I am not in your dream

By Alex Mazey

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I’ve always wanted to write about the video game, Yume Nikki, so you can imagine how interested I was when I scrolled through your hypnagogic collage of reels to find the earliest posts consisting of images of Madotsuki. I consider Madotsuki to be the antecedent protagonist of what we now call the dreamcore aesthetic. Considering how many accounts are today dedicated to a similar kind of dreamcore liminality posting, I thought your account stood out through not only the idiosyncratic visuals you post but also this acknowledgement of the Yume Nikki influence. Whilst it’s scary for me to think about that game as being twenty years old already, I find it’s influence on the dreamcore aesthetic more relevant today than it’s ever been. I could probably talk about this forever when I’m actually more interested in your own thoughts on this video game and its influence on your visual direction?

en4ria: I have always wanted to talk about Yume Nikki as well. Yume Nikki has played a vital role in shaping what my Instagram page has become today. 

I’d like to share the backstory on how my Instagram page came to be and my love for liminal spaces, dreamcore and weirdcore due to my discovery of Yume Nikki. I believe it was around the middle of 2020 when I was scrolling on YouTube and stumbled upon a video titled “Oddly familiar places that make you feel mildly uncomfortable with sad nostalgic music.” Sadly, the original video has since been removed, but a reupload is available for people to watch. I like to think that this video itself was the catalyst for my engrossment in liminal spaces, dreamcore, weirdcore, etc.

What stood out to me the most was the music that played in the video, which was “Abandoned Apartments (Lower Apartments)” from a game I had never heard of called “Yume 2kki”. I was curious and did some research, and found out that this was a fangame which many consider to be the sequel to Yume Nikki, myself included. I was intrigued and wanted to play it for myself. Luckily, it was free on Steam, so I downloaded and dove into this plotless dream exploration.

After my first experience, I was immediately hooked and confused as to what I had just spent the last hour playing. I decided to tell my friends about my little discovery and streamed it to them on Discord one night. Like myself, they were also interested in this dream exploration. This led onto many nights of me streaming while my friends would watch me explore the many dream worlds Yume Nikki had to offer, while I collected effects along the way.

Around a week later I had completed Yume Nikki and gone through multiple endings. I now wanted to give the “sequel” to Yume Nikki a go. But I had encountered a problem, majority of the game was in Japanese. I really wanted to experience this game, so I went ahead studied Japanese. After a few months I was finally ready to play Yume 2kki or ゆめ2っき as it’s other name it’s known by. (日本語を勉強したけど、下手です。) 

Same events as before: I played through Yume 2kki with my friends, and it was just as good as the first game. Overall, I really loved the visuals of Yume Nikki and Yume 2kki, and the OST alongside the visuals were amazing.

About six months passed after these events occurred. During this time, I experienced a rough six months at University (a completely separate story on its own for another day). But after going through that, I felt like I wanted to create an Instagram page to express myself. Originally, I created Weirdcore content, primarily focusing on Yume Nikki, using Madotsuki, Urotsuki, and other iconic characters from the Yume Nikki series.

I did this for around a month and did not see much growth. I managed to gain around 20 followers. At this time, I noticed AI image generations started to get attention on Instagram and decided to give it a go. I remember Midjourney used to offer a free trial back in 2022 when I first discovered AI image generation. During this time, Midjourney was very limited, and its generations were not the greatest but still very impressive, considering it was a new technology that had just emerged. I believe Midjourney was in its V2 model when I initially found out about it.

But fast forward to now, the new V6 Midjourney Model is absolutely amazing and generates images with any desired aesthetic with close to no flaws, assuming your prompt is very explicit about what you’re trying to achieve. I’m excited to see where AI will take us in the future and how AI image and video generation will evolve over time.

But back to my Instagram page. I wanted to match the aesthetic that Yume Nikki gave off: liminal space with a sense of loneliness. And a few months later, here I am with tens of thousands of followers, each of whom I cherish dearly. And that’s the story of how en4ria came to be. Or engrothaphagia, as some of my earlier followers knew me as.

I wanted to ask about the relationship between dreamcore and music. To say, dreamcore has become another example of an open-source aesthetic whose world building has become all encompassing, with a soundscape to match the visual depth. Years ago I added Instupendo’s Comfort Chain and Six Forty Seven to a LoFi playlist and whilst I really loved those tracks, I always felt like they didn’t belong there, that they were, in some special way, foretelling of an aesthetic yet to arrive. I can’t help but feel like a shadow of that other world arrived with dreamcore, later falling into perhaps a darker intonation with the visuals now accompanying Xori tracks like warm nights. Is dreamcore playing into the algorithm of what’s expected from the aesthetic or do you think the music plays an important role in setting the tone?

en4ria: I do believe that music plays a massive role in setting the overall tone of a scene. Yume Nikki did an amazing job at portraying this very idea. If I could think of one example from both Yume Nikki titles, for the original Yume Nikki, The Barracks Settlement executed this perfectly with its iconic 6-second loop alongside the depressing barracks settlement or shanty village. It really gave off a sense of hopelessness and loneliness. And for Yume 2kki, The Abandoned Apartments theme perfectly set the scene for an abandoned apartment. When playing through Yume 2kki and I reached that world, I felt as if I was entering a zone that was once populated with people. Now it has been left abandoned, giving off a quite eerie vibe.

