Being an adult came with some great advantages when it came to gaming. Namely that, with an income, I’ve been able to buy several of the games I want to play. Combining that with bundles, event-based sales, and now subscription services, my access to games has increased to levels I never imagined. If you told me 25 years ago I’d have access to thousands of games at any time, I’d assume I had reached MC Hammer levels of stardom.
However, this collection, bolstered by my love of the innovative designs of indie games, is out of control. I not only have all of these games available, but I have dozens installed and ready to boot up at any time. My will to play them gave me enough motivation to get that far. Yet that’s still not enough to guarantee I’ll play them. So what criteria do I use to figure out which game will have me picking up that controller?
One important aspect when deciding whether I’ll play a game is usually how long it will take. Even though I’ll most likely be playing any option over numerous days, it can be daunting to boot up a title that will have me potentially locked into 70+ hours of slapping buttons. Contrarily, a game that might only take a couple of hours could be appealing, but if it doesn’t leave an impression it may seem like a waste of time.
For me, if a game is between five and twenty hours, it will often get priority over others. When a game is much longer than that, it treads into unstable territory where I may get distracted with another game and leave it neglected on a shelf indefinitely. There are some games I put down years ago and still haven’t found a reason to go back (*cough* Fallout 4).
If a game is new or of a high profile (even if just among people I know) it tends to jump to the top of the list. This may be just because it’s in line with my interests, but that’s not the only reason. I may also want to review the game. Reviews are always a great motivator for me – and ironically motivation to play my backlog was one of the main reasons I started reviewing games. Then, of course, there’s the “discussion” factor.
Being able to discuss a game with your friends and others can be a great deal of fun. Whether it’s good or bad, communicating that perspective is a nice social experience. It can expose you to things you may not have noticed or considered and occasionally something contentious. Some may not enjoy that, but as long as you keep things civil, it’s a good reason to stay up to date rather than clear out that old backlog.
One thing that game discussion usually brings about for me is the recommendation to play a game others enjoyed. If someone else has a great experience with a game, I always feel as though I should see if it is the same for me. There have also been times where I come across a youtube video going in-depth on a game or a mechanic and that will be all the motivation I need to jump into it (thanks GMTK).
This includes the various game awards that we’ve all endured through December and January. The short season of trophy tossing brings to the surface all of the most lauded titles of the year, highlighting the many I’ve inevitably forgotten. This year, I’ve been inspired to pick up Sekiro, whenever I can find it at a good price, although I’m not generally a fan of these torturous Souls-like games. We’ll see how that turns out…
If a game has a strong multiplayer component, it usually motivates me to try to play it as soon as possible for two reasons. The first is to get in before the player base declines. There’s nothing worse than a cool multiplayer game with no players. The second is so that, in competitive games, I’m not so far behind that I get stomped in every match. This turned me away from Rainbow Six Siege as well as a few other games where the player base knew all the tricks to make me look like I was playing with my elbows.
It can also work the other way though. Multiplayer games can have a detrimental effect on my will to play other games since they don’t end. The hundreds of hours I sank into Dota 2, StarCraft games, Apex Legends, Battlefield games, and so on could have been devoted to dozens of completed single-player games. However, the fresh experiences of these games and the fun of being able to interact with people keeps me coming back.
As games become more readily available and creative indie games continue to outpace mainstream development, we’re locked into having more games to play than time to play them. It’s just the reality of the world we live in now. The competition for our time and attention will only increase. Eventually, these methods for deciding may no longer be enough to compensate and I’ll just collapse into a black hole under the weight of so many well-made games.
How do you decide what games you want to play? Is your next game from your backlog, a new release, or a return to a multiplayer adventure?