2021 - 12 Month Pile Program

Sleep is for the weak. And the week after.

Bubblefuzz wrote:

Ok so I bought Animal Crossing New Horizons yesterday, this may affect my pile plans...

Just take it for bits at a time and don't let AC rule your life that is the way... At least for me hehehe

I'll likely copy/paste this into the OP, but want it in the thread as well.

A little help for those new to managing such a list of games.

First, YOU decide whether or not something belongs on your pile; This isn't a collection to showcase, this is a list of games that will require your attention sometime in the future, even if that time is just spent deciding that you will never get to a certain title.

Secondly, just lumping them all together doesn't help anyone. Yes, make a list, but more than just that. You aren't buying groceries, you're committing your time. An invaluable, and ever-shrinking, resource. So, use some tools to help you understand what you may be in for. From sites like HowLongToBeat.com that tells you what to expect, time-commitment wise, to critical acclaim or notoriety, which may adjust when and where you aim your sights.

Third, You don't have to just sort your list alphabetically. Sort it by desire, zeitgeist, system preference, or anything else that you think makes sense to you. You're not building a web application, you're curating a very specific list of games.

Remember, it's your list, which means it's your rules. Wanna jettison a game because you don't like the box art? Do it. Does a 40 hour game seem like too much of a commitment? Boot it. Does it require 3 hours of boring at the start to get to the "good parts"? Nix it. If a game doesn't respect your time from the jump, then just be done with it. Does it mean you "wasted" money on it? No, not necessarily. The cost is your money plus your time, the latter of which is likely the most valuable.

Fourth, throw games off your pile like people throw coins into a fountain. You're not out to impress anyone. This isn't about monitoring your every move, waiting for your next post to see what titles have been kicked to the curb. It's about you being ok with saying "No" to commitments that are too much, and "Yes" to those that delight you.

Games should be fun. Enjoyable, even. Not wasting your time, feeling like a second, third, or fourth job. Those are signs that you need to walk away. Eject the disc, delete it from your hard drive, or put it into a "Jettisoned" folder on your system.

Finally, some games, you will be so excited for. Can't wait for the release. The arrival bears so much excitement. The public is going wild. Zeitgeist hasn't been like this for ages. And you just.... bounce off it. That is okay. I'm giving you permission to not like every game, to walk away without feeling guilty. Regardless of everything going on, some games just will not be for you. Even though you bought it day 1 digitally, you are allowed to be done with it before noon.

Re: my above post, and popular games.

I loved everything about Control except the game part. Spooky, X-files vibe? Strange, FRINGE-like incidents? Every single box the game provided was checked for me. I was in. Then I got bored. I wasn't having fun. Things were interesting, but I wasn't enjoying myself. This game of the year people couldn't stop talking about? Yeah, that one. So I stopped playing. No harm, no foul. Just walked away, and it felt good.

Animal Crossing was adorable. It defined so much of 2020 for games that there were talk shows taking place in it, Survivor-like competitions being done, even Deal or No Deal games being setup. I bought it day 1, digitally, even knowing I wasn't a huge fan. I ended up not even spending more than a couple days play it, it just wasn't for me. I found more fun watching the content others were making with it than actually playing it. That realization has made me rethink game purchases.

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening was also a day 1 purchase. Such hype. Much loved game. It was... well, it was ok. I actually stopped playing at Eagle Tower, to be honest. Then I watched someone do that dungeon, went back to it, ended up completing the game. It was fun enough to warrant my second playthrough on the harder difficulty, as I tend to do with Zelda games. This time, though, I save scummed my way to a zero death win to get the special ending. When the time came to walk away, I was ready. Fun had left, and challenge was really what I was in it for.

Would I recommend the above games to people? Sure, but only after some discussion.

Bubblefuzz wrote:

I did make a list of games I own and would like to get to this year but it's 56 games deep. That's just overwhelmingly silly to contemplate and isn't going to help tussle with my inability to pick and stick with games.

I also had a ridiculous list drafted to post in here yesterday before I nixed it. The total time estimate clocked in at over double the amount of time I estimate having for games this year, and while I'm (reasonably) sure some of them won't stick...like you say, it just didn't seem helpful. It does serve as a first stage though, as well as a pool to pull from if the initial list starts shedding games left and right. Anyhow, here's where I'm starting this year.

