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How a game about making zines helped me recapture my creativity in lockdown

A tongue-in-cheek game called Electric Zine Maker saved me from pandemic burnout – and gave me a new communityWhen I sit down to play games, I am alwa

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A tongue-in-cheek game called Electric Zine Maker saved me from pandemic burnout – and gave me a new community

When I sit down to play games, I am always more drawn to peaceful, low-pressure environments than high-pace adventure. I like those where I get to make a difference but not necessarily through violence. I spend time on my lush island in Animal Crossing and am rewarded for the aesthetically appealing organisation of my furniture. In the stylised windows of Super Mario Maker, I own the very tools that composed some of the defining games of all time and can do whatever I want with them. The play is in the making.

Creation games aren’t new; they go way back to the original SimCity and beyond. But in autumn 2019, during a period of intense, life-altering burnout, I came across Nathalie Lawhead’s Electric Zine Maker and it redefined what I thought I knew about play, creation and the art that can emerge from video game interfaces. Zine Maker is a clever, accessible tool in the disguise of a joyful toy. I had become sick from overwork and had resigned myself to transitioning careers, leaving writing fiction entirely to move into a more practical realm. I was convinced that the connection between the part of my brain that makes art and the part that produces joy was fried forever. But this game sparked it again.

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