Five Years of Stack

The fifth anniversary of this blog’s beginning has come and passed, and so I think it’s time to take a look at where we’ve come with this little project so far. In significant ways, it’s been a failure.

One of the purposes of this blog was to motivate me to play all of the games I had accumulated over the years and never finished. Well, I started off with “just over 300 games” on my stack, and there are now just over 400. The Oath which was to see to the reduction of this number has a flaw: it allows me to count multiple titles purchased as a unit as a single purchase. I hadn’t supposed this would be a large factor when I framed the Oath, because compilation packages of this sort were seldom issued for anything other than major series, and there were only so many of those that I had any interest in. But somewhere along the line I decided it applied to any package deal on Steam or elsewhere, and that has become my dominant game-buying mode — it’s rare that I buy a game alone. Furthermore, I’m loath to close this loophole, because that would limit my access to those indie bundles I adore so.

But reducing the size of the Stack was really only a pretext all along, as the About page that I wrote five years ago acknowledges: “So really, this whole exercise is an excuse to play a bunch of old games and examine them in detail from today’s perspective.” But it’s getting to be more and more of a failure in that regard as well. Excluding the IF Comp, this year’s blogging covers nearly fifty games to various degrees of detail. Of those, only six were ones that I owned before starting the blog (and two of those remain unfinished). The Oath encourages me to prefer shorter games that I can finish quickly, and newer titles are more likely to fit that description than the ones that have managed to stay on the Stack for a decade.

If the Oath is failing me, it’s only fair, because I’ve been failing the Oath. Late posts have become the norm rather than the exception. Typically what happens is: I feel like gaming but not writing, so I try to cram as much game into a 24-hour period as I can in order to maximize the gaming/writing ratio. When I’m done, I haven’t left enough time to do the writing that I still don’t feel like, so I push it out to the next day, or further. If I’ve finished the game in the process, I feel like I have to summarize the entire experience in a single post, which is a difficult enough task that I procrastinate. If I haven’t finished the game, I feel like I can’t play it again until I’ve written something. Either way, it’s hurting my ability to finish games and write interesting commentary about them.

So, after five years, it’s time for a change. For the last week, I’ve completely abandoned the Oath and played freely, and I intend to continue in this state until at least the end of January while I contemplate what to replace it with. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I won’t be blogging — I have some thoughts I’d like to share about Solar 2 and Terraria already — but it does mean that I won’t be pretending to myself that I’m obliged to do so. I have only room in my head for so many obligations, and it’s time I tended to the real ones a little better. If I’m lucky, maybe it’ll turn out that I can blog without an Oath at all.

9 Comments so far

  1. paul on 3 Jan 2012

    I think the Oath has succeeded at its real goal, which is giving me opinions about video games I haven’t played.

  2. matt w on 4 Jan 2012

    I agree with Paul — and there’s always that thrill when I see something about one I have played. (Which is pretty much the Indie Bundles.)

  3. Jason Dyer on 4 Jan 2012

    I did like the time you did every year in chronological order. Perhaps run another system like that (not exactly the same possibly, but in a similar spirit that would get you playing the old games) instead of following the Oath?

  4. Carl Muckenhoupt on 5 Jan 2012

    I’ve contemplated doing the alphabet. Like, one game beginning with each letter. As with the chronological rundown when I did it, that would give 26 games, so a limit of two weeks per game would get through it in a year.

    The one problem with such a scheme is that I don’t have any games beginning with Y. It’s a little weird that that’s the only letter I’m missing, but it seems like the other uncommon letters aren’t actually all that uncommon — there’s something about a Q or X or Z that inspires titles like Quake and X-COM and Zork. But Y doesn’t have that cachet somehow.

    Anyway, I notice that the Indie Royale bundle that just went up today contains a game called Your Doodle Are Bugged!, so this could be a feasible plan now.

  5. Xander on 10 Jan 2012

    Note that the two links in this post don’t work because they end in backward instead of forward slashes.

  6. Carl Muckenhoupt on 10 Jan 2012

    Weird. I wonder how that happened. Fixed now.

  7. Manolis 13 MoonEmp on 10 Jan 2012

    Hello there :)

    Even though I have on my bookmarks http://www.wurb.com, possibly from my interest in IF, I never found out this great blog.. I actually found it yesterday completely accidentaly by a comment on CRPGAddict blog (Win post on PoR)..

    So, congrats with this great blog and I’m not happy I found out it so late, with you actually being kind of tired of blogging unfortunately, hope you reconsider.. Please :)

    Now, about the leter scheme, one guy, inspired by http://chrontendo.blogspot.com/ tried the alphabetical approach on NES games http://projectnes.blogspot.com/ but late this year he discontinued it.. One of the reasons I *think* could be of his having-to-play 5 similar titled early NES sports games one after the other :P But I guess you choose what to play anyway ;)

    Finally, it’s really nice to see blogs like this one, the above, CRPGAddicts and others (?) that have their own unique style.. So thanx for your time!

    Regards from Greece

  8. Charles on 27 Jan 2012

    I’ve only just found The Stack and I’m actually reading it through from the beginning. Aside from the very informative and entertaining perspectives on a horde of games I’ve never encountered, I like the idea of the Oath – it’s something I’ve been approaching on my own, as I have my own stack of some 200 games by this point. I find myself much less inclined to purchase new games as I get older, knowing that I have such a stockpile of good, unfinished games already in my possession.

    Thank you for all your writing. I’ve only gotten as far as October 2007 so far, so I have years’ worth left to read.

  9. Carl Muckenhoupt on 2 Feb 2012

    I thank you for your kind words, and intend to get back to posting very soon.

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