Nichole Shinn’s low-fi and humorous zine is dedicated to the memory of the Flash player
Prepare to get emotional as you encounter all the video games that will soon no longer be available online, as seen through the eyes of an avid gamer like Nichole.
- Ayla Angelos
- 27 November 2020
When Nichole Shinn was a child, she spent much of her time playing video games with her older brother. While he had the controls, she observed and drew all of the characters and monsters on the screen. “I remember when my brother played Final Fantasy X when it came out, I watched him play the whole thing and I drew every single monster and wrote down all their stats and info,” she tells It’s Nice That. “So gaming has always been a huge source of inspiration for me.”
Alongside this long-term interest in video games, Nichole has always been fond of painting, playing music, “finding a great meme”, ceramics and bookmaking. So much so that it led her to form TXTBooks, an artist-run publishing project based in Brooklyn, New York, founded with her team of Robert Blair, Thomas Colligan and Kurt Woerpel. It was after they became close friends in the design programme at Pratt Institute that they decided to pursue things on their own terms. Then, what first started out as “hang sessions” making funny zines soon turned into an active pursuit – participating in fairs and publishing various works from zine newbies across multiple disciplines.
For the past six years, TXTBooks has been Nichole’s “only constant” creative outlet. After years working in various fine art jobs, only in the last two did she go freelance, enabling her to partake in all sorts of activities – like painting, ceramics, bookmaking, web-based projects and making video games. Of course, there are days when her creativity doesn’t quite strike and she’ll turn to gaming as her remedial outlet instead. “I’ll just spend an entire day gaming to clear my mind,” she says, devoting around an hour per day to things like farming and life simulators, her recent obsessions. “Gaming fuels a huge portion of my creative inspiration and helps me navigate my own weird, intense schedule and anxieties.”
So when she describes her aesthetic as “fantastical, fairy, hardcore, gothic, weeaboo, adjacent, phantasms,” we’re not least bit surprised. “You could say my work has a vibe of old school fantasy or sci-fi comics art, mixed with 2000s emo music, mixed with gamer girl energy, 90s internet dump, anime and manga fandom, Sunday comics, medieval cyber goth raver rodeo girl energy,” she jokes, noting how it’s somewhat difficult to describe her own work. Especially if it really is just a big mash-up of all the things that have sparked her interest over the years.
Putting inspiration into practice, Nichole’s recent publication Flash Player Graveyard embodies all that she stands for. Dedicated to the memory of the Flash player – that is, the engine for a generation of online gaming and gamers – the zine explores the many games and subjects that were all subsequently sentenced to death at the end of 2020. “So funny enough,” she says, “I was nostalgic for my dying Neopets after picking up a zine 39 Neopets Layouts,” created by Corinne Marie Wilson, and published by Swag Purgatory a couple of years ago. The zine inspired her to launch her old Neopets account, before finding herself playing it once again and “feeling really good about it”. She discovered how Neopets was switching to HTML 5 in 2020 due to the retirement of the FlashPlayer plug-in, ceasing much of the game’s content. “I’d never be able to play Hannah and the Ice Caves ever again.”
Emotional and saddened by the news, it was time to document all the old classics. That’s when Flash Player Graveyard was launched – a “part eulogy and part nostalgic memory dump”, where each page is dedicated to a type of game or aesthetic from the golden era of Neopets, Cannibal Horse goes to the Kentucky Derby by Jake Welch, Poptropica, Runescape and Line Rider.
For some, it might come as a shock to hear this news, especially if you’re an avid gamer like Nichole. “People don’t even know that this massive off-lining is happening, so there is a lot of immediate grief and coping when people interact with the project,” she says. Yet despite the dismay, she hopes that her audience will engage with the project on a fun and nostalgic level, “then consider the implications of losing this sort of cultural archive, or how on a deeper level things just move on and 1990s/00s kids have grown up,” concludes Nichole. “I hope these two tones at play can make it into a rich and full art experience; hopefully people can read my sincerity and understand my perspective.”
GalleryNichole Shinn: Flash Player Graveyard (Copyright © Nichole Shinn, 2020)
Nichole Shinn: Flash Player Graveyard (Copyright © Nichole Shinn, 2020)
About the Author
Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she became online editor in 2022 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima.