When you hear the term “Spring Cleaning,” you probably think of old letters that you can throw away or the bathroom that needs to be scrubbed. Usually, it’s a physical process that involves tidying up your space. But for gamers, their digital space can often become a lot more cluttered than their physical space. Case in point: The dreaded backlog of work.
“Backlog” is a common term that players use to describe their pile of untouched games. Buying Forbidden Horizon in the Westbut was too busy with Elden Ring to start it? It’s backlog now. Do you download free games from services like PS Plus every month, but never download them? They are trapped in the purgatory backlog. Picking up itch.io’s latest indie pack, which is raising money for Ukraine by providing sponsors with 1,000 products? Your backlog will never recover (but at least it’s for a good reason).
Backlog is not a physical thing; it’s a more worrying thought. Not that the thought of playing every game you own seems overwhelming, but simply keeping track of them all. As you start cleaning up your living space, it’s also a good time to organize that backlog. Here are a few ways you can tame the game’s most fearsome beast.
The most important step is simply reorganization. It’s easy to pick up tons of free games across dozens of platforms and completely forget what you own anymore. How many times have you bought a game only to realize you already own it on Steam thanks to some Humble Bundle you forgot?
There are many tools that allow players to keep track of the games they own, but my personal choice is Grouvee. The free site is basically the game’s Letterboxd. It allows players to rate and review games, as well as add them to shelves and lists. I use it extensively to keep track of my own backlog as well as my favorite games that I play in any given year.
The great thing about Grouvee is that it uses Giant Bomb’s API, which means it pulls in data about any game you can imagine. It’s also an incredibly easy-to-use tool that allows you to create your own shelves. Want to create one for each platform you have the game on? You can easily set up and start adding games to the list.
People who want to support the project can also upgrade to Grouvee Gold to remove all banner ads from the site and get early access to new features. Grouvee is just one of many tools you can use. Unfortunately, even a good Excel spreadsheet can help you stay organized. As soon as you start writing games, you’ll find it less and less frustrating to try to clear your backlog.
Create steam collection
If you’re specifically trying to organize your PC games, you might want to dive into some of Steam’s in-depth features. The Launcher is lacking when it comes to filters, but Collections helps fill that gap.
Essentially, the Steam Collection acts like a Grouvee shelf. Create a new Collection, give it a name and start dragging games in. Very simple. Using that feature, you can put any unplayed Steam games you own into the Backlog Collection and delete them when you finally play them. That will keep all your tracking centralized in one place, which is convenient.
You won’t have exactly the same luck as every other platform, although there are some small workarounds you can use to see which games you haven’t touched. For example, the Epic Games Store lets you see how much time you’ve spent on each game. If you haven’t touched a game yet, you’ll see a dash in the Time Played column. Use such platform and application tools to build a visual system for your backlog.
Once you’ve organized your backlog, the next task is to figure out how to start removing games from your list. When you have dozens of games to play, trying to figure out which one to start with can make scroll through Netflix.
There’s no perfect method here, but if you’re trying to check a lot of games off your list, I’d recommend getting rid of the shortest games on your list and getting to work. With that approach, you can get rid of some games in a matter of days, truncating the list to a manageable size.
To do that, you may want to bookmark How long to beat?. The site allows players to upload data on how long it takes them to complete any game and generates average playtime. It’s a tool I often use before starting any game. If I only have one weekend to spare, I don’t want to start a 60-hour game. It has been a lifesaver for me on countless occasions, especially when it comes to keeping my backlog organized.
What’s particularly useful about How Long to Beat is that it will tell you how long a match will take if you start it yourself, share it fairly, or aim for 100% of it. If you’re just trying to flip through the games, that first stat will be especially helpful in managing your time. I find that the averages tend to fit my own playing habits, so it’s a reliable tool.
Let the game go
Even with these tips, sometimes you need to face reality: You won’t be able to access all 1,000 dust collecting games on your computer. And that’s okay. In fact, you should be comfortable with the idea that you don’t really need to play every game you own.
I used to be there. When you receive a game, you will feel as if you have to play it. Why let what you buy go to waste? That’s a fair worry, but the truth is that the game should be entertaining. If the idea of playing a game stresses you out, there’s no reason to play it. If it’s not a problem to throw away your old clothes, you shouldn’t regret deleting games or resolve to never play them.
If you still insist on trying everything you own, don’t be afraid to bounce a game when it doesn’t work for you. There’s very little reason to keep playing something you don’t enjoy. I played two levels of Sifu before deciding it wasn’t for me and have never looked back since. It gets checked out of my backlog permanently, even if I don’t see the end.
There’s an art to clearing the backlog, and sometimes that just means building healthier habits. Take a look at all your games this spring and ask yourself how many you really want to play. Trust me, your huge list will shrink in minutes.