The holidays can be a confusing time for a gamer. Sure, there's lots of stuff on sale, meaning you can top up your collection, and that's before you start opening gifts, which hopefully correspond very specifically to the contents of the incredibly well-signposted Amazon wishlist you emailed everyone several months previously. But it's also a time when you have lots of, well, time, and if you're anything like us, that means you'll spend a bunch of it sat on your ass doing very little, while a ripple of anxiety in the corner of your brain gradually turns into a wave, and then a flood. Why aren't you catching up on your pile of shame?
So many games...
Pile of shame, backlog, whatever you want to call it. We all have one. Here's some stuff on ours: Tacoma, Valhalla, Control, Stardew Valley, Hitman, Life is Strange. We could go on, but even typing out these words is filling us with a creeping sort of existential dread. What if we add Super Mario Odyssey to that list? How will you judge us? We meant to play it, we bought it, and it's sitting on our shelf above the TV still in shrink-wrap, but between the kids and work and everyone getting sick and low energy and the world outside and blah blah blah, it never gets played. So the pile of shame grows, and so does our anxiety.
Here's a thing though: it doesn't have to be this way. Because, believe it or not - and we're talking to ourselves as much as anyone here - you don't have to play everything.
This holiday, we're going to give ourselves this gift: we're going to liberate ourselves from the notion that we have to play all these games. We literally can't play everything. Even if we cleared our entire backlog, guess what? There's an even greater number of games we've tactically ignored - we're not a huge fan of the genre, our buddy didn't like it, etc - that we really should play if we... what? Want to be taken seriously? By whom?
It's a false economy. You know what people don't say on their deathbeds? "I wish I'd played Blood and Wine so that people took me seriously as a Witcher 3 player." Nobody cares. Yes, this means that one day you'll be the equivalent of that person you met at PAX West who has worked in the games industry for 30 years but confided to you that he never played Super Mario 64. Did you see how happy that guy was? Did you see how much he didn't care about not having played Mario 64 as he told you how much he was looking forward to getting home and seeing his kids? Not playing Mario 64 wasn't some dereliction of duty; it was just a game he didn't play. Maybe he'll play it one day. All our lives will go on.
Be at peace
Games are meant to be fun, but the more we force ourselves into these unhealthy patterns of thought about them, with our piles of shame that nobody else cares about, the less fun they will be, and the less likely we are to enjoy them on their own merits.
If you get a bunch of new games this holiday, be grateful. Be happy, and enjoy the prospect of playing them. We got a copy of Nier Automata for our birthday recently, but haven't had time to play it. We probably will, because we know everyone thinks it's amazing, but it doesn't matter if we do that next week or next year or never; Nier will always be there for us if we want it, but Nier doesn't need us and we don't need Nier.
So join us, and free yourself from the mad self-flagellation of the creeping backlog. When those oceans of festive time stretch out ahead of you next week, don't allow the pile of shame to send you that ripple of anxiety; let the ocean sit like a mill pond, and if you decide to set sail upon it in some game anew, that's just as valid as sitting on your ass and eating some more chocolate. Happy holidays.