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Think this looks bad? You should see my PlayStation Plus and other digital games.

Think this looks bad? You should see my PlayStation Plus and other digital games.

Almost every gamer has one, but very few (if any) have defeated this unstoppable monster. I’ve tried telling myself I won’t buy any more games until I clear my backlog. However, if I do that I miss out on playing new releases and if I neglect my old games my pile of shame only gets larger. What’s a hardcore gamer to do?

Luckily, by going to the gym regularly I came up with a pile of shame routine similar to my workout routine that allows me to play a variety of games while simultaneously clearing my backlog. Here’s the strategy I follow.

The Pile of Shame Destroyer

Instead of focusing on one game at a time, my strategy involves playing multiple games at a time and slowly chipping away at your pile of shame. For your first game pick something that’s current and under a year old and for the second choose one that’s older. Rotate between the two each time you sit down to play and stick with the same titles until you finish them or you get bored with it. An effective way to remember when to switch out games is the second and fourth Monday of each month or the days you get paid.

When choosing which games to play, diversify your routine to create the best balance. For instance, after I finish a retail game or grow tired of it I like to play a downloadable title next, change systems or switch genres to keep things from going stale. This is just a guideline so do what’s best for you.

Two retail games then switch to digital titles.

My routine. Two retail games then switch to digital titles.

Why rotate?

I know it’s tempting, but don’t play just one game at a time. I find if I don’t rotate games I forget about my older titles. If you’re not thrilled about playing game A or B set a timer and just play it for 25 minutes and then switch to the more fun one. By rotating your games it forces you to make progress on clearing your pile of shame. If you focus on just one game you tend to never get around to playing your older stuff because the temptation to play newer titles first is always there.

What about portable games?

Instead of including portable games along with console and PC games I feel it’s better to keep them separate and make time to play them later. Such as work breaks, commute time or any long periods away from home.The same strategy applies here; pick one current game and one older game. When you sit down to play rotate between dedicated portable systems and mobile phones/tablet for the best variety.

Multiplayer and online games?

These just play whenever you want and don’t worry about rotating titles.

Rentals, review copies, and borrowing games from friends

Sometimes you have a game you’re itching to play and it needs to be finished rather quick for a review deadline or something. So, if you run into that situation don’t change your pile of shame routine. Instead, treat game A and B as a warm up by playing it for at least 25 minutes and then switch to the more urgent one. This is also an effective strategy for portable games if you don’t travel frequently, but still want to play unique games like Animal Crossing: New Leaf.

Warmup with Game A or B before playing Gamefly rental.

Warmup with Game A or B before playing Gamefly rental.

How to use Gamefly effectively 

Gamefly is great, but parts of it can be frustrating if you don’t know what you’re doing. I use the one game plan and play my rental on top of my pile of shame routine. To get the most out of Gamefly follow this guidelines for maximum enjoyment.

1.During the fall when there are lots of new releases consider getting the two game plan to keep up with all the big games.

2. To ensure you get new releases make sure you send the game back at least four days before the game releases. If a game comes out on Tuesday Gamefly ships the game on the day before so if you send your rental back by Thursday you’ll usually be okay. If you miss out on the new release, depending on how popular it is you usually have to wait a few weeks and sometimes months until it’s more readily available.

3. Don’t keep too many games in your queue or Gamefly will send you a lower priority game and not the main one you want.

4. If a game is medium or lower you probably won’t get it most of the time so stick with pre-release games and high availability.

In addition to the above guidelines I’ve found these other 11 tips to be invaluable to making consistent progress on finishing games.

Tip 1. Give a game two chances to win you over otherwise forget about it.

I used to force myself to finish all my games even if was bored with them, but I don’t consider it worth it any more. Your time matters, and when deciding on what game to play quality is important. Sometimes you can get your value from just a few hours of play and if you want to see what’s next you can just watch some let’s play videos or watch the ending on YouTube. There’s no shame in not finishing every game you start.

That said, some games give off terrible first impressions so if I get bored with a game I like to put it aside for a while and give it one more chance after I’ve played something else. If it doesn’t grab me the second time I removed it from my pile of shame.

Tip 2. For longer games like Skyrim try to get to a specific gaming milestone to prevent boredom then switch to something else.

Some good examples are getting to the next gym badge in Pokemon, clear 10 missions in Grand Theft Auto V, reach the next dungeon in Zelda, etc. Also, check to give you an accurate timetable of how long it takes to finish a game. By using this website you can see which games in your pile of shame you can marathon it in a day and which require weeks of dedication. Lastly, don’t keep too many unfinished games on the back burner. A dozen or so is fine, but once you get into larger double digits you have a problem.

Tip 3. Other ways to get through boredom.

Many games can get really tedious with certain aspects like level grinding or getting hard achievements so I find it helpful to play a podcast or music in the background to make progress. This is separate article I plan to write, but genres that work well with this are fighting games, RPGs, or any repetitive gameplay task. Playing co-op with a friend is also a great way to make progress since even the dullest parts of games can be fun with the right person.