Currently In Progress:
Assassin's Creed Origins
Pillars of Eternity
The Banner Saga
Zork Nemesis

Pile Picks:
Assassin's Creed Syndicate
Jedi Fallen Order
Heaven's Vault
Little Nightmares
A Case of Distrust
Kentucky Route Zero
Life is Strange

I really like that post, Trueheart, and it aligns with my own philosophy which shifted in the last years as kids and work got added to the equation. It's okay to walk away from a game. Took me a long time to accept that. But I do now.

My main problem now is just... carving time out for gaming. It's been a week since I sat down to game.

Eleima wrote:

I really like that post, Trueheart


Eleima wrote:

My main problem now is just... carving time out for gaming. It's been a week since I sat down to game.


I have to say I'm really vibing with trueheart's excellent gifs.

Okay, I'm ignoring the larger pile (the tag in GOG Galaxy for my pile is influenced by Sunless Sea: "The pile, the pile, the pile..."

For January I'm going to finish Dishonored 2. Which should be so easy, since I Love Arkane, immersive sims, and the series. I stepped away for some reason I don't remember and just never came back to it. I'm also on the 2nd to last level and just played enough to remember what I'm doing and what the controls are.

February is probably going to be Death of the Outsider, which was waiting for Dishonored 2 to be finished, but I'm also in the middle of a Pillars of Eternity run that I should finish, so those 3 games will be January, February, and March.

I'm still trying to work out what my pile strategy is for the year ahead. I can now say that I've tried the full range of strategies from obsessing about the pile to the point that it was unhealthy to completely ignoring it, and I'd like to find a medium in there somewhere that I'm happy with.

My first step has been to define what my pile even is. This seems like a silly question, but between multiple gaming subscriptions, weekly freebies on the Epic Games Store, and ten systems in my household (fourteen if you include backward compatibility support), I have access to a lot of games.

What I've settled on is that my pile is made up of the games that:

  • I own. All those games I have through subscriptions? Not the pile.
  • I paid money for. It's cool that you can grab a bunch of games for free these days (to keep!). In the past, I've felt guilty about doing this because they got added to the pile, but that's silly. No reason to pass on free stuff, but no reason to feel any obligation toward it.
  • Are on systems I have hooked up and regularly use. That's the Switch, the Xbox One, the PlayStation 4, and my Epic account on PC. I have a large number of unfinished games on 3DS, Wii U, PSP, PS3, 360, and others, but I don't play on those platforms much anymore. They're retired. (Incidentally, this if the first time in ten years that my 3DS isn't one of my regular systems. Pour one out for my bestie.)
  • I'd like to play. This is the most important one, obviously, but it's good to remind myself that everything I own is something that I wanted to play at some point. However, that doesn't mean that I'll always want to play them, especially after I've put some time into them. A good example here is Bastion: I own Bastion on multiple platforms. I do not like it. I do not want to play it. It is not part of my pile.

All told, that leaves me at 60 games. I won't finish those this year. Some of them I won't finish ever. But I at least have an idea of what I own that I want to play!

Now to put together some kind of strategy for deciding what to play next, as well as one for figuring out when to give up on something and stop playing. Any suggestions?

I kind of used a similar tactic for sorting out my "Priority Pile", which has technically expanded with a gaming capable PC. There's a lot of GWJer gifts from prior sales to sort through, and I feel as if I need to completely redo the categories I just sorted everything into (including a "What is this even" category).

The first thing I did was take the games I'm already playing and put them at the top. However, I also decided to pick the games from each platform I was most interested in and sort those into the current pile. Other factors also contributed. Tokyo Dark: Remembrance? An interesting little adventure game/visual novel type that looks fascinating. Put it in the pile, and even started it today. Crystar? Not the best gameplay, but it's story just hit some Yoko Taro levels of intrigue so I'd like to finish it. Daemon X Machina? Just bought it on Steam sale, so on top of the pile it goes.

So it might sound like work, but first I'd split it into platforms, and then I'd put the games that you look at and feel in your gut "Yes, I want to play this" and put that in there. If you have to think for more than five seconds about whether it should be on the pile or not, cast it aside for later consideration. Ideally, you'll have about five games per platform, though it's not like everyone's buying habits are consistent with one another.

