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How do you decide what game to play next?


Jamie John
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What with Game Pass, PlayStation Plus and the abundance of free games given away regularly by the likes of the Epic Games Store and Amazon Prime Gaming, quite often I read about people with massive piles of shame who suffer from choice paralysis when they come to choose their next game. They end up just playing something they know, like Destiny or FIFA, or they scroll mindlessly through their gigantic game library for 20 minutes before going away and watching TV instead.

 

I feel like this myself, from time to time. Right now, for instance. I completed a game a couple of days ago that I'd been playing exclusively for the best part of 20 hours (Black Mesa, if you're interested, the Half-Life remake - it's great) and then I look at my game library and just don't know what to play next, so instead I end up mindlessly browsing the forum for half an hour and making this thread.

 

These are the games I've currently got tagged as 'To Play' in my GOG Galaxy library:

 

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That's 65 games, right there, which I either own or have access to via Game Pass, and these don't include my Switch backlog, nor most of the unplayed games I have on my Oculus Quest 2. There are lots of games here that are supposed to be excellent, either forum darlings or universally-appreciated eight, nine or ten out of tens.

 

The most critically-rated of them (yes, I keep lists of these things) is Crusader Kings III, apparently, which has a 91/100 score on Metacritic, but that's supposed to be a profoundly complex and involved RTS-cum-RPG-cum-incest simulator, which is probably a bit too much for a rainy Saturday night during lockdown.

 

The games which I bought the longest time ago (I keep track of that, as well) are the remastered Bioshock games, but can I really be bothered to start Bioshock 1 again? I loved it when I played it on the 360, all those years ago, but in 2021? I'm not sure.

 

What about the game I spent the most money on? Surely I should play that first and get my money's worth? That game isn't actually on this list, because it's an Oculus game. It's Beat Saber, which I paid £22.99 for back in December (there are several tabs on my spreadsheet). Now, I've played this game a bit, even going so far as to mod it so that I can add user-created levels, providing me with a potentially endless list of popular songs, and while it is, indeed, fantastic, can I really be arsed to clean the goggles, strap the headset to my face, adjust the straps and then ponce about in my living room, waving my arms about, at this very moment? Not really, no. Maybe another night.

 

What do I feel like playing, then? Well, none of them, really. There's nothing that jumps out. The game I most want to play right now I can't play, and that's the Switch port of Super Mario 3D World, which isn't even out yet, and, more to the point, I think a big part of my wanting to play it is because I can't have it, but I keep on listening to podcasts or reading articles by people going on about how great it is.

 

Maybe I'll just flick through Twitter for an hour instead and then go to bed.

 

How do you choose what game to play next?

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For me, the pile of shame applies less to freebies. I really don't get the idea that the obligation to complete things applies to games that have been selected by an external service. The lines get a bit blurry if the service is a paid subscription, but then you have to ask why you took out the subscription. So - you subscribe to PS+ for online play; you subscribe to Amazon Prime for the video content and free delivery. The freebies are a nice bonus, but you could probably take or leave them.

 

Besides that, there's the level of "investment" a game wants. Are you really in the mood to take another shot at that Sekiro boss, or do you fancy some chill time with a Tetris Effect playlist? And some games have different "levels of investment" within them, like Destiny (patrols, nightmare hunts, wrathborn hunts, strikes, nightfalls, raids.) @Marlew's old thread about comfort gaming highlighted the benefits of having games that you can nearly always go back to and enjoy. Sometimes you just want to spend a couple of months with an old Kirby game because you know you'll have fun. :P 

 

Aside from that, it's fine to just not want to play anything. I sometimes find myself turning on the PS4 without any plan in mind, cycling through my library, not selecting anything, turning off the PS4 and going off to browse streams or something. :D 

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I don’t really have a pile of shame/backlog and I don’t buy games I’m not going to play there and then. Unplayed games on my account are just games I’ve got access to, rather than something I have to get round to. 
 

So I usually pick what I’m going to play next based off what’s coming out, recommendations on here, or whatever takes my fancy on Game Pass. 

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7 minutes ago, Timmo said:

I avoid having such lists by giving a game 5 mins and if it's not grabbing me I'll usually drop it. A game has to 'feel' right for me to enjoy it.

