Two Notebooks

On clearing the backlog, and daydreaming

Two Notebooks

I dunno about you, but last year kicked our arse financially. On the one hand, we probably spent more money on doing interesting things than we have done in the previous few years. On the other, our car broke down several times and cost just under £2,000 to fix, our washing machine died, and several other annoying things happened. Oh, and the cost of living crisis. Another small factor in our skintness.

I’ve decided to try to do a low-spend year as much as I can. I have too much stuff anyway. It’s silly to buy more stuff when I already don’t have time to finish the stuff I own. Isn’t it? That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway. That’s what I’ll tell myself when the Switch 2 drops and I inevitably start trying to justify spending a huge chunk of money on it.

Luckily for me, my backlog is looking very good.

Before the low-spend year kicked in, my daughter and I went stationery shopping. (This last-minute spending spree isn’t technically in the spirit of the low-spend year, but it is technically allowed and that is how I made peace with it.)

I have two notebooks on the go. This is the system that seems to work for me. One is the journal that I pour all of my feelings into. It doesn’t need to be a nice notebook and quickly fills up with doctor-level unintelligible handwriting anyway. This is also the journal that I use to record things I am grateful for every day, and on a slightly more serious note, this small act propped me up during some incredibly shitty times last year.

(Seriously, I recommend it.)

The other notebook is the one that contains everything else: ideas for articles, to-do lists, notes for games I’m reviewing, quotes from books I don’t want to forget, and takeaways from courses I go to. And last year’s notebook turned into chaos very quickly. I had Pikmin 4 notes interspersed with meal plans and mad doodles while on hold at the doctor’s surgery. This year I’ve bought one with sections. Sections! So I will be more organised and efficient in my brain and my life.

This is the book that has my backlog. All the games that I started this year and want to finish. They are very good, exciting games that deserve my time and attention. Playing them will give me joy and I will not get FOMO when all the shiny new ones start coming out.

Anyway here’s the list (please don’t judge me):

  • A Space for the Unbound
  • Dredge
  • Roadwarden
  • Alan Wake II
  • Tell Me Why
  • Mario Wonder (need to 100% it if I can do so without wanting to lob my Switch out of the window)
  • Eastward
  • Sea of Stars
  • Two Point Campus (it occurred to me that I never finished the last stage and I might just start again because I like a strategy game to unwind in the evenings)
  • I Was a Teenage Exocolonist
  • Thimbleweed Park

That’s good, isn’t it? That’s a good list. Those are good games. I don’t need to buy new ones. I DON’T NEED TO BUY NEW ONES.

I mean, I’ll accept codes for reviews, obviously.

Look. If I can just at least make it through the first quarter of the new year without buying a game or a book that would be good.

I’m already talking myself out of it! Help me.

The issue that I have is that I like to write about games, and if I want to stand any kind of chance of getting on a big website this year, I do need to be writing about the SEO big hitters. That is something I ponder; I think that this chasing of the new stuff isn’t very good for my psyche, actually. Sometimes (particularly last year) having gaming as a hobby feels like joining an unstoppable consumption machine. I don’t get to slow down and enjoy one thing like I did when I was a kid. I don’t get to savour games. Even when I don’t want to write about them, I still feel this magnetic pull to the next thing. You know? It’s expensive.

I don’t know what the answer is to this. I’ve been quite lucky this past year. I got to write about horror games from 2003 and the power of the Miis, for example. It’s not as though there isn’t scope to do this stuff from time to time. And I have this Substack. When I started this I wanted to just write about the things I love. So I will probably be writing deep dives into slightly outdated stuff this year, and hopefully, people will enjoy it anyway.

The other thing that I use this notebook for is for lofty ambitions. At the beginning of every year, I write down the games I want to talk about and the publications I’d like to write for. I’m a bit more shy about sharing this list but it does exist and the act of writing it down on paper makes me feel more confident in going for it. May this be the year that I continue to push myself.

And may this be the year that I finish all of the games.

That’s it: it’s a short one this week because my kids are still off school and we’re all starting to lose our minds a bit.

Let me know what your backlog is looking like. It will make me feel less ashamed.