RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Jun 17th 2017 at 08:00:00 AM by (bombatomba)
Posted under Functional collecting, unplayed, unfinished, guilt

As long as I have been collecting games, I have always described myself as a "functional collector," meaning that I only picked up games I wanted to play.  With only a few exceptions I held true to this ethic, and I plowed dutifully through every game I bought, but slowly my collection began to get larger; so slow that I hardly noticed.  I began to long for a "video game" clean slate, longing for a day long past where I looked at upcoming games for something to play, not just something to add to the pile.  So, I set out to create a backlog list of some sort, then everything came tumbling down around me.

The Past
Sometimes I look back and wonder just how I got here.  For a long time (until I was twenty years old), I didn't consciously collect.  Probably due to my lack of space, but my dad was (and is) a cleaning nut, so I guess I was always paranoid that he would toss a bunch of stuff while I was out with a friend, or at church.  I lost a Tron tabletop arcade that way.  It wasn't until after I twenty-three years old, married, and employed full time by Ford, that I owned more than ten games at a time.
I started simply and humbly, like many of you no doubt have, buying a few games that interested me or that I had missed in my youth, but always keeping the amount manageable.  This was more "rainy day" buying than collecting ("rainy day" meaning in case of job layoff, which was a real possibility when working for one of the Big Three).  But when I eventually did get laid off, it was for months instead of a week, and I plowed through the meager pile of games I had far too quickly, then did my best not to drive my new wife insane in our little apartment.  Bored and broke, I would sometimes wander around electronic stores, playing the few kiosk demos I could find.  When Ford brought me back I vowed never to be caught with so little entertainment again.  This was back in early to mid 2001, just to set the time, back when one could buy twenty or so NES titles loose on ebay for about $2 or $3 USD per cart, and even boxed games in general were reasonable.  I think it is safe to say that this is where I truly began collecting.
When my wife and I bought a house, I decided it was time for a game room.  The year was 2003, in early May.  ebay was still pretty cheap, thrift stores had yet to be picked over by hordes of collectors, clearance games piled up on Target endcaps, and EB Games was packed with used PC games.  Naturally, I bought everything I could, and my collection ballooned at a fantastic rate.  For a while I managed to keep things under control, playing (if not completing), every game I purchased.  Not even the birth of my son, in early 2005, would keep me from gaming (though time spent gaming was radically reduced).  I would plop him down either on my lap or his bouncy chair, and play whatever I wanted to play, talking to him as I did so.  He thought it was hilarious, and would continue too as he grew older.  Two years later my daughter would as well.
The last ten years of collecting can be summed up with a few sentences.  As my life got more complicated (educational buyout from Ford, another kid, Bachelor's degree, new job) I had less time to play, yet my collection has continued to grow.  Even after "calling it quits" to collecting it still grew, until a few months ago, when I began to call into question the "playability" of the games I had, and whether or not it was even feasible to play all (or even half) of them.
Present Day

Looking back, I realize the tipping point (or the point when I realized things were getting out of hand) had two main reasons.  First, my genre preference kind of kicked me in the butt, that being RPGs and Space Sims. Since I buy games with the idea of playing, and the typical play time of those two genres tend to on average around forty hours (or more), the hours began to add up pretty quick.  Second is my propensity of buying gaming compilations, which appeals to my cheapness, which is very important.  However, I think it may also be the greatest of the reasons for me being in this particular pickle.  That, and the relative low price of digital games, but I digress.  A great example would be the Might and Magic Six-Pack, which contains the first six games in the series.  Granted, my math is a little fuzzy (not all the games have an entry on HowLongtoBeat.com), but they probably make up over three hundred hours of gameplay.  To put that into perspective, I typically get around five hundred and twenty hours of gaming a yearIn summa.
I've been trying to chip away at my backlog for years now, but I began to really formulate a plan about three or four months ago, and this time approach it from a different angle.  In the past I tried services (such as Backloggery), but always quit after a month or two, most likely due to the task of duplicating my collection on yet another website.  But this time, I would start off with the hard work already done.  First I would audit my collection, making sure all titles were accounted for.  Next I would export my RFG collection into a spreadsheet (using the handy-dandy "Export csv" tool on RFG) for easy sorting.  I used Google Sheets for the actual list, purely for sake of portability.  Finally, I would use color codes and categories to further organize things, so that I could have some visual input as to my progress.  What came out the other end was - drum roll please - The List!