 

This, 100%, I do it with films, TV shows and games, usually I'll give it a bit longer than 5 minutes, but if it gets to a point where I'm not enjoying it, it gets sacked off and taken off the pile O'shame.

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53 minutes ago, JamesTW said:

Download a raffle app on your phone

 

You laugh, but I actually did something like this for a while, putting the names of all the games I owned into a randomiser and then playing whatever came out on top. Invariably, however, when a game that I couldn't be arsed to play was chosen I would just press the button again until something I was vaguely interested in came up.

 

55 minutes ago, HarryBizzle said:

I don’t really have a pile of shame/backlog and I don’t buy games I’m not going to play there and then. Unplayed games on my account are just games I’ve got access to, rather than something I have to get round to. 
 

So I usually pick what I’m going to play next based off what’s coming out, recommendations on here, or whatever takes my fancy on Game Pass. 

This is the best thing to do, I think. Piles of Shame do a lot more harm than good and we should all just play what we feel like playing rather than what we feel obligated to play. But what can I do? I can't just bring myself to get rid of all these games I own. I actually came close to getting through my pile in about November and had it down to fewer than 20 games, but then I got an XSX and Game Pass. Maybe that was a mistake.

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Whatever takes my fancy at the time but I tend to follow the "longer game, shorter game" cycle if I can, so I have a brief treat between larger games- particularly helpful if a longer game turns into a bit of a slog toward the end, or is encumbered with padding to artificially lengthen playtime. I often won't have the energy to move from one long game to another and I'll usually need a change of tone (and possibly genre) to avoid tedium. Recently I followed Shenmue 3 with To the Moon and now I'm following The Last of Us (plus DLC) with Deadly Premonition.

Luckily none of these have been chores, although I took a very long time to pick my way through Shenmue as I go through periods where I don't really feel like playing games at all. Perhaps I need even smaller games to break that habit!

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Being PC only I did a 'cleanse' at the start of Jan and deleted every single game off my drives. I've a backlog of about 150 games as I dont subscribe to gamepass or any subscription service as itll just artifically amplify how many I have.

 

Original plan was to play through alphabetically, store to store, but after getting to C via Epic  I realised there were whole sessions booting shit I'm not arsed about.

 

So now I just download what I feel I wanna play. I'm fairly blessed in I can download almost any game, even mental installs in about an hour or so. If its a gaming day, I'll download what I fancy that morning.

 

Currently have Slay the Spire, Dead Cells, Stanley Parable, Hitman 3 with all levels, Risk of Rain 2 and Paradise Killer installed. All 6 are amazing and I don't feel the need to bother with owt else right now until I've got my fill of these vastly different titles.

 

Play what you feel like playing. Don't  stress 'whats on the list'. I have about 4TB of storage so had so much installed I couldn't pick, and just played the comfort of Football Manager for hundreds of hours. This method makes me actively choose and commit somewhat.

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I usually tend to have between two and four games on the go at any one time to give me options when I play as they will usually all be in different genres. It'll be a mix of long and short titles and sometimes one title will grab me and dominate a lot of my time (as Wasteland 2 is at the moment). I don't put any arbitrary conditions upon myself either e.g. 'I must play only game X tonight' or 'I must play a short game next', so I often flit between games in the same evening too, perhaps playing a few only for an hour or so in one session. Whilst that does mean it may take a while to get through stuff, the method works for me and stops me getting too caught up with choice paralysis (though that does still occur).

 

At the moment I have just two - Wasteland 2 & Avengers (SP campaign), but I will probably add something else into the pot tomorrow; I'm thinking something a bit shooty (I might start putting some more time back into The Division.)

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I just base it on my mood. I'm already trying to reduce the amount of time I spend writing worthless end of year lists, reviews, thinking about backlogs. It's like curating a fucking gallery inside your head that no one will ever see or care about. 

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My current playlist is all on the PS4/5, I don’t have time for the switch or pc. I like variety, I recently completed a JRPG so will not play another for a while. I will always play a different genre, my last five games have been Ghosts of Tsushima, The Last Campfire, Astro’s Playroom, Desperado 3 & Lost Sphear.


I used to be good at the purchasing side as well but have gotten weak during this pandemic and I need to stop buying more games my default buy price for anything physical is below £25 I can’t help it if I see a great price on a game I want to play, I recently purchased Yakuza Like a Dragon and The Pathless.

