Piles and Piles of Shame


So have you ever wondered why we as a group tend to feel shameful about the games we've never completed? And how other consumers of other media seem to not harbor any such feelings of guilt towards their media of choice? I feel its an almost unique phenomenon to our demographic. Sure, people usually feel that they should get around to reading that book, or finally watching that movie, but they generally don't feel bad about it.

Google "Pile of Shame" or "Backlog of Shame", and you'll find almost every hit is about unfinished video games. So why is that?

I can only tell you my theory based on my personal experiences.

When I was a kid, getting a video game was a big thing. I actually only owned 3 SNES games, 4 Gameboy games, and 6 N64 games. The majority of the games I played were either rented or borrowed. It wasn't that we were poor, it just wasn't a habit that my parents wanted to encourage. I had to do everything in my power to convince my parents to get me a game. Getting the most out of every game I got my hands on was an iron-clad rule.

You have probably had that friend whose parents used to buy him every single game he wanted. I had a friend like that, and I was lucky that he was cool enough to lend me his games whenever I asked. But I was also infuriated every time I took a game from him and saw that he literally did nothing in the game. I remember the worst offense was when I borrowed Super Mario 64 from him. His save file only had 10 stars collected, and he had the game since launch. Almost out of spite, I gave the cart back to him with a 120-star save file.

I think a lot of us grew up the same way, and have this inner critic that makes your eyes avert whenever you lay your eyes on your unfinished games. I hate thinking that I'm now that kid that had it all and didn't value anything.

And yet here I am. 175 games on Steam, way less than half completed. 14 out of 38 PS3 games finished. Writing anymore about this just makes ask myself why I'm writing about it, and not doing something about that stack. I know that if the younger me saw me today, he would be pretty ashamed.

So what do you guys think? Is there any reason why video games in particular make you sign up for a website to track your backlog? Are we just way too obsessive about our medium? Is it even healthy?

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new Polygon username and password

As part of the new Polygon launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to Polygon going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new Polygon username and password

As part of the new Polygon launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to Polygon going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.



Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.