Does It Matter If You Play Them?

Every gamer I’ve ever known or spoken to has one of those piles. Stacks. Heaps. Fuck it, ROOMS. The ‘To-Play Pile’. For some, it consists of a few AAA releases, which slipped through the net, or which got bunched up in a backlog during a busy season. For others, their pile is made up of games stretching back years, encompassing sequels, odds and ends, gifts and more. And for some, like myself, the TPP is stupid. Beyond insane. My pile is nearly as old as I am, and stretches across almost every generation of console and PC iteration there has been since I turned my sticky young fingers to gaming all those years ago.

I have games dating back to the Speccy that I still need to play or finish, for fuck’s sake. Old PC games? Yes, plenty of those. Master System? Yep. Mega Drive, SNES, NES, PlayStation 2, GameCube, yes. With each passing generation, I sink that much deeper, and hope fades as to the reality of me ever actually getting to play all these games. It raises two questions, as I endlessly scan my shelves, the corners of my office, and every single piece of available space ever.

Should I just accept that conquering the stack is never going to happen? I mean, why do I hang on to them, to the hope that, one day, I’ll get around to playing them? That I will magically acquire the time and opportunity to sit down and actually play each and every one. Is it because I simply don’t want to admit defeat, that I can’t let go of the hope that I have whenever I glance at one of them and think ‘I really need to play that soon’? Picking up a game, it is easy to become genuinely sad that, after all these years, certain in the knowledge that I’d play it one day – maybe soon – that I never did it… that I never played it.  Never got to experience the game which once made me think ‘wow’, or ‘I HAVE to play that’. It feels like I would be giving up on a little dream in a way, as odd as that sounds – something that I had planned, looked forward to, and promised myself that I would always do, only I’d be suddenly letting it go.

In another way, it is as if I am letting people down. The people who worked on and loved the game, and who wanted (or perhaps needed) it to do well, and who wanted people to share and love what they had created. After all, when you create something there is a secret desire to share it with people and have them love it as much as you do, or, at the very least, appreciate it. I’d be just one more person who never experienced this fantastic world that they had created, and I suppose the thought makes me melancholy.

But, and that brings me to the other question that has been bouncing around my brain case, does it matter? Yes, if I consider what I’ve just written – it matters from the emotional point of view, as far as the experience goes. But as far as everything else goes? No, I don’t think so. I bought and paid for my games. True, they may all be teetering in stacks so dangerous that the council are demanding I seek planning permission, but I bought them and supported the people who made them, and the people who published them. I’m a statistic, a sale, a customer. Do I need to be anything else?

When I browse around the Steam or GOG stores, with their ever-increasing number of sales, and treat the whole thing like a trolley dash, does it matter whether I’ll play what I buy, regardless of my good intentions?  I sling things into my basket, mow down old people, and jostle for a place at the checkout before the timer hits zero or Steam’s server temporarily keels over, along with everyone else. That money is going (hopefully) where it should. It will give indies a boost, it will keep someone’s dreams alive, it will mean that play-it-safe tits like EA may venture taking a chance again, it supports games enough to get sequels, whatever… the games are paid for and that’s what ultimately matters.

But… But… but… all the time these games, despite being virtual, also add up… the secret digital stacks creep ever upwards, challenging the real-life ones, but their burden is no less. And despite my more reasoned arguments with myself, I can’t let go. I think it’s perhaps because I’ll feel like I’ve failed. Like I gave up on such a long-held belief. I may as well have just gone back in time, kicked my past self in the face and tossed my old GameCube out of the window. The whole thing makes me feel incredibly sad and despondent. If I look at my Steam or GOG libraries and allow the thought to creep in that I’ll probably never play most of them, or at the pile of games around the house and think that I’ll never get to experience what those worlds held – for better or worse – I can’t handle it. I’d be doing myself – past and present – a gross disservice.

I’m at an impasse. I’ve got Chris Penn’s gun pointed in my fucking face and Tim Roth dying at my feet. I’m on a TT Special 650 Triumph, trying desperately to find a place to jump the fence. I need a bolt of lightning only I can’t connect the fucking cable together because there’s more than just a tree branch squatting on it – it’s a big fat thing called life. It is going to have to budge an inch though, because I can’t give up. I’ve come to the conclusion that it does matter if I play them. It really does matter. I also know I’ll never see the carpet beneath the stacks. Not ever.

So, some balance needs to be struck; I have to let something go, but I can’t and won’t let everything go – it would cost me too much of my gaming soul. While I decide what should rise to the top while other things sink faster than a stiff Leo DiCaprio, at least I’ve paid for those games lining up in my Steam library, on my shelves, everywhere, which is some comfort, at least. And when I start to knock more games off the stack, it will feel even better… even when it feels like a losing battle (and it will) because it does matter.

Last five articles by Lorna


One Comment

  1. Ste Ste says:

    I long ago gave up on previous consoles etc, however my current to play pile for the PC and PS3 is in excess of 70 games. A lot of them I’ve not even started with some games dating back years.

    I don’t think I’ll ever get around to playing them all, which is a bit depressing. :-(

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