We at Kotaku have designated April as Backlog Month, in which we, in light of a looming dearth of new video game releases, turn our attention toward the games that we have wanted to play but missed. But unlike my colleagues, I’m having a problem—I have no idea what to do for Backlog Month, and it’s stressing me the hell out.
For starters, I think I may have a slightly different definition of “backlog” than the rest of my colleagues. To them, a backlog game is any you’ve bought and never played or only partially played. I, however, feel that a backlog is any game, owned or not, that you have at least a little bit of interest in playing. And this is where I get stuck.
I had a different experience growing up as a gamer than many people. For the most part, people had consoles in their homes and could—at any time—pick up a controller and play. Meanwhile, my access to consoles was severely limited. I had handhelds—a Sega Game Gear and a Game Boy Color. But I never owned a console until the PlayStation, so I missed out on many of the games many people consider foundational—the Super Marios, Zeldas, and Final Fantasies from the earliest generations.
I also didn’t have a computer until I was 16, and even then, my mom (like most Black moms) considered computers tools, not toys. Yet again, I missed out on influential PC games like Doom, Myst, Warcraft, and more. Even when I got older and video games became more mainstream, the circumstances of my household prevented me from experiencing the other kinds of formative gaming moments. I was a sheltered kid, my younger sister and I had a babysitter until I was about 16 (don’t laugh). Going over to a friend’s house to spend the night wasn’t something I was allowed to do. So, once again, I didn’t really get the experience of playing GoldenEye 007 or Super Mario 64 during a sleepover. This confluence of limited console access, family antipathy toward video games, and a lack of resources (and, if I’m being brutally honest, friends) to play the latest games as they were released leaves me with huge gaps in my gamer resume that I need to fill. It means I consider all those missed games my backlog. And when you have entire console generations’ worth of games in your backlog, it’s pretty hard to choose what to play.
There’s also this pressure within the gaming community to be a part of the conversation. I’m going to call it “video game FOMO.” There are tons of games that, whenever brought up, legions of people will rush to say, “Oh, this game is great!” or, “I wish I could erase my memory and play this game over again.” A lot of those games—ones that maybe aren’t that old but have safely passed into “the backlog zone” are also games that, for one reason or another, I didn’t get a chance to play. I never owned an Xbox until recently. Should I use this newfound opportunity to go back and play the Master Chief Collection that sits on my Series S taking up a whole-honking-lot of space? I’ve also never played any of the games from the recent Tomb Raider trilogy. As an OG Tomb Raider fan who never quite “got” the reboots, do I now take advantage of the recently released collection to better understand what the hell y’all Nu-Tomb Raider fans are raving about?
I want to be a part of the conversation around these games. To some degree, I have to because it’s my job. The “video game FOMO’’ is there, haunting me like a boogeyman and making me feel “lesser” than my more knowledgeable colleagues. I have the opportunity to free myself from the FOMO, but I don’t know where to start. I’m so stuck and anxious about being stuck and anxious about being anxious that I’m content to throw the whole thing away and keep on keeping on as I have—looking forward, not back.
There are games coming soon that I want to and will play—Returnal, Resident Evil Village, and Nier: Replicant, to name a few. I think, instead of agonizing about my miles-deep backlog, I’m just going to be proactive. After all, if you play all the games you want right when they come out, they’ll never enter your backlog in the first place.