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What’s in your backlog? We asked game designers, artists, writers and more

The games that some of our favorite people in the industry still have to play

If there’s any universal truth in this world, it’s that we all have a huge backlog of stuff — books or movies or TV shows or games that we have no idea how or when we’ll ever start going through it.

This is especially true for the people who make the things we love to consume, or think about one day consuming. Developers immerse themselves in games all day; musicians are writing, recording and promoting their work. Games journalists and editors spend their weekdays thinking about the games they have played, which takes up time that could be spent playing even more games. (Don’t tell my editor I said that.)

Not all of us have these kinds of excuses to justify our accumulation of untouched things. That’s, in part, why The Polygon Show reached out to some of our favorite people in the industry: They’re only human, and they sometimes bite off more than they can chew, just like us. Even if your life revolves around games, it doesn’t mean you’ve played Fortnite or Final Fantasy or The Witcher 3 already.

Below, read some of our favorite responses to our question, “What game on your backlog are you most embarrassed to not have played yet, or haven’t found the time to get to?”

Sam Barlow, game developer (Her Story, Telling Lies)

The one that immediately came to mind was Kentucky Route Zero [...] Actually, there’s less shame there, because I have played Chapters One and Two, but I’ve had Three and Four sit waiting for what feels like forever. And I’m constantly telling people that this is the best game ever, but I still haven’t played half of it. I could be lying to them!

This kind of comes from a place of love, because I’m so anxious about really wasting the experience of playing it for the first time. The end of Chapter Two was such a miraculous, wonderful thing — there was just so many details and layers to it that made me want to weep at my keyboard. After that, I just got really tight about making sure I had a clear few hours with no distractions and really the perfect mood to play the next few chapters out, and I still haven’t found that perfect moment.

Carey Pietsch, cartoonist (The Adventure Zone, Lumberjanes)

The one I think about the most frequently is Stardew Valley. I love Harvest Moon and Terraria and Fantasy Life and Animal Crossing, and it’s been highly recommended by all my friends as this bright healing thing you can just step into it. So it’s so exactly up my alley that I’ve just been saving it for a rainy day since the day it came out. I dunno — it’s nice to know it’s there for me, but I also think I’ve built it up in my mind into this untouchable fantasy of a fantasy farm where I can just chill and be. But it’s oddly soothing to know if I hit a real low, I have something to fall into [...]

If I ever vanish, you can probably find me in my convalescent sick bed of Stardew Valley.

Ashe in a cutscene from Final Fantasy 12 The Zodiac Age
“[Final Fantasy 12] came out just after my PS2 broke [...] I wasn’t able to get my PS2 fixed, ‘cuz I was broke. And so I spent, like, years telling myself that, one day, they would re-release Final Fantasy 12, and I would finally be able to go back and play.”
Square Enix

Austin Walker, editor-in-chief of Waypoint

Probably the biggest game in my pile of shame is Final Fantasy 12. It’s a game that I know I would love — it has such a unique setting and so many interesting characters. And I know that it delves into all the weird political BS that I’m entirely here for, with a billion different factions and species and races and backstabbing and high fantasy, but also kind of gritty in places. It is 100 percent my shit, and yet I’ve put only a few hours into it from its re-release last year. When it first came out in 2006, 2007, it came out just after my PS2 broke, and I was in college at the time. And that meant I wasn’t able to get my PS2 fixed ‘cuz I was broke. And so I spent, like, years telling myself that, one day, they would re-release Final Fantasy 12, and I would finally be able to go back and play.

And they did! And they even included that thing that lets you speed up combat and go in super-fast mode, and I still didn’t make the time! I need to actually go back and play the game. I haven’t even watched a Let’s Play. I haven’t even really read the Wikipedia for this game. I know I would love it, and yet I have not done any of the work necessary to actually enjoy it.

Ben Esposito, game developer (Donut County, Sonic Dreams Collection)

The game I’m most embarrassed to have not played is probably EarthBound, because if everyone else is to be believed, it would probably be my favorite game.

Michelle Zauner, frontwoman of the band Japanese Breakfast

The game that I’m most embarrassed to have not given a proper playthrough is Chrono Trigger. I eventually got Chrono Trigger for the 3DS though I never finished playing but it was kind of strange that I didn’t play it to begin with it in my childhood when I had a Super Nintendo, because I was a huge SNES kid, particularly the Super Nintendo RPGs. And it’s no secret that Secret of Mana was my favorite RPG growing up, and every time I would mention that people would really recommend Chrono Trigger. I actually was a really big Chrono Cross fan, which is a very loose sequel to that game on PlayStation [...] I hear it’s a fantastic game.

