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Letter from the editor: The trouble with review season

Time crisis.

I always feel like a bit of a pillock when I catch myself whining about our lot in life covering video games. The last couple of nights I've seen in the early hours of the morning playing an epic I've been feverishly looking forward to for years, and while I'm not at liberty to say anything of substance I think it's fine to let on that it hasn't been a particularly unpleasant experience. Fitting in parental and professional responsibilities, sleep and maybe even a minute or two away from a screen has sometimes been a bit less enjoyable though.

It's not exactly a problem unique to us - fitting in time to play the big ticket games is tough for anyone - and the big rush of releases we're being treated to at the moment only exacerbates the issue. At the risk of coming across like Adrian Chiles and bluntly pointing out the obvious before asking for a paycheque, these big ticket video games are vast, time hungry things and there's so bloody many of them. Even Chiles' cheque would struggle to cover the cost of Pokémon Legends: Arceus, Dying Light 2, OlliOlli World, Sifu, Sol Cresta, Horizon Forbidden West, Total War Warhammer 3, Elden Ring and Destiny 2: The Witch Queen, while finding time to play that lot is surely impossible. And it is still only February.

Which is a fantastic problem to have, of course. Like a lot of you I've called video games an obsession since the early 90s, and across all that time I can't remember there ever being an abundance of riches quite like we're seeing at the moment. It's a reminder of how big and broad this medium has become, and how unwieldy at times too (it's a reminder, also, of the industry's blind commitment to squeezing in its big releases for the financial year, and I feel sorry for inevitable casualties caught up in it all like Grid Legends, soon to be steamrollered by Gran Turismo 7).

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This hyper condensed calendar has also put into relief some of the challenges we face when covering games - again not exactly new problems and certainly not unique to us, but ones we're always looking to address any way we can. We're a specialist site, but one with an eye across the entire industry (or, to put it less pompously, one that simply covers whatever takes its fancy). There's an expectation to review all the big releases - and a desire to - but sometimes that's simply not possible, and there will be casualties (Grid Legends won't be one of them - we care about it, even if whoever decided to put it out within a week of the grand dame of the racing genre doesn't).

How to fix the problem of not having enough time in the day to hit every major release with a review? You could skip it, of course, or sometimes it makes sense to serve it another way. Last November I'd only just taken on this editor's role and realised I possibly wouldn't have the time to hide away for over 40 hours to review an all-encompassing yet fairly niche RPG like Shin Megami Tensei 5 like I once used to, and it's hard to square away asking someone else to dedicate that much time with a clear conscience when it comes to freelancing it out. So I played what I could, had a brilliant time poking around the series' history and its quirks and wrote a little piece for the site.

Is it as effective as a review? Of course not - I didn't have the time to go into the proper depth, or to do due diligence and spend more than a dozen hours with the thing. Is it valid as a piece of criticism? I'd like to think so, and either way I was just pleased we could get to cover a series as fascinating as Shin Megami Tensei.

It's something I'm mindful of as everyone's flat out here during an exceptionally busy time, and also mindful of myself as I turn to another pot of coffee to power me through clearing the inbox this morning. Tonight, after I've clocked off work and put my daughter to sleep, I'm going to pop out on my bike for an evening ride rather than returning straight to a screen for another marathon review session. Sometimes it's important to maintain a healthy balance.

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