Minimalism and Videogames: How I Decluttered a Lifetime of Games

Photo by cottonbro studio via Pexels 

I’ve played a lot of videogames recently, and this weekend I felt like talking about how I decluttered my collection and how I apply minimalism to gaming. But even if you don’t play videogames, the concepts in this article can apply to any area of your decluttering journey. 

If you’re reading this as a gamer, the title of this post probably fills you with horror. Minimalism and gaming seem like a match made in gamer hell, right? 

Before I understood the benefits of minimalism I would’ve had the same reaction. I simply couldn’t imagine parting with any of the games and merchandise displayed on my shelves, even though I was fed up with cleaning the inch of dust that would layer on top.

If I let go of any of it, surely my identity and friends would go too. I’d never become that awesome retro gamer on Youtube in the future.  Not to mention the fond memories attached to many of my consoles, cartridges and discs. Besides, what if I let go of a rare game and couldn’t get it back?

How and why I downsized my collection

I’ve been gaming since I was 4 or 5 years old when my parents bought me a Sega Master System II. I’m 38 this year and my love of gaming has never left me. As you might imagine, all those years of collecting games, consoles, and character figurines needed lots of space. 

But then I became a parent (I now have 2 children aged 3 and 9) and with so many games getting longer ,I had less will and energy to clean and maintain the collection. There also weren’t enough hours in a day to enjoy most of what was taunting me on those shelves.

Perhaps the biggest factor in deciding to minimise my gaming collection was when my husband and I had to give up our gaming room for the second time. The first time was when we lived in our first home which was a rented two bedroom, and the room became a nursery for our son. The second was when we lived in our second home, had our daughter and changed our gaming room into a kids bedroom.

Back when I was pregnant with my daughter, I’d already been minimalist for a good few years and decided that because of the upcoming situation, it was time to let go of some of my collection. I was always moaning about having to dust the shelves, and thanks to decision fatigue , spent more time staring at my games than actually playing them.

My husband who’s also a gamer decided it was time for him to let go of some of his unplayed collection too. Thus started a major purge of games, consoles, and collectables. 

For me, these games and their merch were some of the hardest things I’ve ever decluttered, but the payoff in space and peace was definitely worth it. Did it make me less of a gamer? Absolutely not. And that part of me that once wanted to be a retro game collector on Youtube? Nothing but my fantasy self playing tricks on me. In fact, I didn’t even want that for myself anymore. 

Plus, the fear that my long-time friends would abandon me because I had fewer games in my collection and less play time was ridiculous. And if they did, would I really want those kinds of friends? The real problem was, I didn’t think I was good enough.

Did I really need hundreds of games to prove to everyone that I was a gamer? Of course not. It was just an identity my ego had attached itself to.  Besides, owning all those games didn’t make me a gamer, just like owning tons of art supplies doesn’t make you an artist, and owning a bunch of kitchen tools doesn’t make you a master chef. You have to repeatedly do the required action to become something. 

Ultimately, I decided I wanted to spend more time enjoying a selection of games that mattered to me now, and to let go of the fantasy that I would play every last one. And do you know what? As I went through my collection and held the games in my hands, I realised that not only was I not interested in playing the game anymore, but I hadn’t been for a long time. 

This imaginary backlog of games I had in my head that I needed to get through was long outdated. That was quite a revelation to me.  

You see, I’d just been telling myself the same old story over and over without once stopping to ask myself who I was now and what I really wanted to be spending my limited time on.

Besides, there were more games being released than I could ever hope to play in one lifetime. Even now, it’s an endless torrent of releases all fighting for the spotlight. This means I have to be so much more selective with what I play. I simply wouldn’t have time to cram in the other hobbies I have, as well as keep up my relationships, go to my day job, and be a writer. 

Something else that shocked me during this purge was discovering that some of the PS1 games I’d been storing had the beginnings of disc rot. As sad as it was, it reminded me that nothing lasts forever, yet I still had the memories. It also reminded me that I should be enjoying them rather than storing them away. Since they hadn’t seen the light of day for years, I chose to sell the ones that were still in good condition (which didn’t have too much emotional value) while they could still be enjoyed. 

Storing my old games in the attic had only accelerated the process of disc rot, and there was even some mild corrosion on a few of my Gameboy cartridges. Lesson learnt.

With those revelations, I let go of far more than I ever imagined I could. For the games I couldn’t bear to part with, I put them into CD and cartridge wallets, and kept the cases boxed up in the attic. Every now and then I go through them to make sure I still love the game, because if I don’t, I gently let it go to somebody who will love it. 

As humans, our likes and dislikes change with the season of life we’re in, and that’s completely normal.

Decluttering my Gaming Backlog

If you’re a gamer, the word ‘backlog’ probably fills you with dread and shame. The list of games that you swear you’ll get to one day, you just haven’t quite found the time yet, or something else has been released which took priority. If that’s you, I feel you completely. My backlog was hundreds of games long and kept growing. Like cutting the head off a Hydra, I’d finish one game only to add several more.

