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Taking notes makes gaming more fun

It’s not like homework, I promise!

Clayton Ashley , senior video editor, has been producing and editing videos for Polygon since 2016. He is the lead producer of the tabletop gaming series Overboard.

When I’m asked for a favorite game or even just a preferred genre, I have a hard time picking just one. But if you simply ask me what my favorite type of game is, then I won’t hesitate: I love games where you take notes.

This crystallized for me during my first play through of 2012’s Fez, a gorgeous puzzle platformer full of secrets, puzzles, and codes to decipher. The game didn’t outright tell me to keep notes, but its cryptic glyphs practically begged to be cataloged on paper. Soon, I was rewarded with puzzles that leapt off the screen and into my notebook, where larger and larger revelations gave way to even deeper puzzles. For example, a code written in game vertically needed to be rotated 90 degrees so it could be read left to right, a leap in logic made much easier when I simply rotated my notebook. Eureka!

Keeping a gaming notebook made my experience playing Fez a richer experience, and one I was excited to repeat in some of my favorite games of the decade: Her Story, The Return of the Obra Dinn, and Outer Wilds. More recently, The Case of the Golden Idol scratched this particular itch with its intricate mysteries and clever puzzles. Keeping a notebook at hand for these games made piecing together clues and uncovering new threads a more involved experience.

That’s why I made the video above, to celebrate this particular gaming niche. While I enjoy games with a little mystery, the pleasure of taking gaming notes is not exclusive to them. Everything from Animal Crossing to Hitman can benefit from keeping a gaming journal. Some of my coworkers also made their way through Fez with the help of a notepad, but they also scribbled along to games like Mass Effect, Hades, The Witness, and Football Manager.

After releasing my video, I was thrilled to receive images of gaming journals and recommendations for notebook-centric video games I hadn’t considered.

Each one of these journals is a testament to their author’s personal journey and a physical relic of their passion for the game. Special deluxe preorder editions have nothing on a well kept gaming journal.

These notebooks are a perfect example of why I’m so thrilled to take extensive notes in a game: because at the end of the journey, you’re left with a physical keepsake of your experience. Flipping through my Fez notes immediately takes me back to my first bewildering play through.

If you’ve never tried keeping a gaming journal, I encourage you to give it a try! You can check out the video above to learn more about some of the best “note taking games” I’ve had the pleasure of playing. If you’re still looking to fill up your notebook, head over to the YouTube page and take a look at the comments to find even more recommendations (I know I will be). While you’re there, be sure to subscribe to our channel and check out more of our videos!