I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with 52 Week challenges since I was in college. More than a few friends at the time were always trying to tackle something, whether it was 52 books or 52 movies. I always liked the idea of the challenge; there’s a part of me that craves structure and checklists and finality. I liked the thought of being able to say that I’d stuck with something meaningful and formed a habit of it—increased my media literacy and all that. On the other hand, there was always that voice in the back of my head saying why create so many rules to make something you enjoy more difficult?
Looking back on the last year, I am not yet certain I’ve successfully managed and married those two sides of myself, but I think I got pretty close. The concept of the Purposeful Gaming Challenge is nothing unique or particularly earth-shattering in the face of every other 52 Week Challenge on this planet. But I started it in the hopes of not only holding myself accountable to maintaining my game literacy, but also creating a more meaningful headspace for saying no. I’m not good at no—in fact, I’m honestly pretty awful at no. I struggle to say no to myself sometimes, even when I can feel myself shriveling up as I pile more and more on my plate. Maybe it’s the universe keeping the balance of things, but 2019 ended up mowing me down like a truck, and because of it, learning how to say no became a difficult—almost crippling—necessity.
Yes, voice in the back of my head, maybe the PGC is putting too many rules on something I enjoy, but what’s wrong with trying? I found a lot of value in approaching the PGC as a lesson in no by learning how to respect my time. As kids, we often have a lot of time but little cash to buy games. When we grow up, we have the money but hardly the time to put into anything at all. There’s a lot of games out there, a lot of great ones even, but not all of them respect your time. Not all of them even deserve it. For me, the PGC helped me to feel more confident in saying no to what I didn’t like for the ultimate benefit of having more bandwidth for what I did like.
There’s room for improvement here, of course, but at the end of all this, I do feel a great sense of pride in myself for sticking to the commitment I made. Even when I felt my worst, I still showed up and played something. I never missed a single week. Saying no got just a little easier, and that’s an energy I’m happy to channel in all aspects of my life as I move into 2020.
So what is the room for improvement, anyway?
I’m not perfect and slipped into anxiety even with the best of intentions in mind. Toward the end of the year I started to feel pressured to stay on top of the sheer volume of releases from 2019 that I’d not played, and as a result, I feel as though I set myself up to fail just a bit. There were weeks when I committed to playing three or four games when I certainly didn’t have the bandwidth for more than maybe one or two at most. The upside to this is that I found myself being much more willing to say no to things that didn’t connect with me right away, but I wonder if that came at the expense of not giving some games their fair shot. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, after all. Until they’re paying me to play these games, there is no meaningful reason to feel like I have to play every single one.
In sum, I played 61 games for the PGC, along with 7 other games I didn’t count for the challenge (why didn’t I count them? They totally count!). Of those 61, I was able to finish 21 of them, felt confident saying that I liked and wanted to finish 15 more, and made a commitment to saying no to 12.
The Hard Data
If you’re anything like me and enjoy a good breakdown of the metrics (or just like looking at pictures of pie charts), I’ve got you covered with some of the facts.
- Nintendo Switch (18 games / 30%): I traveled pretty frequently this year, both.domestically and internationally, so having the Switch to tote around with me made it easy to keep up on the PGC when I was away from my more sedentary consoles. More and more, I find myself craving Switch releases for things, especially indies, as I enjoy the portability and flexibility the Switch provides.
- PlayStation 4 (13 games / 21%): The PS4 is my primary console and remains the platform I buy all my AAA, big-ticket games for. Because of my move toward buying indie releases on the Switch, I have found that I generally purchase fewer games for the PlayStation 4 overall.
- iOS (11 games / 18%): I was surprised how highly my phone ranked as a platform for me this year. The release of the Apple Arcade subscription service, along with mobile versions of many excellent indie games, gave my Switch a run for its money as my primary small-game device. As of this writing, I’m still subscribed to the Apple Arcade and plan to see it into the new year.
- PC (9 games / 15%): PC has always been a middle-of-the-road platform for me. My job requires me to spend hours a day at a desk in front of a computer, so I find I’m less interested in going home and doing the same thing all night long. For this reason, I generally try to buy games on consoles where I can, but occasionally will still fire up the old PC, especially for exclusives and fun finds on Itch.io.
- Xbox One (7 games / 11%): I picked up an Xbox One S over the summer, so it perhaps didn’t get a fair shot at being higher on the list. Ever since I purchased the console, it’s remained a Game Pass machine, which allowed me to play a lot of games I never planned to. As of this writing, I’m still subscribed to Xbox Game Pass, and absolutely plan to maintain a membership for the foreseeable future.
- Et Cetera (3 games / 5%): I also ended up playing three additional games, two on the 3DS and one on the Xbox 360, to round out my 61.
Because the PGC is largely about learning how to better respect your own time and embrace the games that you most enjoy playing, I decided to sort each game into one of five categories:
- Finished (21 games / 34%): These are the games I played through from beginning to end. For me, level of finished-ness doesn’t matter, so this metric accounts for those few games I saw through 100% as well as those whose story I finished and put down. Some highlights: Outer Wilds, Control, Later Alligator.
- Unfinished – Will Complete (15 games / 25%): These are the games that were maybe too long and all-encompassing for me to see to the end, but the ones that piqued my interest and kept me wanting more (and more…and more…). Some highlights: Mutazione, The Outer Worlds, Disco Elysium.
- Unfinished – Won’t Complete (12 games / 20%): This category was a hard lesson for me as I generally believe (erroneously) that I will eventually finish all the games that I play. In an attempt to force myself to be at peace with my bandwidth, I used this category to be extremely judicious about how I wanted to spend my time. Not all games have to make the cut, and that’s okay. Some highlights: Moonlighter, Void Bastards, Ashen.
- Ongoing (7 games / 11%): This category is all about games that maybe don’t necessarily have a distinct finish point or are games that I can see myself returning to periodically when I have a few moments to give. Some highlights: Wilmot’s Warehouse, Baba is You, My Time at Portia.
- One-off (6 games / 10%): I used this category to give myself some wiggle room to return to older games, local multiplayer games, or games I’ve previously finished when the itch struck me. I didn’t want to be too restrictive on only pulling from my backlog, so this category is just the right amount of flexibility that I needed. Some highlights: The Stretchers, Bloodborne, Murdered: Soul Suspect.
Finally, we come to the release dates. Almost 60% of the games I played this year, released this year—35 in all, with many more still left unplayed. I also was able to clean up some releases from 2018, playing 15 games in total. The remaining chunk of games came from the last 20 years, going back in time as far as 1998.
The Harder Data
So, you like spreadsheets, do you? Here is the full breakdown of every game I played in 2019.