Maybe Your 'Pile Of Shame' Is A Problem

Illustration for article titled Maybe Your 'Pile Of Shame' Is A Problem
Illustration: Angelica Alzona
BacklogBacklogIt's time. Let's dig out those games we always told ourselves we were gonna play and give 'em a go.

Because everything has gone to shit and very few new games are coming out—look at you, you’re all playing Outriders for God’s sake—we’re going to be spending the month looking at backlogs, aka the games we own but haven’t played. And I would like to start that month by saying that anyone using the closely-related term “pile of shame” has a problem.

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It’s so weird to me that, aside from presenting a logistical challenge, a “pile of shame”—aka a huge stack of games you’ve bought but never played—often holds this kind of perverse, cherished place in people’s hearts. As though the presence of a pile of unplayed video games is something to be proud of, instead of literally ashamed of. Oh, look at all these video games I paid for and haven’t played, aren’t there so many of them and they’re all so excellent, haha, I just keep buying them, what ever shall I do.

We are not squirrels hoarding nuts for the winter. We are human beings, an advanced species that given our history—man on the moon, instantaneous global communications, etc etc—should be capable of doing the basic math required to work out how many hours a game can be played for and how many hours are available to each of us in a day. But we can’t. We just fuck that one up, again and again, and we do it all the time.

It’s as though we’ve become more interested in the rituals involved in buying a game than we are in actually playing them. We get caught up in the hype, in heated online discussions, in a game’s glowing (or slightly-less-than-glowing) reception, and that’s the shit we’re living for. Pulling the trigger and hitting “purchase” on a screen is now a source of its own entertainment, because video game marketing (and the effect it has had on video game communities) has destroyed everyone’s brains.

As has consumerism in general. We’re obsessed with discounts, and so when things like Steam’s seasonal sales come around folks will go bananas buying games, whether they’ve got the time to play them or not. A $6 classic here, the 2015 GOTY for $12 there. It doesn’t matter if that’s $12 you were never going to spend, there’s a button being pressed inside our brains that says hey, this is a lot cheaper than it used to be, get it, because you’re saving and saving is smart. Not like those idiots who paid full price at release. Buy it.

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A backlog shouldn’t need to be unpacked like this. If you’re still playing a game, and liking the game, and you already have another 1-2 sitting there unplayed, maybe...don’t go buying any more? I know that’s a radical suggestion, but you’ll be OK. You’ll get through this. We live in a digital world. Those games are going to go on sale again, and they’re never going to run out of stock. Enjoy the games you’ve got and are still playing!

Games exist to serve one purpose: to be played. If you’re buying them and not playing them, maybe you’re doing it wrong.

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Luke Plunkett is a Senior Editor based in Canberra, Australia. He has written a book on cosplay, designed a game about airplanes, and also runs cosplay.kotaku.com.

DISCUSSION

lukeplunkett
Luke Plunkett

Big caveat here is that a blog like this is going to look weirdly out of date in 5 years when we’re all playing games on streaming services and dont own a damn thing anymore 🙃