These are a lifesaver for getting through level grinding in rpgs.

These are a lifesaver for getting through level grinding in rpgs.

Tip 4. How to control the size of your pile of shame.

To make sure you don’t keep buying so many games ask yourself am I going to play this soon or is it going to sit on my shelf for year? Exceptions can be made so don’t sweat it if you buy too many games because of sales on Steam, Gamefly and GameStop. However, be careful of this because even though you may think you’re saving money you might find you’re spending more money in the long run and just making your pile of shame larger.

Tip 5. Examine your pile of shame carefully and consider selling or getting rid of games permanently.

Why play an old JRPG or first person shooter when you’ve played enough of the genre already? Also, depending on how old the title is you might find the game mechanics don’t hold up so well like they did a few years ago and are actually a chore to play now. And HD collections and remakes are a great excuse to play classic titles you loved years ago, but it also means you miss out on a lot of new unique gameplay experiences so strive to create an equal balance when choosing what to play next.

I already played most of these games before so it's time to try something new.

I already played most of these games before so it’s time to try something new.

Tip 6. Don’t be a completest all the time

I consider a game finished after I see the credits, but sometimes I wanted to go back to it for downloadable content, achievements/trophies, or side quests. Instead of trying to do everything the game has to offer all at once just come back to it later after finishing another game or two. Remember, the more games you finish the less games you start. So feel free to switch out games constantly.

Tip 7. You can use this routine for other things too.

For instance, besides playing games you probably like to watch TV or read books. Apply the same pile of shame strategy here. Pick two titles, one new and one current and rotate between them constantly. I also use this routine for applying for jobs, self-improvement, writing, social events, trying new restaurants and bars, etc.

I do the same routine for reading books and other media.

I do the same routine for reading books and other media.

Tip 8. Finding the time to play games and forming a habit.

A lot of people as they get older say they don’t have time for video games anymore, but with some creative thinking and time management skills you can find ways to not give up your favorite hobby. If you make a weekly schedule hour by hour you’ll see you have time plenty of time to play games. Here’s a typical day for me and some examples how to implement games and other media into your daily routine.

  • Play console game an  hour or more before bedtime
  • play portable titles  while on evening commute
  • read during work breaks
  • watch TV and movies during meals
  • listen to music or podcast while applying for jobs

If you do your best not to miss a day you’ll notice you’ll make faster progress clearing your pile of shame. Find a specific time that works for you consistently and If your unable to do it because of work or social obligations just carry it over to the next day. Say you didn’t have time to play any portable games yesterday start with that today instead of jumping into console gaming or TV shows right away.

Tip 9. Get out of your comfort zone.

Consider trying a genre or game you think is too imitating or something you wouldn’t like such as a sport game, MMORPG, or puzzle game. Free to play games, titles on Facebook, and, mobile ones work well too. Try doing this once a week or bi-monthly to expose yourself to a genre you think you might not like.

I don't know if I'll like these, but I'm going to give them a try.

I don’t know if I’ll like these, but I’m going to give them a try.

Tip 10. Keep a wish list and organize your pile of shame.

A great way to keep track of your games is to create a word document on your computer instead of putting it all in your head. It’s also helpful to have a record of titles you missed during the year so you know which titles take priority over others.This also works great for getting ready for sequels and crossing off games you’re embarrassed to tell people you haven’t played. Finally, besides writing stuff down organize your shelf and digital collection to remind you of all the games you own.

Games positioned vertical I haven't started yet and titles  I'm still playing are horizontal and divided by old/new releases.

Games positioned vertical I haven’t started yet and titles I’m still playing are horizontal and divided by old/new releases.

Tip 11. Don’t like my routine? Then make your own.

Similar to an exercise program you  can follow this routine 80% of the time and change it 20% of the time. Also, it’s okay to cheat a bit and miss a day here and there. Some other ways make progress on your pile of shame is to play one title on weekdays and the other on weekends, Or choose to only focus on Wii U games for a while, clear all first person shooters in your backlog first, play a stack of shorter games back to back, etc. Get creative and have fun with this stuff.


So to recap the pile of shame destroyer routine, pick two titles you want to play, one current game and one over a year old. Make your own categories and rotate playing between game A and B until you finish them, get bored or two weeks has gone by. If you play on multiple gaming devices separate portable titles from your home gaming routine to avoid confusion.If you have rentals, review titles, and games you borrow from friends then treat the pile of shame games as a warm up and switch to the more urgent ones after playing for at least 25 minutes. Lastly, if you don’t like my routine make your own and customize it to your liking so it’s tailored perfectly to your lifestyle.

I hope these tips help you clear your own pile of shame, but always remember you’re fighting a never-ending battle that you can’t win. With new games always on the horizon, having a job and balancing a social life playing through your pile of shame can feel like work. Yet, with this routine and tips I’ve been able to make consistent progress on my pile of shame so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming.

Thanks for reading and if you have any tips for clearing your pile of shame I missed feel free to leave them in the comment box.