With Halloween around the corner, it’s time to get spooky.
Nothing beats bringing out the scary movies, shows, games and letting your inner coward roam free.
When we think of horror, we generally think of books and movies like Stephen King’s It, or movie series like Saw. There’s also a growing market in video games that share the vibe, from Slenderman on.
But perhaps it’s time to live dangerously, scale new heights of terror…
Five Nights at Freddy’s (or FNaF) created a new template for horror video games when it was released in 2014, creating a scenario in which the player’s own paranoia becomes a crucial element in game. The franchise has been so well received it has spawned 6 games, 2 novels, many, many fan-made games (some good and some just … interesting) and a film is in the pipeline.
Creator Scott Cawthon had copped severe criticism for his earlier historical games, many set in a biblical past. He knew his game career was on the line. He could develop a sequel to his one positively received game, The Desolate Hope, or take his chances with a totally new direction – a game built around the concept of robotic animals possessed by the restless spirits of murdered children.
He opted for the animatronics concept and started work on his first Five Nights at Freddy’s game.
What sets it apart from others is that it plays on gamers’ growing sense of helplessness as they drift deeper into a game that seems to offer no escape. You play as a security guard working at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza from 12am to 6am for five nights (hence the name of the game). It becomes clear, as the first night progresses, that the animatronics are not inclined to stay where they belong. They also are bent on vengeance and mayhem. As the guard you cannot leave your post – but somehow have to prevent them breaking into the security HQ as you discover the meaning of fear and panic. And there are four nights to go…
When the game was played and shared by influential YouTubers, including PewDiePie, JackSepticEye and Markiplier (who is dubbed the King of Five Nights at Freddy’s), it took off so dramatically that Cawthon had to develop and release a sequel just three months on. Here’s Markiplier having fun with Freddy:
Since then a large fanbase and numerous theories have developed around the game – in particular about how the animatronics came to be possessed. (To hear some of the best, check Mathew Patrick’s channel Game Theory. Cawthon has confirmed many of MatPat’s ideas, but suggested some intriguing alternatives for those trying to understand his creations.)
As more games were released the concept grew in complexity, acquiring its own backstory and gaming “lore”, encouraging fanatics to piece together timelines and scenarios that might explain what drives the restless spirits. This sense of personal involvement in the plot and potential twists helps drive the popularity that has seen the creation of a horror attraction in Las Vegas’ Fight Dome and two books. Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Silver Eyes became a New York Times bestseller and the sequel, Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Twisted Ones, is selling well.
The popularity of the new horror genre has seen other game designers try to build on Cawthon’s games. Some have been really bad and one game was so derivative it had to be pulled from the Apple App Store and led to Cawthon suing the designer. But some of the games were well received by fans desperate for more. Five Nights at Candy’s and The Joy of Creation are just a couple that fans and even Cawthon have praised.
So, if you’re in the mood for jump scares, frightening animatronics, and a sense of helplessness this Halloween, Five Nights at Freddy’s is the game for you – and it costs just $US5 on Steam. If you enjoy being driven paranoid, Freddy and his friends are waiting. – Jayson Gardner