The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
During this spooky season, I’ve been taking the time to revisit horror games that I used to play, or watch gameplays of in the past. Games like Slenderman, Doki Doki Literature Club, and Catherine immediately came to mind, and it was fun to watch gameplays and picking up on various clues hidden throughout the game (except for Slenderman, somehow I don’t think I’ve ever finished a full walkthrough of it– I guess I got bored of collecting pages in the woods). However, one game in particular stood out to me, and that was the Five Nights at Freddy’s (FNAF) franchise. If you were into Youtubers like Markiplier and Game Theory at some point, you’ve probably watched them play FNAF, and perhaps even dove deep into the lore of the series.
For those who are unfamiliar, FNAF is a survival horror game with point and click elements. The player must try to survive five nights at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria without being caught by any of the animatronics that roam the pizzeria at night. The game is deceptively simple in theory– check the cameras to see where the animatronics are, turn on the lights to check if they are at the door, and close the doors if they are there. However, it is also a resource management game, for if your power depletes before your shift is up, the likelihood of the player dying is highly likely. The subsequent eight sequels (yes, you read that right. Eight sequels.) incorporate similar elements, but also become increasingly complicated, with the player having to listen for sound cues and play specific voice tracks to lure certain characters away.
Gameplay aside, what definitely drove the series to become such a huge success was the lore. In the first game, players would see newspaper clippings regarding the pizzeria itself, and we are teased for the first time regarding “The Bite of ‘87”, an incident where an animatronic had bitten someone, causing a loss of their frontal lobe. There were also clippings talking about the bodies of children being stuffed into the animatronics as well. Although these just seemed like small details intended to make the game even spookier, more questions about these incidents would be properly developed in future games. What started as small details soon led to fans ripping each game apart, looking for clues and hints to try and piece together the timeline of when each incident occurred, attempting to figure out who the mysterious “Purple Guy” was, and whether he was “Phone Guy” or not. The lore of the FNAF series gained so much traction that Scott Cawthorn, the developer of the games, released three novels and a twelve part anthology series to provide the fans further explanation on the creepy corporation that created these animatronics.
The FNAF series never ceases to surprise me, in all honesty. Back when the first game was released, I was not entirely keen on the game– after all, it was more nerve-wracking than it was scary, and I couldn’t understand the hype around it. However, because of the complex lore and intricate details that laid in each game, I gained interest in piecing together the various clues, and I was knee deep in this community, staying up at night trying to figure out what the timeline was, as well as the identities of the multiple “Guys” in the game. It goes to show that good storytelling provides a more entertaining experience, regardless of simplistic gameplay and graphics. Take Undertale, for example, it uses 8-bit graphics, but because it has a compelling story, it is still a game that many rave over despite it being released six years ago.
So… What now? The hype surrounding FNAF has definitely died, and people have moved on from this series that unexpectedly became a huge hit overnight. Some may say that it’s for the best that we are finally done with this series, for nine games and fifteen books seem a bit of an overkill for a relatively simplistic game, and let’s be honest: majority of the hype went away after the fifth game, when most of the community’s main questions were answered. Yet, Scott Cawthorn was still able to churn out so much content within a short period of time, and to that I say, get that bag, sis.
It is undeniable that the series holds a special place in my heart, and I occasionally go back to it just to relive the days where I spent countless hours trying to figure out the mysteries within the games. It has been seven years since I first played the games and engaged with the community, yet it still feels fresh and is incredibly fun to play. There is an element of timelessness to it that allows for replayability, even if you aren’t invested in the story. Was it an overkill to have nine games though? Yes, but it’s definitely a good way to pass the time when you are bored.