This interview was published by Arcade Attack on October 24, 2017. It took place during the hiatus, ten months after his last YouTube Q&A video.
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Alex Hall (Ben Drowned) – Interview
Adrian (A): Do you remember how you first got the idea for the compelling and haunting Ben Drowned story and what inspired you to write it?
Alex Hall (J): I remember stumbling upon random creepypasta stories back in 2009 before the genre had established itself yet and was fascinated by them. I thought it would be really neat if someone made a story that expanded upon Majora’s Mask and the somber themes it touched upon. I remember asking myself “what would make a compelling creepypasta story to me?”, imagining myself as the potential viewer instead of the author and what would catch my attention, and thus the story of Ben Drowned was created.
A: Ben Drowned genuinely gave me the chills when I first read it. Why do you think your ghost story was so well received and successfully managed to scare your readers?
J: Thank you! I think it’s the combination of having a written story in conjunction with “video evidence”. Back in 2010, I think Slenderman was the only other creepypasta that was incorporating visual “evidence” alongside its written text. This gave the story (and Ben Drowned) a more grounded in reality feel and allowed the viewer to have an easier time suspending their disbelief. It also helped that back then there weren’t that many people aware of how in-depth you could actually modify a Nintendo 64 ROM with gameshark coding tricks and some clever video editing, which I think worked in Ben Drowned’s favor.
A: How long did it take you to write Ben Drowned and how did you first publish it?
J: I wrote the first chapter and created the first video in roughly a day and a half and published it online on several video game forums pretending to be a guy who stumbled upon this haunted game and wanted advice on what to do.
A: How do you reflect on the reaction to your story and did you ever expect to create such a well-known gaming story?
J: It’s still, seven years later, a weird feeling. I’ve been very thankful and blessed to have such a great out-pour of support and fans, and it’s been such a unique experience that I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to hear how I’ve impacted and inspired people to write that I’ll never actually meet, I’ve been fortunate enough to be courted by some high profile film studios looking to make a Hollywood adaption out of my story, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have a fan base of people who enjoy my work.
However, sometimes all that attention can be intimidating. I didn’t even reveal my real name and face behind the story until 2012, and I’ve gotten my fair share of interesting stalker fan letters. It does put a lot of pressure on someone, especially when you’re trying to create a follow up story to recapture that same kind of magic – you just know whatever you create next is always going to be compared in some way or another to Ben Drowned. I think subconsciously I needed some time in between my next project for things to cool off a bit before I felt less pressure and could create more freely.
A: Ben Drowned is centered around a haunted Zelda Majora’s Mask N64 cartridge. Why did you choose this game in particular and are a huge fan of this game and other Zelda titles?
J: I always liked Majora’s Mask because of its melancholic atmosphere and felt that it would be a great setting for a creepypasta! I haven’t played a Zelda game since Twilight Princess but I’m dying to get my hands on Breath of the Wild! (Adrian definitely recommends it! 😉 – Ed)
A: The creepy in-game Zelda footage fits so well with your story. You touched on the YouTube clips earlier. how exactly were they made?
J: I made them using Project 64’s emulator software and a ROM of Majora’s Mask, then using really obscure gameshark debugging codes to essentially manipulate almost every aspect of the game – whether it was the audio, the level, or the animation itself. It took a lot of trial and error to learn and a lot of patience but eventually I discovered it was incredible the amount of control and creativity you had by utilizing those codes.
A: What is the strangest comment or reaction from Ben Drowned any of your readers/stalkers?
J: There’s certainly more than a handful, ranging from people convinced they’re the reincarnation of BEN to very wordy love letters. They always make checking my email folder interesting, and I’m amazed that I still get fan letters every other week or so even seven years after the fact. It’s incredible how much of an impact it has had.
A: Where is the best place online for our readers to read Ben Drowned?
J: On my YouTube account, Alex Hall or http://www.youtube.com/jadusable there will be a link in the description of any of the Ben Drowned videos to a third party website not hosted by me where you can read the story in its entirety. I still haven’t set up a website to host the story on, I kind of like the idea of just letting it be free out there in the wild. That’s what creepypastas should be like, anyway IMO.
A: Have you written any other online stories and if so how can our readers check out your work?
J: Yes, I’ve written another creepypasta story under a pseudonym that has actually done quite well and gotten popular – albeit not nearly as popular as Ben Drowned – but I’m satisfied with it. Like Ben Drowned originally was in its first two years, I’m not sure I’m ready to attach my real name to it yet. I kind of enjoy having a lot less pressure as a ghost writer. We’ll see.
A: I think Ben Drowned would easily make a great film, TV Show or comic. Do you think this could ever become a reality?
J: I sure do, and I have some pretty unique ideas on how to accomplish that on the big screen. Multiple movie studios out west have approached me about making a film adaptation over the years, but ultimately none of them have really taken off. I think the story will get its chance someday.
A: If you were to write a future video game ghost story, which video game would you love to base it around?
J: The Suffering. I was streaming the game back in 2012 on twitch and it actually did glitch out after I fell through the terrain, which resulted in the game playing flashing images of previous scenes of the game out of place (with one of them being the main character hanging himself, which actually is an image that flashes in the game towards the beginning, but I was near the end). I admittedly got too spooked out and didn’t continue the game because it was a little too on the nose for a story I had written two years earlier and it was like at 2 in the morning. I normally have a pretty high tolerance for spooky stuff but it was a little too close to how Ben Drowned started so it really tripped me out. I’d like to revisit that some day.
A: What is your favourite video game of all time and why?
J: I have too many, honestly. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Metal Gear Solid 2 probably for the amazing meta narrative that is more relevant than ever today. But as far as gameplay and dumb fun Devil May Cry 3 is up at the top. Still patiently waiting for DMC5 Capcom!
A: What other projects are you currently working on?
J: Working on a film called Methods of Revolution, which is a bit of my own pet project that I’ve been trying to follow up Ben Drowned with. It’s a feature length indie film and it’s a pretty remarkable story, but it’s still in production now and not out yet.
A: Would you ever consider writing a sequel to Ben Drowned and if so do you have any plot ideas?
J: Ben Drowned is a pretty self contained story and it hard to imagine a sequel that wouldn’t be hokey, but in theory I think it could be done. I have no desire to do it right now however. As to your other point I have some plot ideas about a similar kind of story, though, but I’ll keep those close to the chest for now.
A: If you could share a few drinks with a video game character who would you choose and why?
J: Dante from Devil May Cry 3. Guaranteed to be a crazy night.
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|2011||Resistance Chatango Q&A • Theet Chatango Q&A 1 • Kayd Hendricks Q&A|
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|2017||YouTube Q&As • Arcade Attack Interview • Kotaku Interview|