Now this is what a meme should be. DonkeyKong.exe is a game featuring the very best of what vapourwave idealises: patent nonsense wrapped up in a pseudo – artistic message topped off with æsthetics that will blow your mind and give you a seizure. Also content warning for seizures and meme music, which is a shame, because I dedicated a small portion of my life to vapourwave, back when I was thirteen and my young little mind was just discovering this whole “net art” thing. Oh, how times change, and what once a respectable genre was twisted into something appropriated by normies to the point where it died… at least we have future funk.
Don’t let the name fool you: it’s not a creepypasta. I think I’ll let the developer commentary speak for itself: “i think a lot of things we just need to figure out ourselves you know like we all as individuals need to ask ourselves, who are we really? why are we? what is art? what is the meaning of life? is there a god? do video game gorillas go to heaven? what is this game? if we die and forget our lives, have we ever really lived? do android monkeys dream of electric banana bands? i think in the end we just need to find OUR truth you know? good luck on your journey frie”. Thanks, SeruK, who has nothing to do with the homonymous furry porn artist, which is as far as the word “homo” goes near him, the straight bastard.
Is this art games? Are we art games now? Perhaps. I don’t believe there is a reason for this to be a Unity game, except for the developer downloading some glitchy filters off the asset store, but I’m just guessing. I can’t see the source code of this game, so it could be leeching all my browsing history and revealing my identity as we speak. Of course, all it would find is “gay birds” searched up ten thousand times. Unfortunately it is copyrighted software, completely against the anti – capitalist nature of vapourwave, and so I speculate this game was made by a normie.
Bad move SeruK, coming around these neighbourhoods.
The Kong is Bong
Big Kong runs haplessly through the first level from Big Kong Country, which is the only level anybody played due to you’ll being casuals. One is obliged to collect bananas out of the vain assumption they do anything, though given Mr. Kong slides for a half – second after you release the key, you shouldn’t worry about it. When he gets to the end, a new character appears. And another one, but he’s slow, so you have to move to the left, into the Banana Cave of Broken Dreams, and then things start getting weird with it.
Weirder than before. I’ll try to describe this game, this simulator of chewing tinfoil: as Cool Kong greets you with his omnipresent pink, Big Kong faces the heck that is seeing reality fall apart before his eyes, as what he expects to be gameplay turns out to be a twisted simulation of long – gone memories, a collection of comfort objects turning to sinister rhetoric, and the whole of the game itself giving up, saying “don’t play me”, and so music invades high and never lets go until the very end, the demise… only to repeat itself. The Kong Purgatory.
The History of Vapourwave
The interesting thing about vapourwave is that the messages are so vague that they can be interpreted to mean anything, and let with an æsthetic focused so that one is forced to come to the author’s “correct” conclusion. While Greco – Roman busts, dolphins, and the omnipresent pink have been created out of the collective conscious without reason — and so may be interpreted in any way — the more modern facets of vapourwave, being the nostalgic throwback to a more hedonistic generation while using our current knowledge to spit our bile hatred on this vapid era of humanity, create a contradiction that represents a lot of what humanity is, and has to offer.
Forgive me for saying there are “levels of irony” inherent in the genre, but that’s exactly what it is. It’s ironic in its core, where the millenials who created the genre are smart enough to not want to live in any generation but their own, and yet still envision a golden age of the 80’s and 90’s that never existed, and so try to create it through art that evokes this paradise, this “virtual mall” so to speak, as well as the soundtrack that might have played during it. In the æsthetic we have a brain – smashing overload of cultural icons from this fictional era, your crisp – and – clean typography combined with nostalgically faded – out scenes from what might have been, and in the music we hear the yearnings of this fictional generation, where they demand the cultural universals of love, calm, and something not entirely unlike the good life.
Vapourwave is a genre that wants its cake while still having it, but the cake never existed, so they have to invent it. The reason it’s parodied so often is that there are so few artists who understand the symbolism of the genre, the tongue – in – cheek use of bad anime and the contradictions of smashing together cultural zeitgeists that make zero sense, such as featuring a Roman bust in line with Japanese text and Statesian purple drank. Because they don’t understand the meaning behind the symbols, they throw them together without care or regard for applying the proper layers of irony inherent in the genre… the reason why Future Funk is so much more successful is because it does something which everyone can understand: celebrate nostalgia without making a parody of it, making it a lot more accessible to the layman.
The trouble with this genre is that artists themselves don’t often understand what they’re doing, and because vapourwave requires such a large leap in cognitive thinking to fully interpret that is beyond the capacity of the untrained mind, and so the end result between good vapourwave and bad vapourwave is too often blurred together. Future Funk sends a clear message: “disco was great, let’s all throw down". It is not a genre that requires much thought, and so the greatest future funk is, instead of being omnipresent pink, being omnipresent pep. Vapourwave makes us think and feel. Future Funk makes us sing and dance, and it’s seeing how these two genres trigger the entire spectrum of our emotions which makes them remarkable, truly remarkable, in the history of the Internet.
And that’s pretty much what DonkeyKong.exe is about: making you think about the remarkable things of the Internet. while it doesn’t have much smart to say on its own, it is more for what it is than what it could be that makes it an excellent entry in the canon of “games as art”, even if the art is messy and one has to drag meaning out of it like a fresh burn victim.
It is also dignified to see one of these games exist within the canon of gaming and not have it be one of those art games, such as Journey, Flower, whatever, that are like jiggling car keys in front of an infant and looking at the pretty colours, as the audience is a fool for any stimulation whatsoever. There are games that are a little bit smarter than that, even if their construction was a joke. At the end, though, I am obligated to call it how I see it, and it is one spicy meme.