A few weeks ago, we talked about the substantial mental health benefits of journaling and how they can be applied to gaming. Journaling about your gaming experiences can keep you moving forward, remind you of your goals (and help you set some if you don’t have any), and reduce anger and tilt. It’s a great habit to get into and a good way to exercise both your creative and analytical sides at once in pursuit of living a more meaningful life.

Maybe you went out and bought a journal and a few pens or pencils. Maybe you even booted up a game to play while you’re thinking. You look back and forth between the game and the somewhat intimidating blank journal page, and… you just don’t know what to write. That’s okay! Today, we’re rounding up goals, achievements, and stats to track for (almost) every game genre. Remember, your journal is your space – you don’t have to copy exactly what we suggest here. (But you totally can if you want to!) Make it work for you!

RPGs

Role-playing games are some of the easiest games to keep track of in your journal because they already do a lot of tracking for you. RPGs, especially JRPGs, are full of numbers and stats that give you a clear picture of how your team performs in at any given time. In fact, this is why many people like the genre: these games typically give the player a lot of control over exactly how they build their character(s) and, therefore, how they experience the game. If you’re looking to journal about your RPG experience, you can track your characters’ stats, cool gear or items found, dramatic story moments and cutscenes, or hours played. (Most RPGs are pretty long!)

Racing and Rhythm Games

Racing and rhythm games are some of the closest relatives to the arcade games of yore in terms of structure: they often feature high scores, times to beat, and some kind of leaderboard. Racing games are all about making it through a track as fast as possible – and with the highest amount of style – while rhythm games test your sense of beat and let you pretend to be the rock star you were meant to be. Both of these games also lend themselves well to journaling: fans of racing games can track their favorite vehicle builds, best times, and dramatic wins to help them achieve their goals, while rhythm game players can record their high scores and favorite songs to play while pursuing the career of rock god.

Fighting Games

Fighting games run the gamut from Super Smash Bros., a more accessible and family-friendly take on the genre, to Mortal Kombat, the notoriously bloody fighting game that took the world by storm in the early days of consoles. Players often need to remember specific sequences of button presses and control stick movements in order to unleash devastating combos on their foes; they also need to know which characters specialize in what kind of moves and who’s best in a given situation. Fighting game fans can record their favorite characters and moves, the best combos and move sequences, and their best scores or records in their journal.

First- and Third-Person Shooters

Shooters, particularly multiplayer shooters, lend themselves naturally to journaling. If you participate in ranked modes or organized tournament play, this one’s a no-brainer: it’s easy to record your best (and most chaotic) wins and your favorite weapons, tools, and maps. You can also track your progress toward a new cosmetic item or a particular rank. For example, I developed an Apex Legends rank tracker in my journal since I’m aiming for a specific rank this season. If you prefer single-player shooters, you can still track many of these same things in your journal, as well as your favorite characters or classes and your favorite parts of the game’s story.

A sequence of colorful Nessies used as a rank tracker in a journal.
Tag yourself as one of these cursed Nessies in the author’s Apex Legends rank tracker.

Open-World Games

Open-world games are usually full of waypoints, quests, and secrets to find. Take The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as an example – within the peaceful post-apocalypse, there are towns to visit, shrine puzzles to solve, enemies to defeat, and more. In a game as large as Breath of the Wild, this can quickly become overwhelming, and the in-game quest log isn’t always the most helpful tool. If you want to make your experience calmer and more meaningful, try logging your main- or side quest progress, shrines completed, best weapons found, or weirdest characters encountered. (That might be a Zelda-specific thing.)

Simulation and Cozy Games

Don’t let the genre title fool you – cozy games can be just as deep and complex as some of the more “traditional” game genres. Since simulation and cozy span such wide varieties of games, what your track in your journal here will vary wildly based on what you’re playing. If you’re playing a farming sim like Harvest Moon, you can track crops grown and friendship levels with the townspeople. If you’re playing a “walking simulator” like Firewatch, you can track your dialogue choices, locations found, or pretty scenes. (You can even take screenshots and print them out to add to your notes!) The key here is to make it relevant to you: what matters to you in the sim you’re playing, and how do you want to remember your play experience?

Strategy, Tabletop, and 4X Games

Another genre full of stats and numbers, strategy games lend themselves very well to journaling. If you enjoy any kind of strategy or tabletop game, or even 4X games like Civilization, there are plenty of ways to track your progress in your journal. These games tend to be heavy on resource management and strategic decisions, so you can even journal as you’re playing to keep track of your moves and what you plan to do in the future.

A good friend of mine is a real tabletop games enthusiast – and I’m not talking about Monopoly. A few weeks ago, we played a game called Viticulture with a group of friends. It’s the kind of game that requires you to think about what you want to do two or three turns in the future. I found myself writing down my plans so I didn’t forget exactly what I needed to do to achieve victory. (I still lost.) Live journaling is still journaling – and if you do win, you can look back on it later and reference your old strategies!

Platformers and Action Games

Platforming games are many players’ introduction to the world of gaming. Think about it: how many of us started playing games because we saw Mario or Sonic for the first time and wanted to know what they were all about? Platforming and action games are similar in that they require a certain level of skill while also providing the player with incentives to keep moving forward. These incentives might take the form of new equipment, power-ups, or hidden secrets, like Mario’s Super Stars. If you’re playing a particularly complex platformer, you can record the locations of secrets or hidden locations you’ve found. These genres also lend themselves particularly well to speedrunning – if you’re a speedrunner, you can track your best times, tips and tricks for moving fast, and glitches to exploit in your journal.

Puzzle Games

There’s a reason that people recommend playing games like Myst with a notebook and pencil nearby. Many puzzle games require players to remember clues, codes, or secrets in order to use them later, and sometimes the game’s interface isn’t the most helpful when it comes to this recollection. Instead, try recording all the hints and clues you’ve found in your journal. If you’re stuck on a puzzle, take a break, then read over what you’ve written – it might make things a little clearer. If you’re a nerd like me, you can also write down your favorite story tidbits and try to piece together the central mystery before the game reveals the whodunit.

There truly is a journaling strategy for every gamer, no matter what your favorite genre or type of game is. Again, the most important thing about your journal should be that it speaks to you: no one else needs to see or read it, so make it an authentic expression of yourself. There are plenty of other ways to record your gaming experiences and reflect on them in order to enjoy your hobby more meaningfully. Give it a shot – you might be surprised at the results!