The Age of Backlogs

Plex Deck Snap 2

Are we living in the Age of Backlogs? Or is it just me?

The thought is prompted by the latest round of tempting Steam sales. It’s hard to resist buying more stuff, yet most of the stuff I found so irresistible in previous sales has remained unplayed, either entirely or in large part. And not because it’s not good or I wouldn’t like to get into it, but because of the vast mismatch between the amount of media readily available to us these days and the amount of time available to partake of it.

I’m not talking only about games here, because one of the chief reasons that games have gone unplayed is that I’ve been spending a good deal of my R&R time on catching up with TV boxsets and reading books. And I have large backlogs of those too.

Captain’s Backlog, Stardate 2014.0627

Games Backlog

Games that I’ve played a fair amount, but not as much as I would have liked lately:

  • Chess

Games that I’ve played some, and would like to play a lot more if time permitted include:

  • The Secret World
  • Skyrim
  • Civilization V
  • Hero Academy
  • Star Trek Online

Games that I haven’t tried yet which sound tempting if time allowed include:

  • Neverwinter
  • Guild Wars 2
  • Hearthstone

I can’t bring myself to go look at the games that I’ve actually bought via sales and Humble Bundles and have not played at all or possibly even downloaded yet. There are a fair few of those too.

And nor will I mention the umpteen games I’ve dabbled in that are lower down the priority list than the ones above. SWTOR, Rift and such would be on there.

Shows Backlog

Is it part of the backlog if you’ve started watching it? Or if it’s a rewatch in the first place? Or if it is airing now and you are more or less up to date with it? I’ll leave such question to the lawyers and philosophers, and just look at what is stacked up waiting to be watched…

  • Star Trek – The Next Generation – I started a rewatch of the series, but am not actively watching it at the moment, because if I did. where would I fit everything else in?

  • Star Trek – Deep Space Nine – I’m currently watching it. This was partly a rewatch as I’ve seen some of it before, but it looks like while I saw most of Season 1 before, I may not have ever seen much of Season 2 or later seasons. DS9 is something I’ve been wanting to catch up with for a long time, so it’s at the top of the backlog queue right now.

  • Elementary – I am still half way or so through Season 1. Liking it a lot, and would want to see all of it, time allowing.

  • Game of Thrones – I’ve watched a few episodes of Season 1, but I’m reading the books now. Probably won’t watch any more til I’m caught up with all the books, and then I’ll come back.

  • True Detective – Not started watching it yet.

  • The Wire – There’s a rewatch going on in a community I’m part of, and I’d like join in, but I don’t think I can fit it in. (Have seen it all before).

  • Fargo – I think I’m only one episode behind! Yay!

  • The Good Wife – I am somewhere in the current season. I may even be up to date now? Confused, but not too far behind!

  • The Bridge – Seen one episode, plan to watch it all at some point.

Books Backlog

The very concept of a books backlog may be verging on the ridiculous in my case. If I were to count the amount of unread books that I have at hand, both physical and in ebook form, and consider the rate at which I have actually been getting through them, it’s quite possible I already have enough to keep me going for the rest of my lifetime.

So whatever I mention here is the tip of the icebeg really. Mainly books that I have acquired fairly recently, or titles or series that I have started in the not too distant past and not yet finished. Or in other words, mainly things that are actually loaded on my Kindle and Kindle apps.

  • A Song of Ice and Fire, aka Game of Thrones. I’m in the third book, A Storm of Swords. Unless the standard drops off I will likely read all of them over the summer.
  • King’s Gambit – Hard to describe… it’s part autobiography, part an investigation into the culture and psychology of chess. Asks questions pertinent to all games and sports about whether the thing brings out the worst in people that play it.

  • The Best American Mystery Stories 2013 – a selection of short stories by various authors. Frankly it is a stretch to categorize most of them as mysteries per se, but good short crime fiction, often by well known authors. I read the odd story now and then.

  • Samurai – A History – A history of Japan, esp the Samurai, most of all their encounter with the modern world and ultimate demise. The era portrayed (not with too much of an eye to accuracy) in the movie The Last Samurai. Fascinating for fantasy readers because of its exploration of feudal societies, warrior codes and the like. I am slowly working through this. It is readable and enjoyable, but “put-down-able”, so gets displaced in the queue by the likes of Game of Thrones.

  • The Last Ringbearer – This is a highly-rated fanfic novel that tells the story of The Lord of the Rings from the perspective of Mordor. The idea being LOTR was one-sided propaganda or the victor’s mythology, and this is the other side’s story. Yet to start it.

  • Aid on the Edge of Chaos – Should be fascinating as it’s about the intersection of some things that I’m very interested in. Not started it yet. It’s the kind of book I feel needs attention and thought, so I wanted to read it when I have the energy to really concentrate, but that feeling has delayed me even starting.

  • Quantum – Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality – Maybe this should be demoted from “the backlog” to the category of “books I probably won’t get around to really”. It is a topic of interest to me, and was a very cheap offer on Amazon one day. But I’ve read somewhat similar books before, watched TV shows on such matters etc, so what I’ve read so far in this one has seemed like going over stuff I already heard about.

That will do for now, there are plenty more I could mention.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

In the last few years as we’ve entered the era of iPads, Kindles, Netflix, Chromecast, Steam sales, Humble Bundles etc, we have gotten easy access to vast libraries of games and media. On the one hand it’s wonderful to have it all, on the other it puts quite a strain on our time, our wallets and our self-discipline.

Maybe other people are further down the line in learning how to live in this new world. Personally I’m just now recognizing that there is something here that might need to be figured out.

I might need different habits and different ways of thinking about things than I had just a few years ago, when the amount of great and tempting stuff that crossed my path could easily be fitted into my life, with plenty of room to spare.


17 thoughts on “The Age of Backlogs

  1. I have struggled with similar situations in the past. I think most people at some point in their lives have to come to terms with the fact that leisure time is finite and that you cannot do (watch, play, read, listen to) everything.

    I think the technology is also a stumbling block, as it facilitates queuing and saving to later, which hoodwinks us into believing that we can fit it in at some point.

    At present, I play just one MMO, Guild Wars 2, regularly and it’s casual nature means that it is not a huge time sink in comparison to other titles. I do return to some other older MMOs but that is usually just to check out new content. My time there is fleeting. STO and LOTRO provide these options.

    I only watch three or four TV shows with any degree of dedication and if I know a that a title has been cancelled in advance then I won’t often bother with it. I am far more particular about what movies I see in the theatres and try to be efficient with what I view at home. I often watch films that I can then review and blog about on CMP.

    Music use to play a very significant part in my life and I use to listen to far more bands and make it my business to be au fait with certain musical genres.That went out the window pretty much as soon as I became a parent.

    I do understand that not being able to do it all can be frustrating but there really is a lot of truth to the old adage about cutting your coat according to your cloth.

    • The tech has a lot to do with it for me. Not so long ago, if there was a good show on at a convenient time, I’d watch it. Otherwise if the time wasn’t convenient, that was that mostly. A very few favorite things I’d bother to tape and timeshift.

      Likewise the times when there were two good things on at the same time, I’d normally just pick one, and the other was passed up and forgotten about.

      Now with boxsets, catch-up, etc, not only is all the current stuff always available at convenient times, all those things from past decades that I’d skipped of necessity are potentially there as well! (DS9 being a prime example of something that was impractical to keep up with at the time.)

      I haven’t been an early adopter of a lot of these things, so it’s all a relatively new experience to me.

  2. I’m definitely living in the Age of Backlogs! And I agree, I think the tech has a lot to do with it. With print books, my to-read pile was always pretty enormous, but ever since getting a Kindle and having even easier one-push button access to cheap reads and daily deals, it’s made binge buying way too easy.

    I’m a heavy reader, so that doesn’t leave much time for the video games that have accumulated, or the TV series I want to catch up on. I’m a few seasons behind on Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy, Game of Thrones, and I want to watch True Detective.

    Yeah, I keep piling on to the list of want to watch, watch to read, want to play, but have less and less time to follow through.

    • From some of the other responses I was starting to think everyone else has this all figured out and sails through life with no backlogs. Good to know, I’m not alone in finding this the Age of Backlogs!

