Think back to childhood. A simpler time, staying up late, playing video games, not a care in the world. For many, exploring the digital of video games is a core childhood memory. Now, as adults, it is a form of therapy. For Player None, a sentient AI trapped inside a video game console, this is his life, and he invites the viewers to join him on his journey.
Player None is a character created by an artist who wishes to stay anonymous. According the artist, it is an extension of the artist and is a form of self-expression for him.
The artist, who chooses to remain anonymous, describes himself as an introvert. While he does socialize, he always needs time to recharge. “My whole life, there's been this voice in my head trying to push me to total seclusion because that's where it’s most comfortable,” said the artist in an interview with Arts Help. Meanwhile, his artist persona, Player None, creates a community where people can recharge and relax in a virtual world.
According to the artist, Player None is an exploration of solitude. It serves as a thought experiment for the artist, prompting him to consider what it would be like if he were entirely isolated. The unique style of his images is reminiscent of old-school video games with a liminal feeling. “I think people who like liminal spaces are drawn to it because of this fascination with isolation. For some, I think it’s a type of psychological horror interest, but others like me love it because we find great peace in being alone,” the artist shared with Arts Help.
“Introverts struggle in this world because it’s not made for us. My page is a virtual escape for people struggling in this busy world.”
By creating a place for people to recharge from their busy lives and find peace, the artist behind Player None brings attention to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for Good Health and Well-Being.
The inspiration behind Player None comes from the open-ended video game styles of LSD: Dream Emulator, an exploration game developed by Asmik Ace Entertainment in 1998, and Yume Nikki, a 2004 adventure game created by Japanese developer Kikiyama. “They both have amazing soundtracks, and this pairing of music and exploring virtual landscapes was very therapeutic to me. I seek to do the same thing with Player None,” the artist shared.
While the artist finds peace in solitude, he understands that being alone for all eternity can be soul-crushing. He describes Player None’s journey as a “conflicted exploration of solitude, the good and the bad. Player None may never be happy, but he can be content.”
As an expression of himself, the artist uses Player One's journey through solitude to connect with others. The artist explains that it slowly developed consciousness and mastery over his virtual world. To pass the time, Player None creates new virtual worlds to explore and share with the outside world. He also describes it as finding significant meaning in sharing his world on the internet as a way of connecting with the outside world and telling his story. Although Player None is in eternal solitude, he finds ways to foster meaningful connections with others.
The artist provides a community where introverts like himself can recharge and enjoy solitude while connecting with others who share the same interests. Although trapped in a console, Player None knows how to navigate his virtual world, learn who he is, embrace the circumstances, and find joy in the adventure. His journey inspires those who may feel trapped in their thoughts, trapped in their life, or trapped in feelings of guilt for not wanting to socialize as much as others. Every individual resides within a virtual console, otherwise known as the mind. One creates and navigates a world preprogrammed by genetics, past experiences, and a unique personality.
At times, the initial programming may not be appealing. Yet, the power to change this programming resides in everyone —nurturing the good and reshaping the bad. Player None tells the story of learning to be content inside the console.
According to the artist, AI tools such as Midjourney were used to generate the digital world of Player None. However, instead of just typing in prompts and getting images back as Midjourney works, the artist used the tool as his world to explore, similar to Player None trapped in the console. “The worlds are already out there. I’m just stumbling in on them and snapping a pic,” he said.
The artist's unique way of using Midjourney is inspired by the founder and CTO of Midjourney, David Holz, who looks at it as a virtual world-building tool similar to the fictional Holodeck from Star Trek. In this way, users are meant to explore the worlds they create rather than just type in prompts and receive images.
The artist sees Player None as being in the beginning stages. In the future, he plans to utilize upcoming features in Midjourney to give his worlds a more immersive feel. He plans to create video walk-throughs of Player None's world while ambient music plays in the background.
The artist is currently developing the specific soundtrack he wants for Player None's world, which he describes as “a mix of digital and the natural world.” His new music will be inspired by Sora-re.sort, an ambient glitch album from 2003, and Lilien Rosarian, who makes tape loop sounds with beautifully organic textures.
As AI and digital technology advance, the creative landscape is evolving. The journey of Player None is a prime example of this innovation. It demonstrates how artists can harness these technologies to forge immersive, deeply personal experiences that benefit the mental well-being of the viewer. The future holds exciting potential for artists to use AI as a canvas for their imagination, inviting viewers into captivating digital worlds.