This morning Polygon published The Rise of the Game Union, a story on “literally everything you need to know about video game unions.” More importantly, they produced a zine version, complete with instructions for printing and binding it. As a fan of print publications—zines in particular—I find it wonderfully intriguing that a digital-only news organization created and promotes the distribution of a non-digital version of it’s work that doesn’t add to the bottom line through advertising revenue.
I have always had a soft spot for zines and I keep several in my library that I reference for work. I’d love to see more zines out in the world and I have friends who make and sell them. In particular Four Shapes by Scott Boms and Plus Equals by Rob Weychert.
Zines as a way to rally a union organizing effort is new to me. After a bit of searching, I found that these two things have a long history together. It makes sense that this used to be the case pre-Internet, as community organizing is a grassroots endeavor, and the zine embodies the spirit and logistics of that kind of work. I’m surprised that zines are still actively deployed for social causes in today’s screen-obsessed world.
As to why zines are still used in this way—aside from the format being so damn cool—I dig this statement by the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity at the University of Kansas.
Zines allow makers to critique, question, resist, and reappropriate the patriarchal mass media by taking the means of production into their own hands. Zines are a powerful medium for advocacy and social change. They are at once personal and political. Moreover, zines promote community-building by fostering a gift economy of sharing and exchange; often, they are made collectively or in community with others.
After reading this, my mind goes straight to the community that developed around the early days of blogging. While we didn’t have physical publications to exchange, we collectively shared—gifted—our curiosity and created a community around collective knowledge with supportive critique instead of criticism.
I love that Polygon published a zine, and I hope they do more of this kind of experimentation. Paired with the redesign of The Verge earlier this year, I’m encouraged to see a prominent publisher poking holes in the stale format of online publications, especially when that turns into taking their work offline.