      • I don’t know how they do it! One of my biggest problems is compulsive buying. I’ve toned it down considerably on the movie front, but I’m a book hoarder through and through. I suppose there’s worst problems to have, at least.

  3. The question is this: unless you have a good reason to believe a particular item is going to become unavailable, what is the point of buying it? In the olden days it was often – usually – buy/watch this thing when the short window of opportunity arises or miss out, maybe forever, certainly until the next time a window for it opens (reruns, reprints, reissues).

    That’s not the world we live in now, is it? As we digitize all past, present and future media and turn the entire world into a shopping opportunity by way of the internet, it’s becoming more rational to assume that any given book/movie/tv show/game will be available on demand for the rest of our lives.

    We might as well just make a list of the things we want to get around to one day and own that at no cost. Then, when we do have a free hour or several, download something from the list, or more likely stream it. It’s going to take a while for anyone over about 20 to get the hang of this but that’s surely where we’re headed.

    MMOs, usually only being hosted on proprietary third-party servers, could be one of the very few things we could reasonably be nervous about losing access to…

    • Things might always be available, but not necessarily at the same price, or via the same services. For one thing when shows are being aired on TV it’s possible to easily record them for future viewing, at no extra cost. For another there are sales, like the Steam sales I mentioned in the post. For newer TV shows, there are windows when a thing is being aired, when it is available on catch-up services, when it is available for costly purchase on iTunes, when it’s out on DVD, when if ever it is available in all-you-can-eat streaming packages on Netflix etc.

      What with wrangling over net neutrality laws, it’s even conceivable that the era when Netflix like services are possible at anything like current prices won’t continue forever.

      But none of these things are really much to do with the theme of my post. That was mainly about the experience of having a considerable backlog of things that I very much want to get to. If everything was always available and always free, the thrust of the post would still be much the same. Actually magnified, because it’s about what it feels like living with the flood of what is available.

      Maybe another person would watch all of DS9 from beginning to end without watching anything else in between, and then wouldn’t have anything that felt like a backlog. But that’s not how I want to watch it, or the kind of person I am or want to be.

  4. Yep, it’s definitely about prioritizing what you want to do with your leisure time.

    Just speaking for myself, I found that I had such a love of the interactivity of games that I gave up television and movie watching quite some time back and don’t really miss either.

    Not needing to chase a show series freed up 45 minutes of episodic story time and 15 minutes of worthless commercial time every day/week/show. Only watching very special movies at launch (say X-Men or Pixar films) and ignoring the rest saved not only time, but a sizeable sum of money buying overpriced tickets and popcorn that could be shifted to gaming.

    Of course, I do have a family member who is a movie addict and regularly buys DVDs of nearly every movie in existence to watch at home, so I can look over their shoulder or borrow a disc if I do see something playing that I like. 🙂 But I’ve found that the interest simply isn’t there, I tend to just Wikipedia up the synopsis to any movie and go “ah, okay, story wasn’t so great after all, no point me sitting through a bunch of excuses for action stunts and CGI explosions” and wander off.

    Reading is an issue. My books backlog is probably even larger than my Steam games backlog, and worse, besides newer volumes, there’s a leftover accumulation that takes up physical space collecting dust and risking fungus growth. It’s taken me a while to come to terms with the fact that my life has changed, I’m honestly spending more time in front of a screen than not, always connected to the internet, and that I probably don’t want to give myself allergies handling books one step shy of rotting.

    In the last year, I’m finally making progress on clearing the book pile out, as ruthlessly as I can manage. Am I ever going to read this? No? Moves to the Sell/Recycle pile.

    If yes, then “Is this in new condition? Do I want to read/keep this in tangible form? Do I even have space to keep it?”

    If yes to all three, then keep and remain on ‘to read’ backlog list. If no, then sacrilege incoming, hack apart the spine and scan it into digital form where it can remain as a PDF in a folder, to be accessed as and when it’s ever wanted.

    The handy thing is the review and attempt at organization usually brings to attention the fact that these things exist, and that one actually has a backlog of “stuff one was intending to do” in the first place.

    • Books that are so old as to be a health hazard is a new one on me! I still have some books from my teenage years and they haven’t got to that state. I have sadly lived long enough that some of my paperbacks are starting to fall apart though, including my cherished LOTR.

      Btw how do you scan your books? Is there some quick way to do it? Sounds very labor intensive to me.

      I actually watch a lot less TV now than say ten years ago, but now it’s possible to access a larger range of excellent shows, so I have more that I actually want to watch, or to rewatch, and hence a backlog.

      • It unfortunately arises due to living in a humid climate and having books left in a non-ideal location due to lack of space.

        My most favored collection lives in the same climate-controlled *cough air conditioning cough* environment as me and is more or less fine. Another couple batches left in storerooms and a location I realized too late was exposed to sunlight and heat on a regular basis are showing significant signs of deterioration this past decade.

        As for scanning, the least aggravating option I’ve found so far is the Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner. This workhorse simply eats paper and spits it back out in PDF form. (I bought the S1500 model some time ago, think they have newer ones now.)

        The only downside is that they have to be loose sheets so one essentially has to destroy a book by removing its spine. If you’re in the States and have a Kinko’s nearby, I hear they have big industrial guillotines that can do it for a small cost. Try as I might, I can’t find access to one where I am, so I do it patiently with a box cutter and a metal ruler.

        It does take -some- effort, but it’s the best option I’ve found so far. Non-destructive scanning runs into the problem of going crazy manually flipping pages for the scanner.

        With the Scansnap, once the pages can fit, it takes care of the rest with gusto. Color, greyscale, black and white, can be detected automatically or set manually. OCR and all that are all handled by the software and default settings have been very satisfactory. Specs say it can handle 20 pages per minute of color scanning – all I know is that it’s definitely fast.

        When it goes so fast, it becomes fun to scan things. Loose bits of paper like brochures and business cards get fed in and processed in seconds, then the tangible object itself can stop taking up valuable space.

        The other option I’ve been experimenting with is setting up a digital camera on some sort of structure that points vertically down at a book, and pressing down pages with a clear perspex sheet. This handles large sizes decently, but I dislike the process of having to transfer files then figure out how to assemble every last photo image into a PDF. Plus page flipping is rage-inducing.

      • I initially read “S1500 model” as “$1500 model”, which put me off looking into it! Looks like the newer version is the ScanSnap iX500 and it sounds impressive and relatively affordable.

        I probably wouldn’t use such a thing for books, but maybe for all the assorted physical documents, papers and notes I’ve accumulated and not wanted to part with.

        Digitizing docs does sound like it should be a service that should be widely available, like copying or binding.

  5. I have a ridiculous amount of backlog books on my iPad. True Detective was awesome and I really enjoyed The Bridge. As for the Game of Thrones books, after you are done with ASOS I would suggest reading AFFC and ADWD together. Both books are in chronological order so there were some characters in AFFC and others in ADWD. I have started a read along on my blog and have the order in which to read the books, created by Stephen something from The Tower of the Hand. As for the show. I absolutely love it, but you have to remember that they can’t completely stick to the books because of money and time. I do think they are doing a great job trying.

    • I just finished Book 3, so I’ll look into your suggestions. Thanks!


      The reading order mentioned above seems to be here. However, if you are as spoiler averse as I am, be warned… because the chapters in the series are named after the viewpoint character for that chapter, just a list of chapter names is somewhat spoilery! A mere glance at the list will tell you who is alive at what point, something you might prefer not to have any hint about.

  6. I like lists. They help me avoid missing anything that I want to do, e.g. games I want to play. Unfortunately, this means I have a backlog too. 26 PC games,7 PS3 games and 22 Films/TV shows.

    The problem this causes for me, particularly in regards to games, is that I tend to rush through them and see them as something to complete, not something to enjoy.

    • You’re right, the awareness of having a large stack of stuff to get through can make it feel like a bit like a chore you’re neglecting and suck some of the joy out of it.

  7. Its especially troublesome as I play MMOs which just don’t end, which is the main reason for the build up of the list. That and Steam sales.

  8. Pingback: Too Many Games To Play | My Inner Geek

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