That's what I'd advise, and I'd also recommend not forcing oneself to finish a game if it turns out not to grab you. As trueheart mentioned, no shame in abandoning a game, and while I imagine you've gotten past it, no shame to keep a game on the pile that you've started and haven't finished, but feel no motivation towards.

Coincidentally, I've been playing Witcher 3 lately as one of my pile games (and also so my buddy can stop talking about how I've missed out on one of the best games of the decade, to which I say... sort of?), and seeing aaaaaallllll the question marks on screen just feels so... oppressive and daunting. So, I decided I'm not doing everything, I'm not scouring every question mark off the map, I'll just be playing what I want and move on.

On one hand, it's incredibly freeing. On the other, the game has a way of delaying progress. "Whelp, think I'll finish off Novigrad tonight" I thought last night. Then before I saved the game:


"Huh. Guess I'm embroiled in a plot to assassinate a king now."

But, I'm still having a good enough time of it. I'm playing as much as I want and ready to move on once the only thing left in the current zone are question marks, Gwent, and horse races (and if we're speaking honestly, horse races are the only one of those three that are in any way tempting).

The point of that digression is: I think, for some games or some game types, we're all pressured to enjoy it a certain way, be it by the game's design or pressure from others. It's fine to enjoy the game as you wish to, which I also think is a nice in-between of "giving it up" and taking your own pace through it. If I had to play every bit of Witcher 3 that exists, I'd just drop it. Fortunately, I don't! So I'm free to enjoy what I can of it, feeling confident-ish that I won't be playing it for months on end.

That's all great advice! I like the idea of kinda doing a konmari on your pile not to throw out things that don't spark joy but to focus in on things that spark the most joy. It might not be a bad idea to do that from time to time and refresh the short list.

So my Joy Spark list for now is:

Nioh 2
The Last of Us Part II
Death Stranding
Horizon Zero Dawn
Final Fantasy 7 Remake

Xenoblade Chronicles (Replay)
Pokémon Let's Go Eevee
Octopath Traveler

Dishonored (High Chaos Replay)
Assassin's Creed Odyssey
Resident Evil 3
Doom Eternal

Manifold Garden

And yeah, I'm right there with you on playing games however you most enjoy it, even if that's not how you're "supposed to" play it. I've been slowly going through Assassin's Creed Odyssey one region at a time with long breaks in between. I've been enjoying it all spread out like that instead of trying to do it all in one go.

This year is about me. I'm not interested in being hyped to 2021 game releases as I did previous years. I want to go hard on old JRPGs and handheld games. FF4 Complete and the DS remake as well. Finish Wild Arms and Breath of Fire 2. White whales for me.

bobbywatson wrote:
Stele wrote:

A game a week-ish. Go for it.

Skyrim and DQXI in a week would be a stretch...

In a year will be a stretch honestly!

brokenclavicle wrote:
Bubblefuzz wrote:

Ok so I bought Animal Crossing New Horizons yesterday, this may affect my pile plans...

Just take it for bits at a time and don't let AC rule your life that is the way... At least for me hehehe

I am sharing a Switch / Island with my son and now possibly my wife wants a tent so really no other option but to take it in bits, which is probably for the best.

benign1 wrote:

It does serve as a first stage though, as well as a pool to pull from if the initial list starts shedding games left and right.

Yep. If nothing else it helped me uncover the games I'd most like to play.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

Horizon Zero Dawn

You've reminded me I want to get to the HZD frosty DLC. I only added full games to my initial pile sifting, but I'd really like to revisit this world so onto the shortlist it goes.

I'm liking all the new pile theories and listing of lists. After all what is a list but a rebranded pile.

I'm already looking at February, and looking at my current game progress and remaining pile games, and combined with the instability of my employment it really has me thinking of game purchases far, far differently than it had been before.

