Spread throughout this page is a non-exhaustive list of Switch games I’ve bought over the past year or so and either haven’t touched at all (as in I’ve never started the software), or have played for five or ten minutes before getting distracted by another game or life event, big or small.
I’ve been preoccupied with my ever-growing backlog for some time now, but over the holidays I scrolled through the icons sitting on my Switch’s home screen menu and realised I’d bought more games than I’d played in 2020 — a lot more.
They’re all just sitting there, collecting digital dust on the menu. I knew while cruising the Switch eShop that I wouldn’t have time to play many of them, but still downloaded them anyway. This isn’t even all of them. I bought a new Switch (gotta have that better battery life) at the tail end of 2019 and there’s a load more older titles ready and waiting on my eShop accounts to be redownloaded when I get a large enough micro SD to accommodate them. My wishlist is loaded with yet others I’ve got my eye on. And there are a bunch more that I’ve played for an hour or two which could easily qualify. Ring Fit Adventure, anybody?
To be fair, a handful of them were free downloads that I grabbed just because they were there. Others I picked up with a handful of Gold Points, or quite literally for a few cents. Some of them I own and have played on other platforms, and despite having a rule not to buy duplicates on Switch just to ‘have’ them, who could say no to a handheld copy of Bastion or Grim Fandango for a couple of quid?
Many, however, are acclaimed and celebrated games I’m eager to dive into. So why haven’t I got around to playing them?
Well, evolving life situations make it tough to carve out spare time for gaming. Tiny humans who also live under my roof soak up an awful lot of my off-hours, and as much as I’d like to zone out with a game once they’ve gone to bed, it’s also the only real time I get with my partner. Sure, we’ll fire up Overcooked 2 of an evening but having advanced to the later levels, that’s often a more stressful experience than we’re looking for; an episode of Peaky Blinders isn’t quite as demanding. Some light, intelligent conversation with an adult human can also be invigorating, especially after the nonsense last year threw at us on a daily basis.
Some of these games I’ve snapped up simply because I love the developer and want to support their work. Others I had every intention of playing immediately but it just didn’t happen. I’ve also justified plenty of purchases with the old ‘I write about games for a living!’ excuse. Comes in handy, that one, especially with retro purchases (also not included here).
The fact that all of the games listed here are digital made it easier to accrue a huge backlog, too. There’s debates to be had over the merits of digital versus physical; if all these titles were stacked in a creaking Billy bookcase and overflowing across my desk, I’d be inclined to pause for thought before hitting ‘Download’ on another eShop bargain. Frequent digital sales are another factor. I paid full whack for only a few of these; all others were grabbed for a fraction of their launch price. It’d be rude not to, no?
It’s also worth noting that I have actually played some games this year. I’ve got ‘275 hours or more’ logged on Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Think how many of these others I could have got through in that time! Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity took up 75 hours, and I’ve pumped many hours into older games like Breath of the Wild and DOOM in an effort to find some calm and catharsis in 2020.
I played plenty of shorter games to completion, and hit a couple of older ones, too. The incredible Rogue Legacy soaked up nearly 30 hours that I could have spent on the equally fantastic Hades, but I have no regrets. I was planning to tick a few more off the backlog over the holidays, but I got consumed by Dicey Dungeons.
Here’s the thing though: I’m beginning to look at the ever-present backlog in a different light. It’s not an never-ending laundry list of work to grind through, but an expanding library — a treasure trove filled with delights to dip into. There’s pleasure to be had from playing the games, obviously, but there’s also a thrill in thumbing through them (or scrolling through the icons) and picking something to suit your mood. There’s pleasure in the possibility of play.
It’s tempting to think ‘oh, I’ll get to them all someday!’, but the reality is I almost certainly won’t. There’ll be more games over the coming years — hundreds, thousands of them — and I’ll want to play all of those, too. And that’s just on Switch. I’ve heard rumours that ‘other’ consoles exist which also host some rather good video games. I know!
Nope, I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m much more of a ‘collector’ these days. I can dream of a six-month sabbatical where all other responsibilities and demands on my time make way for a blissful deep-dive into my backlog, but that would be a full-time occupation. Much like my Steam library that’s been bloated by years of Humble Bundles, and the Twitch Prime games I redeem every month and never, ever play, my Switch collection will be there to flick through when I need it with a cracking game to suit my mood on that hypothetical Saturday morning in the future when I might have a couple of hours free to pluck and play something from the library.
I mean, I’ll probably just fire up Animal Crossing and spend that valuable free time fishing or something. But hey, the mere promise and potential of playing a great game is worth the price, no?
Better than the deed? Better than the memory? Let us know below if you’ve become more of a collector than a player these days, and how you feel about it.