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Thoughts on my Backlog


There are too many games to count on my backlog for me to be considering another one. Right now I have Battleborn sitting in my PSN cart, and I might just pull the trigger despite my better judgement.

I know I'm not the only one with this issue. Why is it that we do this to ourselves? What is so a alluring about the unknown about what we don't have? I can't speak for everyone, but I'll explain some of what runs through my mind when confronted with these types of situations.

When I was a kid the best Christmas gift that you could open was a video game; The entertainment from some sort of gadget/toy, or the ultility of clothing, never came close to comparing the excitement video games provided as children. Ever since recieving Super Mario Kart for Christmas one year, getting a video game on Christmas had proven itself to be a worthy of months of entertainment. So when I was a child, and I would receive an RPG on my Super Nintendo or a four player game on my Nintendo 64, it meant that the boredem I expereienced in a world without the internet became better to live in. 

I think part of the problem is that I usually take the circumstances I grew up in and played the most video games as a point of reference for the amount of available time I actually have presently. I'm no longer an unemployed 15-year-old passing the time during the weekends and after school. I'm a 30-year-old that has to cook, clean, do laundry, prepare for work tomorrow and justify this Battleborn in my cart.

Times are definitely different now. Going up I would try to convince my friends and family to give me as many video games as possible. Throughout the years, I've managed to amount approximately 15 games per console. This was back in the 90s when games were very expensive. When I was 12 years old, I remember recieving 30 dollars of birthday money as a kid, and struggling to find a game that was affordable in 1998. I remember walking out of that old video game rental store with a used copy of the Jungle Book for Super Nintendo, when the game that I desperately wanted was actually Kirby Super Star. Kirby was 50 bucks.

Jungle Book would be the only new game that I would own that year, and in order to get the most out of the purchase, we would make a point to tolerate all the shortcomings of a passible video game. I think that applied for most kids that grew up in this era; all games were played to completion, and great games were replayed repeatedly.

That's why in the 90s, it was an extremely valuable thing to own the console with the most RPG's. Aside from being interesting and memorable experiences, they simply provided the most entertainment for the least amount of money.

A similar case could be made for great multiplayer games at the time. Don't give me wrong, I think these tenants still holds true today with games with Playerunknown's Battlegrounds and The Witcher 3, but in the 90s this was especially important. 

As much as we romanticize the 90s for all the great content that has come from that era, the fact of the matter is that if you didn't play sports or weren't that much of a social of a person in general, there was very little to entertain yourself. I remember watching reruns of cartoons and listening to the radio waiting for the good song to do it's rotation one more time, so I can record it on cassette. And if you liked the song and didn't know the name, you were just straight out of luck. There was no YouTube, and there was no Spotify, and there certainly wasn't something like Steam. 

The age of easy digital distribution has managed to lower pricing due to the incredible amount of competition in the gaming space. I can't speak for everyone, but personally there came a point in the mid to late 2000s where I just stopped buying games for top dollar. And with the Wii Virtual Console, emulation and the falling prices of DVD media, my backlog started to creeping up on me. 

But despte my initiative of not buying new games, my slowdown wasn't enough. It wouldn't be unusual that in the span of two years many games on all platforms would become affordable, especially after the new culture that Steam put into the gaming universe. 

There were a couple years not too long ago where I committed myself to just sticking with the 8 bit and 16 bit eras as an escape, and for some self-control. I won't lie, this technique worked very well, but there were two pitfalls that I ran into with this discipline though: 

Firstly as my appreciation for this era improved, the more I noticed how badly it's been preserved cosmetically. This was especially true with the rise of high definition gaming coupled with the limited analogue design of these retro consoles. (To put this point perspective, a system capable of running SNES games flawlessly on high definition television's just came out this month.)

Secondly, I was starting to lose my footing in understanding the modern leaps and strides the video game industry was making during my time away playing Megaman X2. Circumstancially I never got into a lot of the games on Xbox 360 because of this, and now I'm in a predicament where I'm playing the 360 today almost as if I'm discovering the TurboGrafx 16 for the first time.

When I reflect about buying a new game today I have to wonder if it's more about trying to get that same satisfaction, and perceived past value, of what a video game once meant on Christmas morning; In a weird way sometimes I feel like I'm just trying to hold on to the symbol of what these games value would've meant in a different time. 

Sometimes I also wonder if most of my purchases nowadays stem from the scarcity many of these games would've had back them. Could this be a natural phase some hobbiest have before the age of streaming media? I have to wonder how many people still buy DVDs and Blu-ray's to add to their collection when Netflix and so many other streaming services are available. I have to also wonder how many people are still buying CDs and keeping MP3 collections when Spotify and other streaming services are available. I wonder if next year if we're going to start seeing a transition into service style distribution of most video games. And if that's the case, what chance does a game like Battleborn have on such a service? 

I'm not sure.

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About Chris Bradshawone of us since 5:16 PM on 02.06.2008