Im not ashamed of my Steam backlog

My grandmother didn’t keep china or other expensive luxury items in her cabinet drawers or spread across her bookshelves. What you’d see walking into her home on a hot summer day, eager for snickerdoodle cookies and a kiss on the cheek, were rows upon rows of Precious Moments figurines.

You’ve seen these doe-eyed, cherub-faced porcelain babies before, even if you don’t know them by name. They’re part of your standard grandparent starter kit, along with lavender-scented candles, a shag carpet living room, and three dozen fridge magnets (none of which match each other, by the way). When I was little, I remember wondering, “Why does Grandma have all of these? You can’t even play with them. They just sit there.”

Maybe you once thought the same of your parents or grandparents’ collectibles of choice, be they Precious Moments, Beanie Babies, or – as was the case for my other grandmother – chickens. (She just had a thing for chickens. I don’t know what to tell you.) Something along the lines of, “How silly it is to have all these things taking up space, but not doing anything.”

Hold onto that thought.

Steam-powered contemplation

Earlier this week, we wrote (opens in new tab) about a rumored June 21 start for the Steam Summer Sale 2018 (opens in new tab). That date turned out to be correct, and now we’re all furiously typing in our credit card info as we pick up games for 20, 30, 60, even 80 percent off. But before things kicked off in earnest, I decided to look through the store and start planning.

“Okay, so if Civilization 6 or Divinity: Original Sin 2 are $30 or less, I’ll buy those,” I thought to myself. “If The Beginner’s Guide is less than $5, I’ll get that. I wonder how much Total War: Warhammer 2 will go on sale for?”

But as I poured over my Steam wishlist, deciding which games I should pick up during the sale, I also had a sudden ponderance: have I actually played any of the games I bought last Steam sale? I looked at my library. Dead Cells: zero hours. Danger Zone: zero hours. Shadowrun: Hong Kong: zero hours. Owlboy: 0.2 hours. Well, at least that was… something.

I was buying games but never making time for them. And for a minute I felt awful, like I was surely the dumbest, most wasteful person in the world. But then I asked (opens in new tab) if anyone had done the same, and was pleasantly surprised to find I wasn’t alone:

Too many to count. There are some games that I just want to get around to play at some point and the sale was too good to pass up. I don’t mind it sitting there because eventually I’ll get around to at least trying it.June 19, 2018

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I’ve got tons of games from sales or for free that I’ve never played. Some of them I want to play but currently have too many other games going on and some of them I will nver play.June 21, 2018

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I’ve had steam sales where I see something and think “this is a great deal, i NEED to buy this now” and then when i click it says “this game is already in your library, do you want to install it” and i’m like “nah”June 19, 2018

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Legit every year and I have no explanation for youJune 19, 2018

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I got a ton of replies from people who all did the same thing, but few of us had a better reason than “I like having them there and I might get to them someday”. Some picked up a game because they’d heard from reviews and friends that it was good; some just figured it was time to jump on a good sale price. One person said she wanted to make sure her kids would have an awesome library (opens in new tab) to enjoy as they got older.

This falls well within line of a 2014 report from Ars Technica (opens in new tab), which found that roughly 37 percent of all Steam games go unplayed. It’s ridiculous to think that over a third of Steam transactions are (effectively) for nothing. Statistically, it’s relatively common to throw money to the digital wind and just never play the games you buy. But here’s the thing: nobody seemed ashamed to have a backlog of untouched titles.

Overall, I just don’t think people are upset about this stuff. They’ve amassed vast collections and are glad, maybe even a little proud, to have it – even if it largely goes unused. And that’s when it hit me: I had fallen into the same kitschy, quasi-hoarding mentality one develops from collecting Precious Moments.

Don’t worry, be happy

Precious Moment figurines, Funko Pops, action figures kept in boxes, and unplayed games are all of a kind: things we buy, but don’t really use. We might intend to leave them to future generations or plan to do something with them someday, but when pressed, we often admit we have them simply to have them. They’re decor.

And you know what? That’s fine.

There’s too much judgment and shaming in geek culture. Oh, you couldn’t beat Dark Souls? Git gud. Your cosplay isn’t 100% accurate? Point and laugh. You own games that you haven’t played? What are you, some kind of fake gamer?

When I was a kid, I judged my grandmother for what I saw as a silly obsession. But it made her happy, and just because we may not like or understand a thing, doesn’t mean we need to mock or take it away from those who do. So as you’re looking through the Steam Summer Sale this year, ask yourself if buying that game (not necessarily playing it, but merely adding it to your digital library) will make you happy.

If the answer is no, you just saved yourself a few bucks. But if the answer is yes, then go be happy, and take heart in the fact that your future self will have that Precious Moment.

Image credit: Timothy Tsui, Flickr (opens in new tab)

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