The general layout didn't take long, but settling on the category names did.  After a few days of playing around (and re-categorizing the entire list several times), I narrowed it down to four: Finished, meaning I completed the main story (at least); Done, which I use for games without a proper ending, but I nonetheless played to what I feel was enough; Yield, my white-flag-in-the-air category for games that are too hard, too crappy, or too over my head; and finally Unfinished, which is a catch-all for games I haven't, well, finished yet.  I originally had two additional categories; In Progress (meaning that I was either playing it or had a save) and Unplayed (either unopened or a game I've never touched).  I ended up not using them for the sake of simplicity, though I may roll they back out at some point.  Who knows.
So, after a week of work, I was ready to finally hit The List with a vengeance!  But instead, when I opened it up and took a good, hard look, I spent a lot of time sitting in front of my computer screen, frozen in place.  For fun, I had clicked on the "Explore" button that sits at the bottom right-hand of screen, and Sheets happily presented me with a pie chart.  I could only stare at my creation in horror.  It turns out I have over seven hundred-eighty games that are unfinished, making up nearly three-quarters of my collection.  My first two thoughts were, how could this happen and would I even be able to finish these games in my lifetime?  To give you a preview of my thought process, I quickly assumed each "Unfinished" game I have will take ten hours to "Finish."   That is nearly eight thousand hours of gaming, which at my current play level (about ten hours a week), means I could complete things as early as mid-2032!  And this assumes that I would no longer be buying or playing any new (or newish) games that come down the pipe during that time.  I would have to wait until I was nearly fifty-six years old just to play the unreleased sequel to Ni No Kuni (hopefully this year!), much less replay some of my favorites along the way.  And this says nothing about the literally thousands of older games that I have yet to discover.

This is where I am now.  While I did spend far too long (nearly a week), staring at The List in frozen inaction, I have finally started to chip away.  Despite this, I kind of feel like I'm just spinning my tires.  For a half-second I considered cherry picking the best looking games and that is it, but when you only collect what looks good to you it can make picking take as long as playing, and I have an article deadline.  Since selling off most of the collection just wouldn't work in the end (a lot of it is digital, and I'd end up re-buying it anyway), and quitting gaming altogether is impossible, the most logical step is to continue forward the best I can, and for now at least, that is what I am planning to do.
Finally wrapping up this unfocused mess, I have a basic plan in place (play a "long" game along with a "short"), but I am very much open for advice on how to progress.  Do you think I should add another category, or maybe take one away?  Go back to my original five category design?  Should I group them together differently?  Play random games, or just stick to one genre/platform at a time?  Should I just give up?  The link to The List! is public, so please feel free to browse away and comment/criticize/laugh below.

Thanks for reading!

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This is a quandary I think most collectors find themselves in at some point.  For me, I look at it this way: I enjoy "the hunt" in collecting, and I realize that as I come home with 15-20 new games every other weekend, I'm never going to have time to properly play them all.  In the end, that doesn't matter.  I had fun finding the games, paying next to nothing for them (at Goodwill, pawn shops, etc), and the experience of that game hunting was a satisfying one.  I don't pay much for games when I buy them, unless it's something I've wanted for a long time, or something I know I will play.  If I bring home something I know I'm going to play, there's a sense of real ownership to the game.  For most everything else, it's the thrill of the hunt, and a bit of an investment.  I have no current plans to sell off any portion of my game collection, but I know if I did, I could certainly make some money back from what I've invested over the years.  If I ever reach that point, I'll have the hard decision of whether to liquidate the cheap games and keep the rare or sentimental value stuff, OR just sell off whatever's worth the most, and make due with what's left, playing through a stack of what are probably mediocre to good games, and start the hunting and collecting process all over again, once I'm back to some level of financial solvency.

The other thing I really like about having the collection this large is simply choice.  Sure, a fair number of the games  I've grabbed aren't necessarily genres that I'm into, but having those as options means that if I want to branch out, I certainly can, and there's nothing stopping me from doing so, because the cost of entry (in most cases) is so low, based on how I collect.  That's how, as a guy who quit playing FPS games after the original Duke Nukem 3D, I discovered Medal of Honor: European Assault, after paying $3 for it at Goodwill, and finding out that it's a fun game with an interesting campaign, based on some real WW2 history.  Same with No More Heroes on the Wii, which has since become one of my favorite games on the console.  I picked it up on a whim at a game store a few years back, when it was priced super low, and when a friend was over and we started messing around with it, it clicked with us both, and we had a great time playing through the whole game.  So that aspect of buying random games and having more to choose from is appealing to me.

