Saturday, January 8, 2011

Gaming By The Numbers

I officially have over 500 video games on my Backloggery. In other words, I either own, used to own, or have otherwise made a serious attempt at beating over 500 video games.

Breaking that down, my list includes about 5 games I borrowed, roughly 25 games I used to own, almost 70 I played on an emulator or online (but only the games I've reviewed in my Flash Flood column, to avoid unnecessary Backloggery bloating), and a whopping 400 that I own.

That last number should either seem pathetic compared to your collection, or wildly excessive. I'm a collector, you see, and after suddenly wanting to play Star Soldier and Blades of Steel several years after selling them off for pocket change, I made it a point to never get rid of any games, even if I was absolutely certain I would never play them again. If you've been an active gamer for two continuous decades and you can count on one hand the number of games you've traded in, 400 games really isn't all that big a number, if you do the math.

Looking at the numbers, that's 20 games per year. Let's assume I get five games per year as gifts--between birthdays and Christmas, that's pretty reasonable. That leaves me with 15 games a year that I buy on my own. One trip per month to the game store to pick up one or two items? Not bad.

Given that I gravitate toward older games whose prices have dropped by half (at least) since their release, let's say I spend $20 per game. Even in a big year where I pick up a few newer games, that's still $300-$400 I'm spending on video games per year. That's maybe two months, tops, of comics for an equally zealous comics fan. Considering video games are my pastime of choice, that doesn't seem that bad at all to me.

I acknowledge that not everybody has $300-$400 to blow on frivolous expenses every year, and that such a quantity of cash could be used for all manner of noble efforts. My only point in breaking down the numbers is to show that it may not be as insane as some people may initially believe to own the equivalent of 50% of the entire NES game library (including all the terrible games no one ever talks about).

Of the games on my list, I've beaten 60%, or about 240. Going by my numbers from before, that's 12 years of game collecting that hasn't gone to waste, and 8 years' worth of potential left to go (regardless of how long it might actually take me to beat the remaining games).

What's been particularly striking to me over the past few years is how much sway the numbers have had over my playing habits. I used to replay my favorite first-person shooters and SNES RPGs once every year or two, but I haven't touched them since some time in college, except to show them off to someone who hadn't seen them before. I've been too busy trying to finish more games than I buy so that my completion rate can increase. I've been too busy embarking on absurd sidequests to achieve the coveted Completed status on games I've merely beaten and won't ever want to play again after putting down.

On the one hand, it's terrific to experience so many new games, to find so many things I like, and to have so much geek reference material under my belt. On the other hand, every time I start up a new game I run the risk of jumping on board a 40+ hour mediocre experience that only reveals itself as such when I'm too invested to justify quitting. Especially when that fraction of a percent of my completion rate is at stake.

Thank goodness for Mega Man marathons and exposing other people to my favorite games--I think I need a regular dose of the old reliables to keep me sane if I have a string of bad luck with the new games I choose to play. Still, I feel that keeping track of my progress through my backlog has been a positive influence on my gaming habits, even if my mentality has shifted a bit.

500 games on my list, though. I don't know whether to pat myself on the back or have myself committed.


Scott said...

This is a reason I refuse to call myself a gamer. I only own five games or so -- Starcraft, Diablo II and LoD, Starcraft II, Call of Duty, and a few Kindle games.

I've probably clocked well over 1000 hours in Diablo II, though... and nearing 50ish in Panda Poet, a Kindle game.

What I don't have in quantity, I make up for in time...

Flashman85 said...

Sometimes I think that's better--you've probably enjoyed a greater percentage of your gaming time than I have, if for no other reason than that you've stuck with games you know you like.