The examples you’ve provided, “Comfort Chain” and “Six Forty Seven” by Instupendo, and “Warm Nights” by Xori, were way ahead of their time, as if a genre for that type of music had not even been created yet. I believe it is due to the rise of Dreamcore and Weirdcore that we are able to give this type of music a genre. Almost as if this music was meant to be used sometime in the future. These pieces of music, to be honest, are quite unusual but sound absolutely mesmerizing.

Journey to the Cathedral and Abandoned Ruins are two of your reels that not only appear consecutively but both deal with sacred spaces in my mind. Likewise, other thematic consistencies that seem unique to your visual style include things like oil lamps, moons and planets. This is without mentioning the most obvious consistency which is the trippy colour palette that nevertheless remains dark, almost sinister in a PlayStation graphics kind of way. I wondered what your intention was with the aesthetic direction of the account in general? What is it you’re trying to provoke in your viewers?

en4ria: I absolutely love PSX-style graphics, to the point where I even created my own horror game using that exact aesthetic. I might share it publicly with all of you, I just need to fix a few things within the game.

But back to the question, I just really like this visual style and wanted to show it to as many people as possible. I sort of miss when games used to look like this. Don’t get me wrong, modern-day graphics are absolutely amazing. With the rise of Unreal Engine, video game graphics look almost identical to real life, which I find absolutely mind-blowing that we’ve come this far in terms of video game graphics.

But there’s just something about older PSX graphics. The limitations they used to have back then give off an eerie feeling, a sort of emptiness. It’s hard to put into words the way I feel when looking at this aesthetic. But there are video game developers who have revived this style of aesthetic, such as “Puppet Combo” and “Chilla’s Art”. Two developers from whom I also take heavy inspiration, as they match the exact PSX style aesthetic.

And I suppose I just wanted to share this type of aesthetic to as many people as possible. As I was sure there are other people out there who feel the exact same way about this aesthetic choice as I do. Hence why majority of my posts all follow the same PlayStation type graphics and trippy colour palette.

Some of the visuals that fall outside of that trippy colour palette bring to mind the popularity of those Silent Hill vibes you so often see associated with the dreamcore aesthetic. I once wrote that playing Silent Hill was an uncanny experience where the despondency that town recounted possessed a comforting kind of sentiment, coming to us today as a place many people would like to visit, a place many people feel at home. I suppose for a certain generation it seemed Silent Hill was a world that appeared exactly like how our world always felt; lonely, sepulchral, and saturated with hopelessness. When I look at and read the comments for a post like Returning home after a night out, the caption asking, How do you truly feel? I can’t help but feel like dreamcore develops as an aesthetic of tiny consolations. What do you think makes these visuals so appealing in a strangely nostalgic kind of way? Is it just the PS1 graphics or is there something deeper at play here? 

en4ria: I believe the PS1-style graphics play a massive role in the sense of nostalgia that viewers experience when looking at my posts. The majority of my audience falls in the age range of 18-24, which lines up with the time that these games were released. Many of us probably played them growing up or watched gameplay of them, as I did.

For me, a game that definitely makes me feel nostalgia and a sense of feeling at home was “Resident Evil: Deadly Silence”. Despite being a horror game, I used to play this game growing up. And looking back on it now makes me reminisce about the time where I didn’t have a single worry in the world, no responsibilities, just free in my own little world. Compared to now, where I am studying at university full time and working a job on the side. But it’s still a peaceful life right now regardless.

As for something deeper at play, I believe people feel a sense of nostalgia when looking at these posts, which heavily resemble games such as Silent Hill, as you’ve mentioned. It’s not just the game itself; it’s the time and place where we used to play these games when we were younger. The same can go for any game from that era; it doesn’t have to specifically be the horror genre.

We’re both Hu Tao mains. I like Hu Tao because she reminds me of a contemporary personification of the Freudian death drive. What do you like about Hu Tao? I often suspect that we’ll look back at games like Genshin Impact in twenty years’ time with a similar sense of nostalgia that we today exhibit for games like Yume Nikki and Silent Hill. Funnily enough, you can already sense the melancholic longing players exhibit towards the world of Teyvat which seems so much happier and magical than our own. And so, like the nostalgia some exhibit for Nintendo64 or PlayStationOne graphics, do you suspect we’ll see Genshin nostalgia in our lifetime?

en4ria: Hu Tao? Main? What do I like about her? Uh… Character design mostly. (I don’t have to explain in detail). But I do also like the Pyro element and her kit as they’re pretty OP. Although I’m more of a Ganyu type of guy now, you know?

Anyway! I definitely see Genshin Impact being nostalgic in twenty years as Genshin Impact will probably cease to exist that far into the future. A new and better gacha will be released, probably by miHoYo themselves. And that game will indefinitely cease to exist in the future. Creating an endless cycle of gacha games being created, thriving, dying, repeat.

I’d like to thank Alexzander for giving me the opportunity to discuss Yume Nikki, Dreamcore, and the backstory of my Instagram account. I’ve always wanted to talk about these topics but never had the chance until now. I look forward to potential collaborations and future endeavors that may arise in the future.

Thank you for reading!


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