With the holidays quickly approaching, the threat of getting swept away in the game flood is imminent.
What exactly is the “game flood”? You’re probably familiar with it but just don’t know it yet—it’s what I like to call the time of year when too many games come out. Before you know it, you’ve picked up several new titles, have no time to play any of them, and when you sit down to game, you don’t know what to play as you stare at your intimidating backlog of games.
Sound familiar? You’re not alone.
First off, this is the definition of a first-world problem—I completely recognize that. But it is still a very real problem many of us gamers go through.
Secondly, I am incredibly grateful to live in a time when this can be an actual problem. It means developers have more tools and opportunities than ever to create and distribute their creations for us to experience, and that is awesome.
Third, I’ll give you some background into my own experience of dealing with the game flood before we dive into strategies on how to stay above water.
My History With the Game Flood
When I was young, owning a game system was a big deal, especially if your family didn’t have a lot of money. If you were lucky, you typically had ONE system. That was it. And to start, you usually got the game the system was paired with and maybe one other game your parents picked out.
This was very much the case for me growing up. I shed a bit more light on my experience with gaming as a kid in our Why We Love Games piece, but to quickly summarize, my brother and I didn’t really have access to any gaming system until we got our N64. Our first games were The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The World Is Not Enough, a James Bond video game. Needless to say, when we unwrapped our N64, we essentially reacted like this:
From then on, we played the N64 nonstop (well, as much as our parents would let us). But we only had two games. Sure, we wanted more games, but you don’t exactly have your own money to spend as a kid, so the decision to acquire more games rests solely with the parents.
It didn’t matter if we even liked those two games—it was all we had, so we played them to death. (For the record, OoT is my favorite game to this day, and The World Is Not Enough is an underrated gem, in my opinion.) We didn’t suffer from too many choices. Instead, we came to love the games we had. We sat with those games and played them over and over.
This situation is the same with toys, too, so this feeling isn’t unique to video games. You grow attached to the toys/games you have, even if they may be few, and when you get a new one, it’s like a revelation—you can appreciate it so much more.
This feeling is fascinating to me, as it was the fuel that fired the console wars back in the ’90s and early 2000s. You had to defend the system you owned, because it was all you had. I also think this plays into the spoiled brats who had way too many toys/games and always wanted more; the sheer buffet of options left them lacking a certain appreciation for what they already had, so they were never satisfied.
Growing up and Unleashing the Flood Gates
All that said, I fully understood the world of games out there that I wasn’t able to experience as a kid. With trips to Blockbuster to rent out games, I would get brief tastes of new games, and I dreamed of a day when I could play as many games as I wanted.
Fast-forward a decade, and suddenly, that dream is a reality. I have my own income, and while I obviously have responsibilities that come first, I can essentially buy any game I want if I have enough funds saved up. This freedom is almost dangerous…
In college, I really went wild with that freedom. I bought a beautiful gaming computer that I worked to pay off in installments over a three year period, and suddenly, my Steam library was expanding faster than ever. I was buying games left and right, but I could not possibly catch up on my quickly growing backlog and give each game the attention I normally would—in other words, my eyes were bigger than my stomach.
Today, I am out of college and a bit wiser (not much). I have learned to slow down the pace at which I acquire new games, but I won’t lie, it’s still just as tempting as ever to dive into the game flood and get swept away. It’s practically an addiction! I just love gaming so much and want to experience all the cool games out there.
But we have to set limits for ourselves. There’s no sense in spending money on games you’ll never play! Here’s how I manage my collection.
How to Stay Above Water in the Game Flood
1. Plan Your Budget
I bet you didn’t expect financial advice in a Couch Bandits post, but here we are!
From my experience, planning your expenses and budgeting is just a plain smart life choice. It may seem like common sense, but it will literally make a world of difference if you sit down and review your finances once a year at the very least. I take stock of my finances about once a month, just to make sure I’m sticking to my larger annual plan.
I won’t get super technical here, as there are plenty of other guides out there to help you with this type of thing, but here’s what I do every year. First, I am lucky enough to have a salaried job. Even so, I wouldn’t plan based on your actual salary, as that number (usually) won’t factor in taxes, so I go by the total amount I get paid each month as a base and round down (I like rounding down, as it gives me extra spending room/cushion for unexpected overspending down the line).
Then, look at your expected expenses broken down by month. I typically allot for rent/mortgage payments first and foremost, then utility expenses, student loan payments, and anything else I know I absolutely need to pay every month. For instance, you may want to factor in insurance payments, car installments, or public transportation expenses. I also like to budget a certain amount to spend on groceries and a ballpark figure for other food expenses, like ordering out, going out to eat, or casual drinking with friends.
