How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Nuked My Video Game “Want” List

Bionic Commando Explosion

In my 2017 year-in-review post, I teased a scintillating future blog about video game-buying habits. I’ve reached a desperate point in my life in which these habits must change, and I’m ready to reveal everything in this exclusive tell-all blog that I definitely didn’t just write on my lunch break.

Some years ago, maybe from 2012-2015 or so, Kickstarter overflowed with crowdfunded video games. Every week (probably every day, to be honest!), a new game with a clever pitch, a sizeable funding target, and enticing stretch goals hit the service. Some were entirely new games, while others were long-awaited sequels, hollow nostalgia bait, or spiritual successors from the creators of long-dead franchises.

The onslaught of new and exciting crowdfunded games was a lot for me to keep track of. I simply have too much professional wrestling knowledge clogging my brain matter to remember all the video games I want to buy. Priorities, man. So, I started a “want” list that included all of the Kickstarter games I eagerly awaited. In time, this list expanded to also cover upcoming games not on Kickstarter, plus already-released games that I did not yet have, but wanted to get. This all seemed perfectly logical and harmless, and the want list became my go-to resource for all of my game-buying decisions. I made a spreadsheet and organized games by platform and scored them as low, medium, high, or very high priority, based on how badly I wanted them. Clearly, I don’t take my hobbies too seriously.

There was but one unforeseen flaw in the plan: I couldn’t keep up with all the games. The list grew for four or five years, eventually to unreasonable length. Every time one game came off the list, three or four more took its place. At its peak, the want list catalogued over 200 games. That’s a lot of games, more than I will play in the rest of my life, especially when taking into account my hefty backlog.

Maintaining the want list became stressful at best, overwhelming at worst. I knew things had to change. I started making conscientious cuts here and there, reducing the number of games on the list to approximately 90. I thought things over for a few more days and realized that even after cutting the list by more than half, what remained still overwhelmed me. With less hesitation than I expected, I dumped the want list altogether. There are many reasons, most notably that I now have a tiny human to care for, which means less time and resources allocated to video games. However, nuking the want list was a long time coming. Here’s why:

It shifts focus from playing games for fun to playing games to get to the next one on the list

Remember when I talked about Breath of the Wild and how it was so good that I briefly forgot about backlogs and having to wrap up within a reasonable amount of time so I could move on to the next game? That’s how video games should be all the time. I felt so much pressure to finish games quickly, just for the sake of grabbing another one off an unending list. Gaming became a chore. Where’s the fun in that? I should be able to play any game as long as I want without worrying about what’s next. I’m hopeful that dumping the list will resolve this nonsense.

It creates unrealistic expectations of the number of games I have time to play and enjoy

I already mentioned the list included over 200 games at its zenith. Even operating under the assumption that I acquired half of those games, where did I expect to find the time to play and enjoy all of them? Especially the RPGs, which were plentiful, I assure you.

It encourages spending more money

I’m not saying spending money on games is a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with buying a new game, as long as I’ve got the money to do it and the time to enjoy it. However, I have to be a smidge more careful about keeping finances in line these days, and there’s nothing more tempting than a fat list of games awaiting purchase. Sales are helpful, as long as I don’t go crazy and buy five or six games from the list at once. That most assuredly results in me spending the same amount of money as I would have on just one game I really wanted, and leaves me with four or five games that didn’t actually interest me that much and that I will probably never play seriously.

It discourages replaying old games I like

Whether I want to replay a game that will take an afternoon, like Super Mario Bros. 3, or a sweeping epic that might take me weeks, like Final Fantasy VI, I shouldn’t have to feel guilty about playing them because of a big list of games I don’t even own. But with the list, I did feel guilty! No matter how long a game might be, if I really like it, I should never have to feel bad about replaying it. My wife is the best at this. She has just a handful of series that she focuses on (Zelda, Elder Scrolls, Donkey Kong Country, and a few others), and plays those games over and over again. She doesn’t feel bad about it because those games are really really good, and also what she likes. What could be better?

It encourages putting off playing games I’m really looking forward to

I can’t tell you how many times I put off playing a game I was really looking forward to, waiting around for the perfect time, which doesn’t exist. Instead of playing the highly anticipated game, I opted for one or more different games from the list that I was less interested in, and just rushed through them without any enjoyment because it wasn’t the game I actually wanted to play. Even worse is the fact that sometimes I put off games for so long that by the time I actually played them, I looked forward to playing them so much that they weren’t able to meet what grew into impossible expectations. Axiom Verge is the best example that comes to mind. I bought it at launch, played it for a couple of hours, thought it was awesome, and didn’t touch it again for a few months because, I dunno, reasons? By the time I got back to it, the luster had worn off. It’s still a great game, but it didn’t quite live up to the masterpiece I let it grow into in my head, and it was my own fault for putting it off so long.

It causes “stuff” accumulation

The rise of digital purchases has made this less of a concern with regards to physical storage space, but even a growing library of downloaded games can create mental clutter. While I have spent the last couple of years reducing my number of purchases and purging physical games I either knew I wouldn’t play again or knew I would never get around to playing at all, maintaining the list inevitably contributed to more and more unplayed games sitting in my house and Steam account. It’s been a struggle, but I stopped being a collector and try to only buy and keep the stuff that interests me.

It limits spontaneous purchases

Maybe I’m at Gaming Grounds and I see an old Star Trek game, or a good Disney platformer on Super Nintendo, and I want to buy it so I can play it with my wife. Well, operating under the list, I hesitated to make such purchases, and sometimes wouldn’t make them at all. I felt like I couldn’t deviate from what I established. I realize this contradicts the stuff accumulation I just mentioned, to some degree, but games that my wife and I can both enjoy, especially together, get preferential treatment when it comes to cutting clutter.

It turns something I enjoy into work

I like to take hobbies that are perfectly relaxing and enjoyable and turn them into festering cesspools of stress and unnecessary work. How many hours did I waste reorganizing the list and weighing games against each other for prioritizing purposes? It was all a bunch of busy work. I could have finished a couple of long RPGs in that amount of time. I guess I thought I was being responsible? A conscientious gamer? I dunno. The list caused more trouble than it was worth.

 

Slim Pickens Riding the Bomb in Dr. Strangelove

 

Listless Progression

So, how do I proceed without the list? That’s easy. If I can remember a game that I want without the list, then it’s worth playing. It might sound harsh, but I probably won’t have time to play the games I will forget about, anyway. And, if a sale or a headline reminds me of something I forgot, it’s back in the running, at least until I forget it again. I’ll basically act like a normal person instead of a video game-obsessed maniac. Personal growth—it’s important.