Actually Definitely Reviewing Every Game This Year Advic

My approach is, roughly:

  • Randomise the list and start at the top.
  • Give myself the freedom to deviate from that list if my mood requires it. Every year, there will be some games that I am really looking forwards to and some games which I regard with a sense of ‘man, this is going to be tough work.’ If the next game on the list doesn’t seem like what I’m in the mood for, I don’t feel bad about skipping it and moving on. If I’m feeling tired and low on motivation, I go for a game that I expect to be awesome.
  • Don’t wait to finish the review on the previous game before starting the next game. Take notes and move on. Most of my reviews improve through digestion. Often I’ll have three or four reviews in various stages of completion lined up, so I can switch between them and add material until they’re done; this stops me from getting overly wrapped-up in one review. (This may not fit your work pattern at all. Treat with caution.)
  • Make rough notes during play; these form the skeleton of a review. If they turn out to be wrong you can always edit later, but it’s useful to capture your immediate reactions.
  • As far as possible, avoid reading any reviews of games until you’ve played the game. (It’s okay to look at other people’s reviews while you’re writing the review, but I don’t make it a priority.) This is… not always possible, but I give it my best shot.

My approach:

  • Survey everything in the first day or so. Identify games that I’m eliminating (Windows only, no beta-testers). Get a feel for the others.
  • Save at least a few games I really want to play for last, as motivation. Otherwise, try to play things when I’m in the right mental space for them. Sometimes I want a puzzle, sometimes I’m not up to it. The aim here is to enjoy each game as much as I’m able to, because I’ll be most receptive that way.
  • Sometimes I feel like doing a lot of writing, sometimes I just want to play. Like maga, I sometimes keep notes but I don’t generally force myself into a strict alternation of playing and reviewing. Sometimes playing a game and then waiting a couple of days produces a more seasoned review, even if I don’t spend more time actually writing the review.

But, I dunno, I’m not sure there’s really a trick that gets past the point that it’s a lot of time.

Here’s what’s more important than anything either of these people said!

Divide the number of days in the comp by the number of games, and you’ve got an average schedule of how often (in days) you need to play another game / get out another review.

There’ll be tons of shorter games that let you get ahead - and you’ll need to get ahead - and then you’ll have blobs of heavier gaming or lack of inspiration that will push you back.

I know I like to get ahead early for psychological jumpstarting reasons. So I don’t start out with a game that looks like it’s gonna be enormous. Au contraire. I start with something that looks like it will be short or that I expect I’ll probably like.

PS I’m not sure I’ll be reviewing anything this year, but I reviewed everything in 2012, and lots in 2013.


Good advice so far. I think I need to review on average a game a day to keep up with all of them. Working on more than one review at a time is definitely the way forward. I don’t think I’ll tie myself to working linearly through a long list this time, but take a few shorter games to warm up with. I tested two of the games, so I can leave them until later and know that I’ll have plenty to say about them.

I play every entry, every year, in an attempt to give each contestant my feedback via the scoring mechanism. I never write reviews, however, so my method may or may not be helpful-- but it’s only six days into the competition and I’ve already managed to play 33 of 42 titles, so maybe my method has some merits. I do take notes while playing to help me consider my scoring hierarchy, though, so in a way that’s like a mini-review on my part anyway.

The basic thing to be aware of is: only rarely are IF Comp games substantial enough for the “two hour” rule to be relevant. I only played one title so far this year that required two hours, and last year there was only one such entry as well. I try to explore every entry to some form of gameplay resolution unless a) it’s horrible busted junk that just doesn’t work in technical terms (I’m scoring 7 titles as ‘ones’ so far for this very reason), or b) I have some emotional response to the title that makes me so very angry I desist for the sake of my blood pressure. Reaching a gameplay resolution of some kind rarely requires more than 30-60 minutes. The more important thing to keep in mind is that half the entries are CYOAs, and those rarely take more than 10-15 to resolve (even at fifteen minutes, that’s four games an hour if you have uninterrupted time).

What I do, then, is start with all the CYOAs. Since these only take a few minutes each, one can play through half or more of the whole competition in a day or two. Then I take a look at the file sizes and format of the remaining games-- I play the z8s and smaller games (based on filesize) first, and only near the end do I begin to explore the big glulxe (or tads, if there are any) games. Also, when I start playing something I can usually tell in the first ten minutes or so if it’s going to be a substantial, lengthy gameplay experience. If I don’t have time or I’m not in the mood after ten minutes, I just stop and save it for some other time.

The virtue of this approach is, you allow yourself to develop a habit of how much time you can spend and how much time you want to spend each day exploring the entries. You’re not committing yourself to any unforseen coincidences, such as if you say “I’m going to review two games per day” and on a given day you happen to pick two huge games that will require two hours of playing plus who knows how long to review-- but you haven’t allowed yourself time, because by coincidence for the previous four days you picked CYOAs and wrapped up both gameplay and reviews in 90 minutes, and you were getting used to that rate.

In other words, play the shortest games first-- CYOAs, then parser games with small file sizes. This will get you in the habit of playing daily, and will also speed you through the entries. By the time you get over thirty games played (out of 42 this year), you’ll likely be able to finish them all just by inertia. As you noted, “warming up” is the key to the whole thing in my opinion.