Indie Rock: ENTER THE VAPORWAVE
- Updated: 6th Aug, 2014
The dream of a computer in every home is unnecessarily encroaching on the slow-paced and blissful waking reality of my childhood summer. I’m called abruptly into the study in my grandparents house, breaking from my LEGO sets and my tuna sandwich. Two men are helping my father set up a machine with a keyboard and monitor. I’m invited to type “run” in what I’d later learn is a DOS prompt. It’s as if I’m unleashing some incantation I’ve held inert inside myself from birth. I’m the only one that can correctly inaugurate the pairing of ones and zeroes to make the box function correctly. My first attempt at scripting, these three letters, is this technology’s equivalent of having a champagne bottle smashed along the starboard side.
Vaporwave is about craft-brewing this sensation of a magical shiny new internet in a new cross-medium genre of artistic expression. It’s about computers having a hidden life within them, where screensavers of randomly growing pipes or an endless maze have a believable tactility, you really might some day shrink down like Hank-fucking-Pym and explore it yourself.
It’s also about undermining the idea of corporate ownership of brands, about the gaudiness of the late 80s alongside classical sculpture and juxtaposed with our own current tastes, about transforming the works of smooth listening sounds into something a little more slowed down and aetherial. Where Seapunk was entirely aware of its own irony, Vaporwave scoffs and mutters something under-breath about The New Sincerity and points to a framed picture of that one Andrew WK album.
There was an Itch.io gamejam recently where a number of Vaporwave games were produced. I played two that I really like. Okay:
enter the VAPORWAVE
Here, the vaporwave is literally a wave. You’re surfing on it using the Windows 95 logo. As long as you keep moving you keep getting more points, which I feel is a great way to live. It’s like you’re a shark, never pausing even to sleep (because then you will stop getting points).
I like the idea that traditionally vaporwavy concepts like iconic ionic pillars are actually shown to be obstacles that cause you to lose as soon as you come into real contact with them, as if as soon as you’re actually able to physically touch what it means to be vaporwave, the entire thing has become meaningless as it’s no-longer a branch of magic digital art.
An important component of Vaporwave that I’ve yet to discuss is that it doesn’t actually have to be “good”. It just has to “be”.
PapsiManlet isn’t very good. Who cares?
You’re a stretched out and obviously stolen poly of Pepsiman. You, uh, explore. You look at a poster for Windows 95. And there’s a floating Burger King box.
It’s a nightmare of coding, almost like you’re part of some game-design jazz. The run speed is too slow to the point that it’s negligible, the jump is too high and will occasionally break the camera, locking it high above where the player character is actually visible.
And I love it. It’s the most Vaporwave thing I’ve ever seen.