If you've ever stayed up late reading fictional horror about video games, you've likely heard of Jadusable, or "Ben Drowned." The Majora's Mask horror story was prominent in the "creepypasta" scene, and this year, it's coming to an end, with some help from artificial intelligence.
Started back in 2010, Ben Drowned is the colloquial term for a series of works by author Alexander D. Hall about a haunted cartridge for The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. As the in-fiction author, a user named Jadusable, plays further into the Nintendo 64 game, things get stranger and stranger. The game begins to glitch in odd ways, and while Majora's Mask is already a creepy game, the storyline Hall injects into it gets even weirder, as Jadusable's in-game avatar is taunted and tortured, and the cartridge's malevolence turns on the player.
Fast-forward to 2020, and the third and final arc of Ben Drowned has kicked off in earnest. A series of videos have been released since March, detailing a new player Sarah's discovery of the Ben Drowned mythos and expanded universe, and in a conversation with USgamer, Hall says he's planning to give some closure to the series.
Readers and viewers are able to vote in this iteration, which has allowed for some interactivity and community-driven storytelling, like Sarah's decision to explore the original Majora's Mask cartridge after finding it in a mysterious hotel. But a new element is the use of artificial intelligence; while even the original Ben Drowned reference A.I. by using programs like Chatbot for storytelling, two major pieces of this third arc of Ben Drowned have been constructed using artificial intelligence.
A creepy video (which is, forewarning, pretty darn scary) used Artbreeder in partnership with DeepAI to create images, while a theme for the series was written with MuseNet, part of OpenAI, by feeding it the original Song of Healing from Majora's Mask. The former is absolutely terrifying, while the latter builds on the lore and feels like a natural permutation of this fiction: an AI writing a song based on Zelda music certainly fits with the haunted cartridge theme.
Hall says that he's more of a writer and voice actor, but these tools have allowed him to still create visual art and music for the series. "These deep learning programs, if you're willing to put in the work to tweak them, can allow anyone to literally create their own, custom-built artwork and music for their own stories without having to pay a dime," Hall tells USG.
For independent artists without a budget for art or composition, it's certainly an interesting project. Artificial intelligence has seeped into all kinds of development already, from playing DM for a MUD-style text adventure to dominating unsuspecting opponents in StarCraft 2.
If you want to learn more about the making of the original Ben Drowned and the first arc of Hall's story, you can check out an old interview I did with Hall. It looks like the story is finally headed for a conclusion, and thanks to artificial intelligence, it still has the ability to scare the living daylights out of me, even a full decade later.