The Midnight Vaporwave J-Horror Aesthetics of ‘The Convenience Store’ Game

RND/ To imagine if you will the strange midnight neon VHS horror aesthetics of “The Convenience Store” videogame by Chilla’s Art:

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First off: balls to contemporary online discussions about ‘aesthetics’. The word has long since become lazy short hand for ‘obsolete, nakedly pro-capitalist discussions of ‘The A E S T H E T I C’ as Vaporwave was known’. Nobody really gives two shits about it anymore – except that, ‘for a while it was ooh, shiny.’ Give the baby anything the baby wants, techno-capitalistically speaking (ie. within the strict ideological horizons of and defined by the global Mall / Maul of Maximum Amerika.) But never once anything New.

And so along comes The Convenience Store, and so what can be said about it, except that very little can be said about it. Horror, or J-Horror, ghostly goings on at the 7/11, OK fine what else can you really say about it? “It’s a (non) thing.” Like all minor cult-like works, it’s good in that bad straight-to-unrewound VHS way. While it has phosphor screen trail and bleeding, VHS tape noise, interlacing, and analog video signal jitter, at least it doesn’t feature any of that blindly obvious blue-scan-line Matrix overlay bullshit ;-/

It’s is the videogame equivalent of elevator muzaq kitsch. Overbrite fluorescents, super shiny floors, hyper-generic product placement, extreme (default) existential displacement and suburban alienation. Late night rando drunken insomniac assholes shuffling in and demanding exacting consumerist slices of your underpaid labor. (Also: get the fuck outa here, 2D-faced Grandma Hell and stop wasting my goddam time; and change your grandma incontinence pants.) The faint smell of out-of-date foodstuffs on the bleach-sprayed shelves, quickly and quietly discarded in the rat infested dumpsters out back. (The sheer industrial scale amount of waste such nonplaces generate must be incredible.) In fact the more-real horror of this place is not some bullshit ghostly whatever, but the game itself as an inherently obsolete, faded, forgotten-from-the-outset exercise in digital hauntology. An ancient electronic artifact with the power to haunt the present. Much like vaporwave itself, with its zombie-like looping samples and lo-fi snatches of old shitty 70s and 80s pop tunes.

And yet, the only thing this game has to say – that it precisely states with intense visual flair – is that has nothing whatsoever to say. The undead New Age Utopianism of Vaporwave is strong in this one. In the precise sense that ‘whatever exists, is good’, that the game exists (albeit virtually, as raw Baudrillardian 3rd-stage Simulacra), it itself is only ever symbolic of the inherent existential validity of it’s own tautological existence and expression. Just not meaning – and especially not human meaning. One never gets the outright sense that working at such places ‘spaces of (data / Capital) transition’ – merely that it’s ‘dark and creepy’. OK, fine. But what is dark and creepy is that we play videogames at all – not really anything in the game itself, it’s internal meanings, its narrative – but simply in Gaming As Capitalist Techno-Culture per se. It’s atmosphere is ‘spooky’ because it has none. So welcome to the sucking midnight neon blue void. The inherently insane artificial intelligence has deliberately left the airlock wide open. The doors to The Convenience Store awaits.


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