 

The list in the spoiler tags below is not an order of play and if something comes out that I want to play now or on release then I will, basically play what you want and if you don’t feel like playing anything then go do something else.

 

Read a book, go for a walk, watch a film, do some diy or anything you want. Gaming is something to be enjoyed, if you are not enjoying it then take a break. Oh! from your list I would love to play Hades but it’s not on PlayStation so I would recommend Desperados 3 which I completed last year. My quick non-spoiler review.

 


My gaming shelf, I will drop this all when Horizon 2 Forbidden West is released!

 

Spoiler

 

Physical 

Star Wars Squadrons

Mutant Year Zero - Road to Eden

Wargroove

Shadow Tactics

Journey to the Savage Planet

Abzu

A Way Out

Oninaki

Nier Automata

Pathless

Heroland

John Wick Hex

Peaky Blinders Mastermind

Super Robot Wars OG

Yakuza Like A Dragon

The Banner Saga Trilogy

Untitled Goose Game

Civilization VI

 

Digital

Ghost Recon Breakpoint

Valkyria Chronicles

For the King

Narcos Rise of the Cartel

Beyond Eyes

Haven

Donut County

Undertale

When the past was around

Gris

Borderlands 3

Crypt of the Necrodancer

Rime

Bound

 

PlayStation Plus

Detroit Become Human

Rayman Legends

Hollow Knight

Bugsnax

Maneater

Control

 

 

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As I've gotten older, and as gaming as an entertainment industry has just grown more and more massive, and as life has slowly gotten more and more in the way of carefree gaming time, I've found it easier just to admit to having a genre specialism or two that I can focus on. Usually at the expense of something else. 

 

I've also come to know my own tastes pretty well and have become fairly resistant to FOMO, which I guess is quite lucky in a way. You do see people time and again falling into the trap of buying into hype just because Metacritic/Edge/rllmuk told them to, without first really considering whether it's a game they actually want to play.

 

Know what you like, specialise, and be OK with the fact that everyone in the whole wide world is constantly missing out on stuff. The game industry is too big. Play what speaks to you. 

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I tend to go by what is highly regarded on here, especially what people with similar tastes recommend. Sometimes I get an itch for a particular genre which helps. I'll also know if something is worth persevering with pretty quickly- Outer Wilds, Subnautica & Hypnospace Outlaw I was thinking about playing even when I wasn't actually playing them. Other games, not so much.

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I've reached the point where I feel no guilt or obligation to play anything I've bought beyond the point that I feel slightly bored with it. I tend to prefer arcade games and go through phases of being very keen on one or two before leaving them for another few months, rinse and repeat. Usually, that revolving interest determines what I play next. Currently, the Aleste Collection, Missile Dancer and Groove Coaster Wai Wai Party are jostling for my attention. Any FROM game will be straight in until I finish it a couple of times and then it will drop into similar rotation. 

 

Intermittently, there will be a story/character-led game which will grab me and these tend to be some of the most affecting and enduring experiences, but they are also very rare. If one of these gets under my skin, I will mainline them to the end at the exclusion of all else. TLOU2, FF7R, HZD and RDR2 are the only examples from the last couple of years. I'm not at all interested in getting a Platinum or 100% or any collectibles and I find that if I don't focus on the main game, that stuff will slowly suffocate my interest.

 

Beyond these polar opposite genres, there's a lot of stuff that I'm happy to buy as a gamble and which will very very occasionally turn out great, but usually they will be uninstalled within a couple of hours. Until then, the enthusiastic optimist in me will encourage me to turn them on again and again until reality finally sinks in and in realise I have no interest. Currently the RE2 and RE3 remakes seem much more exciting in my mind than when I play them. Almost every game ever released fits into this group because I love games more in theory than practice.

 

That said, I'm looking forward to a nice Sunday morning playing twenty minutes of half a dozen games. 

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I made a conscious decision relatively early on not to buy stuff I'm half interested in just because it's cheap.

 

When me and my sister were kids I remember my dad saying "I'll get you a treat on the shopping" and we'd be dreaming of milky ways or milky bars or some other milk based wonder, and when he got back he'd hand us 2 hateful sticks of bitter bournville each and told us that they were on 4 for 50p or something.
His eyes would light up "Bargain!"