Spoiler: Spoiler-tagged for digressing way too much

It's also kind of had me curious about my approach to certain games as pile games. Let's take Xenoblade Chronicles vs. The Witcher 3, for example. I'm completely fine with the former being a long-term, multi-month project. I am not, however, fine with The Witcher 3 as such, and I was curious as to why that might be. I think there's a few reasons for that, the first being that I am, in part, playing The Witcher 3 just to finally get it off the pile. My buddy's been harassing me the past few years to finally play "one of the best games of the generation/decade", and it'd be nice to finally be done with it. Playing it after the Cyberpunk 2077 fiasco has, in many ways, given me an interesting perspective on the sheer size of it, and what the effusive praise from consumers and press alike might have done to curse Cyberpunk. Previously, I'd focused on the early announcement of it, creating expectations of it being on PS4 and Xbox One when it really shouldn't have been on that platform. Turns out, there was an emphasis to Aliens: Colonial Marines it and just focus on it being "as epic as possible" on PC before even trying to squeeze it onto current-gen consoles. Nonetheless, just as BioWare suffered the consequences of relying too heavily on BioWare magic, I can't help but think CD Projekt Red had become overconfident in their own abilities. Even if Witcher 3 is an achievement, it is partially due to how obvious it is that the development team was scrambling to plug leaks in this boat where they could and cast off anything unnecessary. "Art is not finished, it is abandoned". Witcher 3 was abandoned, but in such a state that it feels far more complete than a lot of other games despite clearly being just too darn much.

I'm partially digressing, but if Witcher 3 is too much, why don't I just play it like I do Xenoblade? Well, because you kind of can't. With Xenoblade, if I have time to dedicate a few hours to it, I can just jump in and push forward with the story. If I only have five-to-fifteen minutes, I can knock out some nothing side quests with ease. Either way, I feel like something was accomplished. I can continually dip back into the game between other titles. It helps that I've restarted the game over-and-over the past decade and therefore am familiar with the early hours, but ultimately I'm just fine taking dips when I can't take dives. Witcher 3 isn't really like that. Sure, if I want to chase down question marks and bomb monster nests I can, but that's only 1/3rd of the content. The optional side quests are plentiful and arguably more time-consuming than just chasing the story. With Xenoblade, it's easy and simple side-quests, or it's the main story. What this means for "immersion" is down to preference, because I'd rather hear a generic "Hello" as Xenoblade immediately brings up the shop menu rather than having to hear whatever this local blacksmith needs to repeat about some top-notch crossbow, including reaction shots from both Geralt and the smithy.

I'm digressing again. There's also the simple fact that Xenoblade is on the Switch, and therefore I can play it while at my desk, while at my friend's house waiting for his kids to fall asleep so we can podcast, on the toilet, or whatever other location I may bring the device. Witcher 3, on the other hand, is locked to my Xbox, and therefore in my bedroom, where I (currently) can only game after 5pm. Even my PC is more accessible than that at this stage.

So, what does this all add up to? Firstly, that even bouncing between multiple games, it's easier to tackle the pile on the Switch or, to a lesser extent, the PC. Second, that games on Xbox and/or PS4 are going to be uniquely demanding of time, to the point that, if I'm intentionally trying to shrink the pile, they'll become the "primary game" of a sort. Witcher 3 has basically been the game I'm playing this month, despite dalliances into Tokyo Dark: Remembrance and Xenoblade Chronicles. I was making progress in Salt & Sanctuary as my "Twitch game", but we just discovered that Comcast is putting a 1.2 TB cap on everyone now (and without proper warning), and in the past three months we've used anywhere between 1.6 - 2 TB in the span of a month. We'd already hit 800-900 GB, so, uh, had to lay off the streaming for the rest of the month. Shucks.

This has left me looking at what's releasing in February and what I've got on my pile and thinking... maybe I should wait on some of this stuff.

Right now, February has Ys IX: Monstrum Nox, Persona 5 Strikers, Bravely Default II, and now Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King all releasing. I look and I ask myself... am I really itching to play any of these?

And in light of the above, I feel like it's helped me figure out a timing window for purchasing these games. For Ys IX, it's the game I'm actually most interested in, but feel like I'd rather wait until it's on PC than buy it on PS4. This way, I can finish Witcher 3 and start working on some of the games on my PS4 pile list. Persona 5 Strikers is already on my Steam wishlist, but I'd rather purchase it on sale for maybe $30 than drop $60 on it. Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King is a budget-level game, but I'd rather save it for when I can stream it. So, perhaps after I've beaten Salt & Sanctuary, though I'd like to move forward on another PC game or two in the meantime.

