In a world of regular Steam sales and cheap used games, it's easy to build up a massive stockpile of games it feels like you'll never have time to get to. Well there actually is time, but you have to approach your backlog the right way. Here's how to do it.
Make A Master List For Your Entire Backlog
Start by making a list of games you have on hand or in your library that you haven't played to satisfaction or haven't touched at all. When I say "played to satisfaction", I mean you haven't played them enough to feel like you got your money's worth. Your list could be short or it could be really long. It doesn't matter provided they are all there.
This is your actual backlog. You know what that is, but you may not have ever had a chance to actually look at it in its entirety before. The age of digital downloads makes it easy for us to forget about things. In our minds, the backlog just becomes an amorphous blob of lost digital content. If you use a client like Steam, you can see a list of everything you've purchased there, but chances are you have some games in other clients like EA's Origin, or Ubisoft's Uplay. You probably also have stand-alone games, and console games that are collecting dust on a shelf somewhere. Making a list makes you aware of everything. It's not just a shapeless "backlog" anymore, it's a soon-to-be-organised "To Play" list.
Cull And Prioritise Your Newly Formed "To Play" List
Once you have your "To Play" list, comb through it and remove the games you know that you're never going to play. There are probably a few that you bought on impulse and haven't even installed or unwrapped. If you have physical games, you can sell them to make some cash back. If they're digital only, you may have some recourse if you can trade codes, sell on the Steam marketplace, or sell back to a service that takes digital games, like Green Man Gaming. If you want to help yourself out in the future, you can create a "shame list" of those games to remind yourself what kinds of games you never bothered to touch.
I also find it helpful to remove multiplayer-only games. These games can be too much fun for their own good. You end up playing the same game over and over again for just one more round or match, while your backlog cries in the corner. Remember, you can always come back to them later (and you might want to, if one of your "to play" games turns out to not be much fun).
With some games removed, reorganise your list so that the game you want to play the most is at the top. Then continue through your list until it's organised from "most excited to play" to "least excited to play". One last time, look at the games at the bottom of your list — the ones that excite you the least — and decide if you'll ever actually play them. You might find a couple of stragglers that were holding on by a slight thread of interest. By organising your games this way, you can build the motivation to play through them all. You have a video game debt and snowballing your momentum can help you pay it off just like real debts.
Cut Off New Games At The Source
While you're making your way through your backlog, it's obviously important you don't add to it. That one game you want so badly might be on sale, but chances are it will go on sale again, probably cheaper, during the next Steam sale. Resist the urge to buy new games until you've at least made some progress with your "To-Play" list.
To help yourself out, go on a brief game news blackout. Give yourself some time to get excited about what you've already purchased before a positive review sends you to the nearest game store at full speed. Remember all those new releases will still be around when you finish your backlog. Oh, and remember, never pre-order games.
Uninstall Or Hide Whatever Is Not On Your "To Play" List
Now that you have a neatly organised "To Play" list, make it seem like those are the only games you have. Uninstall the other games on your Mac or PC so you're not tempted to return to the games you've already played. In Steam, you can also hide games by cultivating custom lists. Essentially, it will look like you only have the games on your "To-Play" list. Take your console games and hide them away in storage so it's a pain to retrieve them. You can even ask somebody else to hide (or play, whatever) them for you, if you like.
It might sound a little extreme, but this removes the distraction of other games to keep you focused on your goal of whittling away your backlog. If you want, you can do a "one in, one out" system where you can re-install or bring back a game once you play a backlog game to your satisfaction and remove it from your "To Play" list.
Schedule Play Time And Keep Yourself Satisfied
You probably only have a certain amount of time to play games each day, but a little scheduling can help you knock out games more efficiently. If you have an hour to play every day, schedule a backlog game for a good chunk of it. You can set a timer to keep yourself on task, but always start your play time with a backlog game. That way you'll either get sucked in and keep going through your allotted play time, or you'll move on to something else after giving it a little time. Some progress is always better than no progress at all.
If you're not enjoying a game, don't torture yourself with it. Play it until you're satisfied and move on. There's also nothing wrong with playing a game without the intent to finish it. You may very well know that you don't have the time to commit to a game's completion, but still want to give it a go for fun. Or maybe you want to be able to talk about a game with friends, so you play it just enough to understand it on their level. However you decide to approach the games on your "To-Play" list, always make sure your personal satisfaction is the focus.
When You Finish A Game, Revel In Your Success
As you make your way through your list, keep track of the games you actually complete and tell others about it. Announce it to your friends and earn some cred, or write about it in your favourite online community. It feels good to see something through, so you might as well enjoy it as much as you can. Who knows, maybe you'll rub off on some of them and get them to take on their own backlogs too.