Nintendo did the unthinkable in a brilliant, bold move in 2000: they released a Legend of Zelda game that touched upon the genre of horror. Majora's Mask was initially released for the N64 and later hit the GameCube and Nintendo 3DS platforms. The plot revolves around the end of the world, where Link has three days to stop the eerie moon from crashing into the land of Termina. He has the power to reset the 72-hour time frame over and over again until he can find a solution.
This dark apocalyptic game actually had the worst sales record of the entire Zelda franchise when it was first released. Yet, over time, its genius was slowly recognized. Players of all ages became fascinated by the melancholic tones and themes of death in a title intended for adolescents. And while the gameplay and story are amazing, this small Nintendo venture into the horror genre spawned something truly terrifying: a cult following.
The subculture of Majora's Mask grew, becoming a beast of its own that Nintendo had never intended to create. It gave birth to a creepypasta in 2010 that led to the creation of "Ben Drowned," popularly depicted as Link with blood trickling from his eyes. Suddenly, a dark entity that was not initially a part of Majora's Mask was given life through the Internet. Ben Drowned clawed his way into existence, making marks in the real world that are even connected to the death of a young girl.
Majora's Mask is unabashedly honest in its portrayal of the fear of death. In fact, the game almost seems to have an obsession about death. For example, Link has over twenty masks that he can use to transform into different creatures. Did you know that each mask comes from a person who actually died in the game? Oh, and let's not forget that each time Link puts on a mask, you can hear his bones cracking as he screams in pain.
Then there's the impending, inevitable feeling of doom that constantly hangs over you in the form of a malicious, grinning moon. Its evil presence serves as a constant reminder that time is ticking and death is coming. If players don't rewind time and just let the 72-hour window close, the moon rains down hell on Termina.
This is not to say that Majora's Mask is an evil and terrible game. In fact, it's actually the opposite - it's a brilliant game that masterfully weaves complex themes together. However, what's disturbing is that the game's target audience is ten-to-twelve-year-olds. The strong melancholic current, the constant suffering, and the fear of death permeate a game that is rated E for "everyone." Though it was never Nintendo's intention, Majora's Mask slowly gained a dark cult following that celebrated the futility and hopelessness of the game over the years.
In 2010, a decade after Majora's Mask was initially released, a user named "Jadusable" created a post on 4chan that triggered an uproar in the underbelly of the Internet. He claimed to have purchased a used copy of the game from a yard sale that used to belong to a boy named "Ben," who unfortunately drowned. While he was playing the game, he suddenly found himself facing creepy situations where NPCs called him "BEN," glitches in the game burned Link to death, and chilling messages like, "You shouldn't have done that..." suddenly appeared. He even posted videos to prove what had happened to him.
This led to the birth of the creepypasta known as "Ben Drowned," about a ghost who haunts a Majora's Mask cartridge. Originally, the image of "Ben Drowned" was the statue of Link found in the game that Jadusable claimed was Ben. After Jadusable confessed that the entire story was fiction, fans of Ben Drowned insisted that the boy was actually real. Fan art and fanfiction started oozing out of the subculture, fleshing out the character of the boy who drowned. Eventually, Ben Drowned was personified as Link with blood running down his face from his eyes.
Ben Drowned drew lots of comparisons to one of the most well-known creepypastas called Slender Man. Neither Nintendo nor Jadusable had ever intended to create such a horror-driven subculture that revered or idolized the ghost of a drowned boy. The Internet embraced Ben and molded him into one of their own disturbing legends.
Katelyn Nichole Davis was only 12 when she committed a live-stream video suicide. In her last moments, she repeatedly apologized for not being "good enough" and for being the victim of physical and sexual abuse by a family member. In the midst of the tragedy, she says something disturbing in the video: "I'm so sorry. I'm sorry I just wasn't good enough. I'm sorry Ben."
Just eight days prior to her death, Davis posted an entry about Ben Drowned in her online diary. It seemed like she either believed in the ghost or met someone who used Ben Drowned as an alias. She writes, "I've decided to go on a mission, and to find him once and for all. Because I have made a conclusion that: I can't live without him."
This is not to say that Ben Drowned (the creepypasta) directly caused Davis's death. Much of her childhood appears to be wrought with depression, a difficult home life, and physical and sexual abuse. However, the fact that she was reaching out to a dark Internet legend and calling him "my long lost love" is quite unsettling. As is with the case of the Slender Man stabbings, Davis's tragic story ignites debates about the impact of the Internet on children, especially when it comes to subcultures that explore death that may be difficult for young minds to navigate without proper guidance.