Great article, and while I don't have any specific recommendations to you about The List, I would just say, don't get discouraged by the size of your backlog.  I could quit my job and subsist on nothing but Cheetos and orange juice for the next 20 years, and still probably never play through or complete all of the games i have now.  Instead, I just have fun with games as I can, and try not to spend too much collecting, while still having fun doing it.
This is exactly what I do. My markings are a tad different: 100%, story complete, played by not completed, played on another console, and blank is unplayed.

I can also see my completion levels by console so I can dispair in greater detail. 😆

But you just have to realise you can buy the games a lot quicker than you can play them! Playing isn't the only reason for collecting though
I'm digging backloggery to a certain point.  David H. has an awesome article on kotaku titled "How to Beat 400 games in 4.5 years".  It chronicles the how social encouragement and positive feedback drives him to routinely complete retro games.  He even gives a shoutout to RFG's "The Beaten" thread that started it all.
Being a collector with around 1,600 games certainly identify myself with your situation.  I have many other hobbies and for the past two years the time spent with games is mostly acquiring them than playing them.  I will go with what MetalFro said the thrill of the hunt is what keeps me going.  It will be impossible for me to play the games I haven't finished which should amount to something similar to your graph.  Did backloggery for a while a few years back but haven't used it lately.  I read the article on kotaku and got some good encouragement.  Don't overthink it and have fun doing both.
@MetalFRO:  I guess I hadn't really thought about the choice angle.  I tend to get very analytical when making choices, which really does hinder me more often than I really acknowledge.  Maybe I should try and adopt a more "chill" approach with some of these games, and just play them.  Maybe looking them up on HowLongtoBeat.com to see how long they are is the wrong for me.  Thanks, FRO!

@Schlibby: Glad to see I'm not the only person who does this.  I also left my "unplayed" games blank, but it threw off charting in Google, so I added "unfinished" and lumped a lot of stuff together. I'm still not sure satisfied with that, so maybe I still start using "unplayed" again.  The downside is that I could be in danger of spending too my time mucking around with The List, instead of playing the games.  Thanks for commenting, Schlibby!

@OatBob: Thanks for mentioning the name of the article.  I will read that at lunch today, I think.  Thanks, OatBob!

@executioner:  No pun intended, but the more I think about it, the more I think I think too much Wink.  Reminds me of the conversations I've had with my son about falling asleep; he asks how and I tell him to stop thinking and just go to sleep.  Anyway, this does encourage me more, and it helps that I don't have the money to hunt as extensively as I once did.  Thank you for the advice, executioner!
A neighbour asked me once when I started to collect videogames. I told him when I bought more games than I could possibly play.

During the NES times and SNES times I never bought a game before I finished the old one. That's the mindset of a gamer. Around 2000 when I discovered videogame history, the collecting scene and ebay I gave this principle up and was very well aware of that I'm buying games which I might never play.

I think that's not a big issue. There is a misconception between playing games and collecting. We play because we love playing games and are fascinated by them, but collecting goes much further.

1) Collecting is about the desire of owning an authentic piece of gaming history otherwise we would never buy games we don't like or in all likelihood never play. The reason is completely irrational. I think everyone of us knows the thought looking at rows of NES games: 'Wouldn't it be great to have 'em all?'

2) A game library is like a library with books: It is not important and not even desired to have read/played everything which is there. Important is that a game is readily available if you need or want it to play. We have to be selective. If you want to write about, compare or just play fighting games or shmups over a long period of time, or a certain genre within a console, the more games you have the more choices and possibilities you have.

That's the true motivation of collecting. The games are there when you need them. The best libraries in the country are not the ones with the highest check-out rates but the ones with the highest number of books. Same goes for videogames.
@bombatomba: So I've been moving and am just now getting a chance to catch up on the site. But I love this article; it speaks to me very heavily. I spend almost as much time cataloging/sorting/organizing my collection database than I do actually playing the games. I love the process of doing that. I've come to terms with the fact that I buy way more games than I will ever have the time to play. I've dabbled in things like howlongtobeat.com, but I had to stop because it would just depress me that I'd never have the time to finish all my games without giving up on my career, social life, relationships, family, and buying new games. In the end, I've decided to not sweat it. It's a little sad knowing there are so many great games I'll never see the ending to (unless I want to look them up on youtube, but where's the fun in that??), but on the other hand, I still love the idea of having a massive collection of every game that looks cool or interesting to me, and knowing that whatever my current urges are to play a certain game sometime in the future, I'll be able to play it. If I'm honest with myself, I'll probably never play Backyard Wrestling 2 ever again.....but someday, if I ever do want to play it for whatever reason, I can. And that's enough to keep me happy.

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