Fortnite Battle Royale - firing from steps
“I feel like, at some point, I really need to try [Fortnite], just because I need to know what the teens are doing. I need to stay fresh and relevant.”
Image: Epic Games

merritt k, writer, podcast host (Woodland Secrets)

The game that I’m most embarrassed that I haven’t played is not some obscure but influential title — it’s actually Fortnite. And I know, I know — millions of people are playing this game. And I just look at it, and something about the way it looks just puts me off. And also I think I’m resistant to things that a lot of people are into, and that’s a habit that I’m trying to break myself of. Because millions of people can’t be wrong, right?

People seem to be having fun with it. It seems like a goofy game where you can shoot things — but also build weird towers? I did play PUBG a year ago, but this has totally supplanted that. So I feel like, at some point, I really need to try it, just because I need to know what the teens are doing. I need to stay fresh and relevant — and, oh God, my little jewel in my palm is flashing, and unless I can talk about Fortnite on Twitter, I’m going to be turned into Soylent Green.

Teddy Diefenbach, game designer (Hyper Light Drifter)

The game I still haven’t played is Hohokum. It was [on] PS3, PS4, and Vita. It was made by Honeyslug and Richard Hogg, and it’s like this super chill game where you control this sky-snake thing, and it kind of feels like you’re a kite, and you’re flying around these really whimsical worlds with cute characters. And it just feels so wholesome and beautiful and relaxing, and the last couple years have been kind of shitty for the whole world, so it just seems like the sort of thing we should be playing more of.

It’s got these nice relaxing vibes, kind of LocoRoco-ish. Katamari-ish. And most notably, they have a soundtrack that was a collaboration with a record label called Ghostly, who represent artists in the soundtrack like Tycho, Shigeto, Com Truise, and that’s just not done that often. It’s a really non-traditional type of soundtrack that I’m super into. And I’ve gotta play that game, but I just haven’t.

And I think it’s because it’s just too chill. Like, there’s nothing that I need to play in it. There’s no secret or drama or something. And it has a problem that a lot of really unique games have, which is it’s not more of something I already love. Like, I can’t finish one game and be like, you know what’s exactly like this game? Hohokum, I’ve gotta go play Hohokum. So it’s just hard to find a bridge into like, “This is the week where I’m gonna really get into Hohokum.” Also it was on my Vita, and I never really got into playing my Vita. Anyway, I should play it. You should probably play it.

A battle from an early part of Persona 5.
“Frankly, I’m just intimidated by the hours people have put into that game. [...] now that I’m an adult, I have my own funds, but also zero time. A bullet point that reads ‘something like 52 hours’ is a bullet point that you just know is eventually going to end up on my tombstone.”

Tina Amini, editorial manager of games at IGN

The game I shamefully have yet to play, and it makes absolutely zero sense that I haven’t yet because it sounds perfect for me, is Persona 5. I mean, there’s a cat, and relationships, and it’s Tokyo. But frankly, I’m just intimidated by the hours people have put into that game. It’s something that would have actually been a bonus when I was in high school and didn’t get the opportunity to own too many games at once. But now that I’m an adult, I have my own funds, but also zero time. A bullet point that reads “something like 52 hours” is a bullet point that you just know is eventually going to end up on my tombstone.

At the same time, though, I’ve coincidentally had multiple friends over the last few weeks rave about the game, and then rave about how I should be playing it. Andrew Goldfarb [executive editor of news at IGN] has, for instance, specifically shared the reasoning that, and I quote: “Tina, what the fuck, just play it.” And I have to say, he has a point.

Gary Whitta has also mentioned that “You should be playing Persona 5, because it’s basically Riverdale meets Inception, with demons, giant burger-eating contests and a talking cat. Seriously, what more do you want?” And that is also a salient point.

Zachary Ryan says, “Because what else are you gonna do for a hundred hours?” I don’t know, Zach, catch up on Riverdale? So yeah, I’ll eventually get around to it. Probably while on vacation.

Aaron Webber, social media manager (Sonic the Hedgehog)

The game I’m most embarrassed to have never played, but that I own and have owned for a while, is actually The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. And the reason this is most embarrassing for me is that I own the entire Witcher series, but have only ever played the very first game for about 12-to-16 hours, and am foolishly trying to push myself to go through the series in order, one game at a time. CD Projekt Red, don’t hate me!

And more!

To hear these folks and even more — including a live interview with our special guest, Jeff Kaplan of the Overwatch team! — tell us about their backlogs in their own voices, listen to the latest episode of The Polygon Show. It’s embedded right here: