Chances are, you have one: a growing stack of games — whether physical or digital — that you would like to get through. Yet, for some reason, you cannot find the time of day (or month…or year) to get to around to it. You might even feel at times that you no longer even enjoy playing video games. But I would argue that you still do — you just need to dust off some or your old discs and cartridges first. If navigating through all of the amazing titles we continue to see each year with your limited leisure hours sounds intimidating, never fear. Here are some techniques that are working for me to help you turn the dreaded pile of shame into a pile of triumph.
1. Don't let your obsessive-compulsive tendencies compel you to track down every collectible item. Just find what you can on your first playthrough. If you really enjoy the game, then by all means hunt for all 130 of those meaningless trinkets, search every locker, and collect all of those element-fused swords you'll never equip. But recognize that if you never plan to take this title for another spin, these digital goods are pointless (aside from bragging rights) if you don't need them to beat the single-player campaign. Who are you trying to impress by spending dozens and dozens of hours of your life just to get a 100-percent completion rate?
2. Multiplayer in moderation. Hooking up with friends for some online multiplayer after work or class can be a lot of fun. But when you find yourself habitually logging in several hours each night into Gears of Halo 5: Modern Duty, don’t be surprised when you fail to make any progress chipping away at your pile of shame. Try self-imposing a time limit the next time you cozy up with an online shooter — perhaps by setting an alarm on your phone — to cut back on the "just one more match" syndrome that can absorb your entire evening. Then, for the second half of your gaming session, dive into something from your back catalog.
3. Limit your choices. Supposedly, thanks to some psychological phenomena, having too many choices makes it difficult to be completely happy with any one. I know I used to experience this all of the time when reluctantly skimming through my collection in a DVD binder. Now, I just pick a couple of games I know I'll enjoy (you do read reviews before buying new titles, right?) and just start playing. If it's really that uninteresting, I'll swap it out for another until I find something that can hold my attention for longer than five minutes.
4.Focus on the single-player campaign. Need a metric to determine when you're done with a game and can put it back on the shelf? Try playing until you see some credits roll and then call it a day. In the best interest of time, avoid any bonus levels that have the words "endless" or "survival" in their names.
5. Make a list of games that you've beaten as you complete them. It's like taking the Achievements or Trophies from the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 respectively but applying them to titles you play for all systems. I keep a simple text document on my computer of books, movies, and games that I make it through. When something goes down on the list, I add a note of what month I finished it in to track my progress throughout the year. To make things even more rewarding, I come up with my own milestones to determine what I put down. Beating Pokémon's Elite Four and League Champion? That's an entry. Catching them all? If I ever pull it off, that'll be another one.
By following these suggestions, I've found gaming to be more liberating and fulfilling than ever. Is it perverted to sit through a title when the driving factor is adding another name to a "completed" list? Perhaps. But at least I'm having a great time doing it and could not feel better about having to play catch up.