ARTIST: Porter Robinson
Video games are a controversial influence, and often a chastised recipient of a bad reputation for violent and addicting qualities. A 2014 film entitled “Love Child” documents a horrific consequence to massive multiplayer-online role-playing game addiction. Meanwhile, a study published in Pediatrics Journal on NPR found children and teenagers 10-15 to be happier and more satisfied with 1-3 hours of gaming a day, as opposed to no gaming, or excessive gaming.
It seems video game culture has come to be a virtual part of everyone’s reality, and its effects are showing up in a myriad of ways, positive and negative. It’s far from common to expect that a youth-oriented escape route from the world to inspire musical genius, but electronic dance music icon Porter Robinson dedicates the inspiration for his first full-length album Worlds to the impressions of virtual realities on him growing up. “I basically spent my childhood on the computer, playing online games and watching animé, starting with Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh!, and then anything on Adult Swim. “Worlds” is kind of a homage to all those fictional universes that I loved growing up,” Robinson said.
Robinson was making music and being recognized for it on a global scale as a kid of 18, with no real angle or direction for his sound. He wanted to make the most technically challenging EDM of today, but wasn’t necessarily concerned with the final products’ sound. 22-year-old Robinson, at the top of the EDM scene, found himself fearful that his music stood for nothing. In his search to make an album with intention, Robinson returned to his hometown of Chapel Hill, North Carolina to contemplate. His brainstorming circled back to video game tropes and anime chords and progressions time and time again. In this reoccurrence, Robinson saw a universal application: “I’ve realized everyone has a fictional universe that’s dear to them, whether it’s literature or Dungeons & Dragons or HBO. People enjoy immersing themselves in fiction and fantasy — it’s a phenomenon that’s all-encompassing.”
Aligning his music with the collective need to “check out” is a smart move, and an alluring concept for his album Worlds that reaches beyond the current extent of electric dance music. Indie bands have latched onto the concept of being as a shoulder to lean on, with lyrics repeating renditions of “It’s alright,” “Don’t worry,” “You’re still young,” and “We’ll figure it out.” There is a definite offer coming from these musicians to relax and momentarily escape from pressures of life.
The reach of the escapism and fantasy presented through fictional worlds has spawned an inspiring gem with Worlds, but Robinson doesn’t want his inspiration to be misunderstood. The nature of his interest in these avenues of alternate realities came to be when he returned home to Chapel Hill, N.C. He doesn’t condone the escapism in the world of EDM that is sought out through drugs and intoxication. He doesn’t partake, but speaks to his own experience with perception altering substances, attempting to relate: “My favorite experience in life, probably, is drinking a lot of caffeine and getting really hyped up and listening to music and going for a drive. And that’s chemically assisted and it’s one of the most transcendent, beautiful experiences I’ve ever had. Of course, it’s critical that people be super safe about it.”
So, he claims to understand the allure of perspective altering substances, but he’s more interested in the many realities created through creative imagination and sound. His personal connection to the realm of video games created an album that aligns fascinatingly close to the objective of many contemporary indie rock-pop and electronic albums of 2014: the escape.
Worlds reflects the build-build-drop pattern heard in the electronic festival genre, but adds layers of intricate sound and plays with perplexing notions about reality, humanity, and identity. The sounds in a few tracks evoke imagery of nature, and the apocalyptic notions in the lyrics leads the listened to draw conclusions about Robinson making reference to saving the planet. It’s possible he’s reaching further, especially with “Goodbye to a World”, making a statement about how society has a stigma on video games, which represent alternate realities to some.
“Is anyone there?”