Backlog

The picture above is stolen, but you get the idea. Something’s wrong with me, and probably every video gamer due to that one word.

Backlog.

It strikes fear into the hearts of those who know what I’m talking about; others may not understand, but I sure do. The first question you ask yourself when you find a video game player is: what’s in his or her backlog? Let’s say that, for some reason, disposable income transform into yet another game you want to play, and then suddenly have zero time to play. Heck, there’s even a website (definitely multiple) dedicated to keep track of all the games you haven’t even played yet! What the heck is wrong with all of us? Why do we keep buying things we know we can’t play?

This has happened to me so often, I can’t count. Well, actually I can, because most of the empty boxes, DVD cases, PS1 jewel cases, DC cases, N64 carts, SNES carts, PC games (of all shapes and sizes) and countless video game systems sit there in my living room, seemingly pristine due to lack of use. To add onto that, I got into the fever of plastic instrument playing that swept the gaming community in 2007, and a pleothera of fake drum sets, fake guitars, microphones, and adapters layer themselves around the theater room like the snake room in Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s a total mess; I can’t even tell which cord goes to what device half the time, and like a lone adventure I have to organize these various cables into their proper shape when I feel like playing obscure game X on system Y.

Vast quantities of Xbox games fill a shelf or two…except I don’t have an original Xbox that works well. Probably 80% of the games are not, thanks to the great Microsoft, backwards compatible, so now I have a broken Xbox which decides when and where the disc tray will work or when it wants to shut off, and a bunch of games I bought dirt cheap even in the early 2000s (Gunvalkyrie! I will play you eventually!). The pile of PS2 games is even bigger; I had a Nippon Ichi SRPG kick, which eventually led to me buying just about every game up to Soul Nomad – and I haven’t even finished Disgaea yet (for those who don’t know, that’s like six or seven games in between those two). A whole shelf of Shin Megami Tensei games were bought for my pleasure, yet all of them sit there unused and unfinished. I want to play the whole Onimusha series, but I haven’t.

I’ve got a ton of fighting games I’ll never play again due to the advent of online play. Arcade joysticks, at least six by my count, lay in the room waiting for a chance of use – two Street Fighter IV TE sticks I got at a two-for-one deal; one got heavy use, the other sits in a box, silently waiting for when I’ll get my butt in gear and sell the things on eBay. There’s a broken Tekken 5 Hori PS2 stick just sitting there for no reason. Why do I even have this Taiko Drum Master controller? When do I ever use this thing? And 4 pairs of plastic bongos? When did I think this was fine to have in my house?

Collector’s edition galore – real collectible when just about everyone else has one. Wow, look at that impressive shelf of strategy guides! Some of them are for games I don’t even own, but…they’re mine. They look pretty on this shelf. The Suikoden II guide sits neatly on the shelf next to the rare Bayonetta guide, only available in Europe, and plenty of SoulCalibur strategy guides.

There’s something comforting about having all this…stuff. I suppose it just means I have a diverse array of options whenever I feel the urge to hunker down and play something. But the backlog isn’t just physical; now that we have, for example, giant Steam sales where games get discounted to some absurd price certainly not profitable for the developers, I’ve got an even bigger backlog of digitally downloaded games. Just because they’re names on a list instead of physical objects doesn’t make it feel any less daunting. Actually, it makes it worse; the amount of money you paid for the game basically spells out how you treat it – like dirt. That doesn’t seem like a well-adjusted psychological state, does it?

Most times, I just kinda give up with all the choice and just play World of Warcraft instead.

If I were more cynical about myself, I’d probably say I have an addiction to buying stuff, but I’ve stopped in recent years (either due to lack of money or lack of interest is up to the reader to determine), but I still have all these things. Some are reminders of other days that I want to remember; others were just fleeting, passing gestures to try something new that fell flat (Sonic ’06, I am looking at you). They are all memorable, in their own way, as weird little signposts of various times in my life. I might have a visual/audio memory based on all these game, but they tend to just bring the good feelings to the surface, rather than the bad.

And I could also take the “easy” theological root here and say that my possessions are more important than God, just like the rich young man in the Gospels! Like you haven’t heard that enough times. I’m pretty sure the issue isn’t materialism gone amok, and that would just become a simple answer to a complex issue. I am not neglecting my “neighbor”; that’s everyone, pretty much. I’ve learned that over the years. I don’t obsess over these things; they’re representations of things I’ve done, accomplishments I’ve made, people I’ve met. Perhaps giving me new games for good reports cards in my youth may have something to do with it. But all these games, somehow, are tied into everything I’ve done, even if I haven’t actually finished the games themselves.

When Ecclesiastes 2 says this:

24 There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God. 25 For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him? 26 For to a person who is good in His sight He has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, while to the sinner He has given the task of gathering and collecting so that he may give to one who is good in God’s sight. This too is vanity and striving after wind.

I get it. My possessions, if you can call them that, are almost like a physical embodiment of that labor, that hard work (mostly mental, academic work). How can nothing be better than that? Ecclesiastes always felt a little pessimistic, because, as the author says, everybody’s gonna die someday, and (furthermore, and not really importantly at all) I’m not going to complete all those video games. But even if it’s vanity to just do things that are fun, we see in Chapter 3 that

12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; 13 moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him. 15 That which is has been already and that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by…22 I have seen that nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities, for that is his lot. For who will bring him to see what will occur after him?

Backlogs help, but can also be a crutch. It’s a list of stuff to do, like anybody has in their life, but it’s one that I can control if I want, or that can control me if I let it. One that I can separate what is essential to me, and what is not. I suppose that’s true in life as well. If it doesn’t help, sell it; somebody else can use it. If it’s a great memory or experience, keep it – you’ll probably play it again. Lists organize, but they also hinder. Figure out what you really want to do, what God wants you to do.

I guess I’ll do that eBay selling after all…

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.
  • Definitely a problem I have, and I’m not even that serious of a gamer. I’ve made a rule with myself that any time I purchase a new system, I go through all my old games and sell the ones I haven’t played in a year. Even if GameStop only gives me a dollar for them, it’s nice to get rid of them. I also finally got rid of my Nintendo DS. I enjoyed the system, but I found myself playing games on my smartphone whenever I was on the go, so my DS playing was limited to at home time, which I’d rather spend playing my Wii or computer games.