These backlogs weren’t just eating up entire hard drives, but parts of my brain which were clogged with these gaming to-do’s I’d made for myself. Ultimately, I found myself in the same situation I had with my physical collection; I would stare at my games but end up doom scrolling on my phone instead. 

Having too many games and too many decisions to make has always led to playing less, not more. 

Soon, I applied the same concepts of decluttering to my digital library of games which had become a monster of gaming procrastination and guilt. Games that were part of bundles, games that no longer registered on my radar of interest, and games that I’d played an hour of before getting distracted by yet another sale.

I asked these games several questions as I went down the list: 

Will I play you again?

How did you end up on my hard drive? Were you from a  bundle? 

Am I still interested in you? Really? 

How many games do I have now that are similar to you?

If I saw you in a sale today, would I still buy you?

The games that were left over I organised into folders,  ‘to play’,  ‘completed’ and ‘abandoned’. The abandoned games were clearly not fulfilling enough to hold my attention, or were purely the result of game sale FOMO so got deleted. 

Every couple of months, I comb back through my digital collection to make sure it’s current and active. If the game hasn’t been touched in at least three months, it gets deleted. I’ve since found I’ve completed a good handful of games from my current backlog, and when I’ve finished with one, I delete it and move on. 

However, going digital isn’t without its drawbacks. 

The digital downside

Going digital saves on physical space and can even be cheaper than buying the physical copy of a game in some cases. But there have been instances of companies shutting down the digital store fronts these games came from *cough* Nintendo. That way, if anything happens to the game already downloaded onto the hardware, you’re probably screwed. You also can’t sell a digital game once you’re finished with it, so once you’ve spent the money, that’s it. 

Personally, I’ve found that owning games digitally puts the game ‘out of sight, out of mind’ so if I don’t play it immediately, I forget I own it and it ends up languishing in the backlog. If that also happens to you, I’d love to know down in the comments. 

Then there’s the sheer amount of subscription services around these days such as Xbox Gamepass, and PS Plus. These services are great for discovering games you may not otherwise have found or couldn’t afford full price, but they tend to cause Netflix Syndrome where the choices are so vast, no decision gets made. There’s also a tendency to flick from game to game, never giving more than half an hour or so to one experience for fear there’s a better one a button press away.

Why I rarely buy physical games now

It’s not that I don’t buy physical games at all anymore, but I’m mainly digital these days. This isn’t just a minimalist decision, but because a lot of physical games release incomplete or broken, buggy messes at launch. Many rely on patches to fix them or additional DLC to add to a lackluster experience. This means that if a service were to shut down, you’d better hope you still have the patches on the device, otherwise all you’re left with is a half-finished, or broken game taking up space.

For me to buy a physical game, I must love and be obsessed with it (like Persona 4 and Xenoblade), and it must be a finished quality product. Succinctly put, the game must earn its spot in my home. I sometimes also receive physical games as gifts, which always has a great nostalgic feel to it. 

Why I still own a bunch of consoles as a minimalist

Despite making a lot of progress regarding platform-exclusive games, we’re still not quite at the stage where you can play every single game on one platform. Sony and Microsoft are slowly making games available on PC that were once platform exclusive, but they’re not always released in a good, playable state. Also, not everybody owns a gaming PC or a handheld PC gaming device. 

As for Nintendo, they’ve only ever released their games on their own devices, and that will probably never change.

I also own several older consoles for the sheer emotional attachment, such as my Sega Master System II, and my 3DS. My Master System II is particularly precious to me because it’s the console that started my lifelong love of gaming. I spent many afternoons playing it with my parents and watching my mum find every chaos emerald in Sonic the Hedgehog. I often think of bringing it out from storage and displaying it because I believe that something that precious should never be stowed away in the dark. 

Objects that bring such joy or that trigger such good memories should have a dedicated spot to display them, and if there is no space, get rid of something less meaningful. It’s impossible to relive the past, but sometimes having those objects that remind you of special memories are good enough. 

At the end of the day, gaming is an ever-changing medium, and the way that we access games and experience them is ever evolving. Lifelong gamers like myself will also have many personal stories and memories close to the heart, so downsizing is up to you as an individual gamer. Is your game collection hindering you or bringing you the joy that they were created for? 

Minimalism and gaming can absolutely go hand-in-hand, but as always, minimalism is a tool to mould to your style, and your life. 


  • Michael

    Thank you so much for posting this. I found your site while using Copilot to help me determine if maintaining game consoles that take up space adheres to minimalist values. Your story is a reminder that our focus should be on intention and not collection. I’m also a 38 y/o father of 3 with less and less free time each day! This was extremely helpful.

    • Emma Jayne

      Hi Michael

      I’m so glad you found my article helpful. What you decide to let go of is personal to you, and every minimalist chooses to keep and let go of different things due to different lifestyles and hobbies etc. As a gamer, I’ve dramatically downsized my collection because not only does it free up so much space, it lessens decision fatigue when it comes to choosing which games to play (especially when your time is limited).

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