In the end, it should look something like this for an average month (numbers are just random—likely very different for everyone):
- Rent/Mortgage: $1,000
- Utilities: $150
- Student Loans: $250
- Car Payments: $300
- Food: $400
- Total per month: $2,100
Where am I going with all this? Well, once you’ve factored everything in (and really stretch to factor in as much as you can—better safe than sorry), you should see how much money you’ll have leftover at the end of the year or per month. I usually save a chunk of this leftover money for a savings fund, because the future is a thing and I want a house, to get married, have kids, etc. But then, you should have just a little leftover for what I call THE FUN FUND.
You can spend your fun fund on whatever you want, but for me, that allocation goes straight to games more often than not. Since I love games so much, I actually figured out that I can safely spend about $60 on games each month and still feel comfortable financially.
For me, that’s a healthy pace, and it may not be the same for everyone, so don’t use this as gospel. But I also find that $60 is good for about one game a month, and that’s something I can keep up with pretty easily. I end up beating about one game every month, so my backlog doesn’t necessarily grow, it just stays even.
2. Identify Your Priorities
Planning your budget is really just half the battle. In today’s world, more than one game comes out every month. In fact, MANY more come out every week. If you’re like me, you’re wide-eyed after watching every new trailer gracing YouTube, so setting limits is a must. To start, you should outline exactly what games are coming out in order of priority.
For me, for instance, I know 9 times out of 10 I will want to buy a Nintendo franchise game before any other game. The good thing about bigger companies is you can usually find their release schedule way ahead of time, because they’ve got a lot of projects in the works in parallel. I usually find these however I can online and then list out the games that are day-one buys.
Let’s use the past year as an example: In 2018, I knew about halfway through the year I would absolutely be buying Pokemon Let’s Go in November and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in December. Bam, those two months are done—and good thing, because those are busy months for game releases!
The other months were more complicated, there were a lot of AAA titles and smaller indies being released. For October, I ended up with Mega Man 11 and Dark Souls Remastered, but I was really torn, as Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Red Dead Redemption 2 were set to release the same month. I had to side with the game franchises I enjoyed more, but it’s not always easy.
You may also want to factor in the following:
- Game length: Going back to my October 2018 example, I sided with two games I knew I could beat in a certain timeframe. If I opted to get Assassin’s Creed and Red Dead, I’d have two 60+ hour adventures to complete, and it’s just not feasible to play and beat both in one month.
- Diversity: I mean this in terms of gameplay and style—while I most often side with trusted franchises I know I’ll love, it’s good to step outside your normal comfort zone and try out something completely new or different. Maybe it’s time you picked up a few smaller indie titles one month, instead of a massive AAA title!
- Free time: This goes hand in hand with game length. Depending on your schedule, you may not have as much free time in certain months. December, for instance, you might do a lot of traveling to visit family. In the summer, you might be stuck working longer hours or hanging out with friends. You’ll want to factor this in as best you can, because if you end up not having as much time as you thought, you’ll fall behind and build up a backlog of games.
At the end of the day, you shouldn’t feel pressured to continually buy new games. If you want to buy one game a year, that’s totally fine. If you want to buy one only when your interest is peaked, that’s also cool!
You do you—this is what works for me, someone who can easily get swept away in the game flood. As long as you enjoy the games you play, that’s all that matters.
3. Just Pick a Game to Play!!!
My final piece of advice can apply to anything, from sorting through your game library to picking a movie on Netflix. Modern society is inundated with choice. We have too many options at all times, and it can feel paralyzing.
Have you ever sat down on the weekend, let out a sigh of relief because you finally have a second to relax and play a game, but then spend half an hour trying to decide what to play? I have done this so many times, and the only thing that works is simply picking a game. Just choose one at random if you really can’t decide, but it’s better to spend time actually playing a game than trying to play one.
Worst-case scenario? You don’t like the game and randomly pick another. Best-case scenario? You enjoy the game, get obsessed, and then you won’t have to worry about what game to pick next time.
I know, it’s very simple advice, but I swear, you will enjoy yourself much more if you cut down your decision time and just PICK A GAME!
Saving Others From the Game Flood
Then, there’s the other side of the coin: shopping for a gamer. It can be hard to know what games someone owns without outright asking them, and doing so may ruin the pretense for any type of surprise. On top of that, you don’t want to gift them a duplicate, but what other options are there?
If you’re looking for some inspiration, we recommend checking out The Ultimate Gift Guide for Geeks, created by A Geek Girl’s Guide. There are some brilliant ideas there, and you won’t have to worry about contributing to the overflowing game flood (unless you want to…the more games the merrier, if you ask me).
Whatever situation you find yourself in this holiday season, just remember the most important thing is to have fun. Don’t feel guilty if you want to return to an old classic rather than start up a brand-new game.
With the hustle and bustle of the modern world, it’s easy to get swept up in the game flood, but those games aren’t going anywhere. If you really feel like your backlog is too massive, it may be time to sit down and sort through your library. In the spirit of the season, maybe you can lend or give away a game to a friend or even donate to a local Goodwill.
In any case, good luck to staying above water in this year’s game flood!
Have you experienced the game flood? If so, how do you stay afloat, and what games are in your backlog?