This leaves Bravely Default II as the odd one out. I played the demo, and while it wasn't bad, it felt... off. It didn't feel like the prior games did on 3DS. I'll mercifully save those thoughts for elsewhere, but when I consider the time I spent in the demo, I wonder... is this good enough that I should play it before Valkyria Chronicles? SteamWorld Quest? Because those are the next two Switch pile games for consideration after knocking out Tokyo Dark. Grandia HD is on that list, too, but that feels like a greater time commitment than I want at the moment.

To this extent, I think the pile is helping me make better decisions. It's not just helping me evaluate my time, but it's helping me evaluate my spending and the advantages and disadvantages to each platform. The Priority Pile in particular, as it reduces choices down enough that I no longer have analysis paralysis. There are technically other Switch games on my pile, but it's easier to look at Tokyo Dark, SteamWorld Quest, Valkyria Chronicles, and Grandia HD and say "Which one?" Well, I chose Tokyo Dark because it was shorter, and in the end stepped away having played a neat game that I might NG+ later this year. Now, I only have the three games to choose from, and based on gut feeling it has been whittled down to two.

I think that's a good spot to be at.

Anyway, that's enough of that rambling. Sorry to LiveJournal all over the place, I had some thoughts I wanted to get down. Dunno if there's any value in there, but lemme see if I can summarize the biggest takeaway:

The biggest advantage to the "priority pile" I suggested to Clock is that, especially by restricting it by platform, you have fewer titles to cause analysis paralysis. There's psychological studies and anecdotal evidence to suggest that the more choices you give someone, the more trouble they'll have of actually deciding or sticking to an ol' reliable. But if you whittle that choice down to maybe five games, you'll probably have yourself an easier time of it.

Of course, if you only really have one gaming platform that becomes a bit more difficult. Or perhaps easier. After all, it comes down to looking at what gives the biggest positive gut response to determine what goes on the pile. And this can similarly work for purchases, and the timing of them.

I just hope 2021 doesn't end like 2020, with five or six worthwhile games suddenly coming out of nowhere that all get that positive gut response.

I manage my pile and track progress on the games page of my blog.


Kicking some games to the curb.

  1. The Touryst (XSX) [5.0hr est] [gamepass]
    1. Cute, reminds me of Fez crossed with Crossy Road. Not engaging me though.
  2. In Death: Unchained (VR)
    1. Causes shoulder pain that I haven’t had to deal with in years.
  3. Planescape: Torment (NS) [33.0hr est]
    1. Let’s be honest: I’m not getting to this.
  4. Shadow of the Colossus (PS4) [9.0hr est]
    1. Another game I’m never going to get to.
  5. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy (NS) [60.0hr est]
    1. 60 hours? I cannot commit to such a lengthy journey right now, even if it is three separate games.


Games I'm playing now or have started:
Trials of Mana (Switch)
Too Human (360)
Picross S2 (Switch)
Control (Game Pass PC)
Train Valley 2 (Steam) - I might get too frustrated and call this done soon. The last map and current map were just frustrating
Ori and the Will of the Wisps (Game Pass PC)
Dirt Rally 2.0 (Steam) - I need to define what counts as done for this.
Darksiders: Genesis (Switch)
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 (Switch)

Games I own and want to play:
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity (Switch)
Cadence of Hyrule (Switch)
Picross S3 (Switch)

Games I don't own yet, but would like to play:
Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order (Game Pass PC- eventually)
Immortals: Fenyx Rising (Switch)

My ongoing game:
Genshin Impact (PC)

mrtomaytohead wrote:

Games I'm playing now or have started:
Too Human (360)

Interesting. What brought this about?

ccesarano wrote:
mrtomaytohead wrote:

Games I'm playing now or have started:
Too Human (360)

Interesting. What brought this about?

I salvaged an abandoned 360 from a house after a tenant vacated (along with hours of other cleaning and more) and then SallyNasty put the disc on offer on the trading post. I eventually found out the disc drive is broken, but the game is now free for everyone with a 360 or XBOne. It's the one and only 360 game I wanted to play that didn't have a chance to try back when I had access to a 360 and it was new.