It was hard to act grateful. I wouldn't want a boil on my arse, but two boils? Now that's a different story!

 

I always made sure I never bought those big bumper value pack grab bag bundles where you get like 5 or 555 games for a fiver.

Most of us are cash rich and time poor nowadays. What might seem like a bargain at first, doesn't look quite so appealing when you imagine yourself having to waste hours of your life sifting through all the shit just to find the one or two gems.

 

If there's a game I want to play, I'll buy it and play it.

Don't mind paying full price (though full price for the crap I play is usually 2-15 quid).

 

I can sort of see the appeal of those subscription services where you get some ready to go curated pool of middling piss to wade through of an evening after work.

I really can though, you could use it as a sort of streaming demo service. Must be good for finding things you wouldn't have even tried otherwise.

 

The "choose random game" option in mame is always a good way of finding something new to play! I've done that in the past and stumbled across some reet bangers.

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4 hours ago, Let us measure said:

I've also come to know my own tastes pretty well and have become fairly resistant to FOMO, which I guess is quite lucky in a way. You do see people time and again falling into the trap of buying into hype just because Metacritic/Edge/rllmuk told them to, without first really considering whether it's a game they actually want to play.

I fortunately never get the FOMO and don't play things based on the amount of love they get here, so consequently buy my games when they are usually 50-75% off in sales (i.e. long after release). I just buy in genres I like or think I'll like and then years down the line read the thread about it in here.

 

I also don't replay the same stuff over and over again; personal preferences, of course, but with so much different stuff out there to experience I much prefer to move to something new. I've only ever played 3 games more than once: Mass Effect 1 & 3 and Alpha Protocol (and at least with AP I actually experienced a whole new bit of content that I'd missed first time around due to my choices).

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I have a huge backlog to get through. Unless it's a big AAA I have been excited to play them I just kind of "fall into" the next game I play. It annoys me as I can spend an age looking through my library and bumbling about with 30 minutes if game A or game B before something gets it's claws into me.

 

Example, Resident Evil 4. I was scrolling around on my PS5 and thought "let's see how it runs". A few evenings play later and it's complete. I find that when I start to play something and it grabs me, I will play it without loading anything else I til completion. TLOU2, Ghost of Tsushima were the same. Start them, play nothing else until finished, move on (with TLOU2 I actually did two playthroughs back-to-back before starting my next game.

 

Currently going through Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Again, started it just to see how it looked and ended up getting properly engaged. Once that's done the process starts again.

 

 

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I’m half way through Shenmue 2 for the first time since it’s Dreamcast release. 
 

managed to bag a ps5 last week so continuing the save from the PS4. 
 

be t up absolutely had to be Shenmue 3 but after that I can’t decide between:

 

Days Gone

Ghost of Tsushima

Demons Souls remake

 

im not one of those peoples who can have more than one game on the go at any one time either. 

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Usually download and try a game. Give it perhaps 30mins to an hour. If I'm not enjoying it leave it. Generally know which genres I enjoy playing so will focus on games that fit those preferences first. Sometimes I try different things though and enjoy them.

 

I don't worry about backlogs. Life is too short.

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I don't really play many, I usually get the hankering for a Roguelike and I think that's because it doesn't really require any commitment, you can pick it up; play for 40 minutes and put it down without being lost or forgetting the story the next time you play it.

That and the Yakuza series for some reason... Maybe because you're guaranteed to properly laugh each session and the side missions are short.

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I made a list of the games I most wanted to play before this (last) generation ends.  I feel like I've missed a console generation because my son was born and I basically stopped playing for three years. Lockdown changed that, and it was Borderlands 3 that gave me the gaming bug again. 

 

So after finishing Borderlands 3, and then Forza Horizon 4 and then Red Dead Redemption 2, I started playing Resident Evil 2 remake. And it's good but you're basically stuck in a house in the dark, moving from room to room.... That's far too close to lockdown life in Scotland in f***ing January, so RE2 got shelved. I'll go back to it, just not for a few months! 

 

Now I'm playing Assassin's Creed Origins. Big open world, sunshine, palm trees, freedom to travel. It's hitting the spot. 

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