for YouTube every day, but for whatever reasons I did that and it has at least helped me achieve a certain amount of clarity in game buying, because generally I have enough time to play one thing a day. At first I was playing various things from my collection but over time I found that the things I was able to keep coming back to were fighting games. Sometimes I can squeeze a thing or two in in addition on a Sat or Sun, but there are only so many slots available, and do I want to play this thing that might be kind of interesting but I pretty much know isn’t as good as this other game I actually really like and would like to explore more and get better at? What’s worth playing?

I didn’t actually think this would happen but I’m down to just about five or six games I can stand to play now. A few of those are starting to feel a bit iffy. And I’m looking for more games but having gone through this extreme clarifying process (moving and selling off most of my games and consoles helped; also not having much spare dough), I seem to have real trouble finding ANY recent or upcoming games that I can persuade myself might be worth it. I load up the store on my PS4 each week hoping there will be something and there just isn’t, it’s all pretty awful or AAA-blah. After first muting it I relented and started watching this forum’s news thread but it’s the same problem. I bought I think one actual new game last year, and so far it’s looking like it’s just going to be one game this year and dang I wish that one would hurry up.

Getting old is probably helping too.

Oh yeah also going through a long period of not sleeping enough and working in bad lighting and getting photosensitivity headaches and thus now avoiding all games with severe flashing FX. And actually most games have those so that does help a lot in narrowing things down. ; ) Now if I see flash FX in a game I conclude the designers must be a-holes and why would I buy their games anyway. ; )

I don’t advise doing that either so most of what I’ve said is definitely completely worthless.


Once you are sensitive to those white flashes you really are ruined for so many games. Almost every 90s fighting game.


And that was my sweet spot. ;_; Red flashes, too. Sadly it’s become relevant again with the indy retro dev types having rediscovered that yes blinding the player can save you a few frames of animation! ; )


Come to think of it, console RPGs are even worse as far as flashing effects go–pretty much every RPG uses flashes for magic or magic-equivalent attacks in combat, for instance, and most use them for melee hit FX as well.

I’ve stubbornly kept my big fat disc album of 2D PS1 RPGs. Back when I was buying them used from game stores, even then it became pretty obvious after a while that it was way more games than I’d ever be able to play (and this is still after I got sick of so-called “tactics” rpgs and sold all those); I told myself well I’ll have something to do when I retire. I don’t think I ever really believed that. = P

At this point I doubt I’ll ever play them (or the album of PC Engine games, which are big on the flash thing), but maybe it’s the photosensitivity thing that has let me stop worrying about it. The other thing I did to trick myself back then was throw away (yes) all the packaging, thus destroying most of their resale value, so I wouldn’t be tempted to sell them at some point for $. (Also because I had a small apt with almost zero storage space and I was going to be darned if I was going to let that keep me from getting all the games that interested me.) Ha ha, me.


Hmm, though I can’t find them now, I know there are shader solutions to dim flashing effects. It should be possible to implement these in Reshade and run your games through PC emulators…


That’s interesting. Although I’m more into original hardware or retail versions than emulators, currently; also, the flashing thing has guided me into focusing on a small subset of humanely designed games, which has actually been quite nice; they’re really good games and I would have been far too distracted to focus on them–or any individual games, really–otherwise! So I suppose, aside from a few actual headaches, it’s all worked out. : )


I could not stick to this plan at all. (Blood potion notifications reminded me of this post.)


I’ve been on the verge of selling a bunch of my old games a few times in recent years, but each time I look through them I instead buy a few new things. Most recently, I picked up

  • A “backup” NES in case the one I have left dies one day and they become harder to find at a reasonable price.
  • Some PS2 accessories, including one of those Logitech wireless controllers I used to have. Batteries are included, and these batteries looked like they’d been in a snowstorm. But the controller works great and I’ve been using it to play Dragon Quest 5.

I don’t have a backlog that’s documented in any way, but there are a bunch of games that, whenever I think about them, I feel a sort of obligation to finish (or in some cases start) one day. I always have this vague vision of being between jobs or old and retired and having more time to play (and make) games, but that may never happen.

One thing I rarely allow myself to do is replay a game, rewatch a movie, or reread a book (especially the latter). Sometimes I feel inclined to, but I usually talk myself into starting something new instead because there are only so many things I will have a chance to experience and I don’t want to miss something worthwhile. Sometimes that’s the right choice and I do find something good. But other times I would have been better off revisiting a favorite.


I used to feel a lot of comfort in just having a few games I liked, really wringing out every last drop from them, and then doing it all over again. Comfort in the familiar, I guess.

I felt a lot of guilt or maybe remorse about branching out from that over the last few years. I’d waste a lot of time and energy wringing my hands over whether I should start something new.

But over the last few months, I’ve realized I value picking away at a growing collection of games—most of which I’ll never finish—knowing there’ll be something still to do the next time I choose to fire one up. Accepting that has really freed up my mental energy.