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Treasuring printed video game fanzines in the digital age

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Printed video game magazines might be an endangered species these days, but it’s not such a bad time for fan-made zines.  While every other month we hear news of a different publication we grew up with limiting or eliminating its monthly issues, not all is bleak for people who like tangible content.

I was finally able to get a copy of Zelda Zine 1 recently (it was only available in the UK until earlier this year), and it was worth the wait. It’s a modest little book, printed on paper in black and white, that features “32 pages of art, design, and literature” inspired by the The Legend of Zelda series. GameCity's Lee Nicholls thought up the project to have it as part of the Zelda Takeover Day in England last year.

As I checked my mailbox every other day in anticipation of receiving my copy, I wasn’t thinking about how various reviewers felt about Skyward Sword or what little changes Nintendo might make to the next title. If I wanted that information, I would just go online to get it right away like everyone else does. Not surprisingly, that instant accessibility is one of the biggest contributing factors to the decline of video game magazines as we know them.

A printed zine like this remains relevant in today's digital age by featuring content that deals with nostalgia and connections to past games. In fact, art and stories that capture players’ unique histories and experiences with video games age gracefully over time.

 

Zelda Zine 1 has a certain timelessness that allows you to pick it up and experience it fresh, years after it was printed. It doesn’t feel dated with tidbits of information about new modes or weapons or when the launch date will be when the game already came out months ago. It feels more like Link in Ocarina of Time, reverting to his younger self to discover that Kakariko Village is just as he left it. That is, the contributors’ accounts and interpretations of the legend (both written and visual) will always remain in their minds as they now share them with the world on paper.

One featured artist, Zac Gorman of Magical Game Time, understands this significance. In a recent interview, he spoke about his '80s-inspired video game art:

“I just like to think more about the intimate bond that we have with these characters. Truthfully, when it comes to something like The Legend of Zelda, I’m not really interested in the history of Hyrule or why Link wears a green tunic or has a bird on his shield, but I am interested in how these games made us feel, how we related to them, and why we found something — that is at a cursory glance so simple — as profound and life changing as we all did. I think there is room to explore nostalgia in an interesting way if you can move beyond some of the trappings of fandom.”

It's dangerous Envelope

And I think the gaming community definitely has a niche market, myself included, that enjoys sharing and reliving those memories. Now, thanks to the Internet, it’s easier for folks everywhere to hear about the type of work that these artists are doing and order a copy of the zine for their personal collections. It’s also now much easier, via email, for creative types to share their work and communally create a fan-made publication. Zelda Zine 1 Curator and Editor Cory Schmitz solicited submissions through Tumblr and Twitter and ended up with more than enough content for three issues (one for each piece of the Triforce).

Though I doubt that guys like Cory and his collaborators will get rich off of making these zines, I’m sure it’s not about the money. It’s about the nostalgia and crafting a stylish tribute that fans can hold in their hands to experience and revisit at a later point.

Raina Lee, creator of the 1-UP zine (no relation to the website), has a nice take on this sense of timelessness in the book Whatcha Mean, What’s a Zine?

“Often people who have never 'zined' ask why I choose to print instead of publish online. I state that it’s obvious: how will we remember websites five years or even 20 years from now? I have more faith in zines as a unique, tangible expression, a photocopied thought that someone could hold, pass to someone at a show, and find (again and again) at the bottom of your underwear drawer.”

I’m not likely to pass off any books in my collection, but I completely agree with her thought. If you, like me, lose one of your hearts every time another traditional video game magazine faints, do yourself a favor and check out some fan zines. They can be like health-replenishing fairies that you can rediscover over and over again.


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