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What’s Killing My Social Life This Week – The Five Nights at Freddie’s Series

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Uhhh….hello? Hello hello? Hello and welcome to a quick analysis of the Five Nights at Freddy’s games! As a gamer that also studies game design, this series has been fascinating to me. Not because it’s scary or or the complexity of its mechanics, but just how much discussion it has caused. The first game is made up of something like 8 animations, a bunch of still images, and almost no actual gameplay, but has absolutely captivated the internet.

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When it comes to atmosphere, Scott Cawthon really knows what he’s doing. Let’s be honest, the Chuck E. Cheese style animatronics have always been a little creepy, but are child friendly under the bright lights and fun atmosphere of the restaurants you found them in. What if, though, what if things weren’t so fun-filled and colorful? What if these cute humanoid animals were taken out of that element? What if they were actual haunted, hate-filled, murderous spirits given physical bodies? These are things that I’ve….never really wondered, but Scott decided to answer for us anyway. The result is actually pretty terrifying. For those who somehow haven’t seen the games, Five Nights at Freddy’s is a game where you work as a security guard and watch over an empty Chuck E. Cheese -esque restaurant where the animatronics are allowed to move around on their own at night. These characters will move around the restaurant through rooms that can be seen on your security camera feeds and if they make it to you…. well, you’re gonna have a bad time. Your defense options are limited and vary through the games, but it’s never much.

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The design behind this series is absolutely brilliant. Scott has certainly earned my respect in making so much out of so little. In all three games the player’s movement is very limited. So limited, that the only movement you can make is looking slightly to each side. No walking, no crouching, no jumping, hell, you can’t even look up and down. For what Scott is going for, this is perfect. Restricting a player’s vision and movement are very prime factors of instilling that sense of horror these games thrive on. Your vision of the building is expanded on through the use of security cameras, but even then is limited to just what the cameras have sight of. Through clever use of positioning, darkness, and the idle movements of the cameras, even this vision is severely limited. Your defensive options aren’t much better. In the first game, you can close the doors to your office, but having the doors closed drains your power faster. If you run out of power, you die. This forces the player to wait until the last possible moment to close the door to prevent dying, but conserve power. The second game doesn’t even have that much. You get a Freddy mask that can fool the animatronics causing them to eventually wander out of your office. You also get a flashlight since one of the animatronics isn’t fooled, but can be “reset” by blinking the light at him. Five Nights 3 somehow gives you even less. No doors and no mask. All you have is an audio system to attempt to lead the animatronic away from you. If you fail at this and he reaches you, too bad.

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Story. Oh, FNAF story. Any #LoyalTheorists here? If so, you already know just how deep this rabbit hole goes. This article is hopefully going to remain (mostly) spoiler free, but the story could possibly warrant an article of its own later. Who knows? Anyway, the story of the Five Nights games is so interesting because it’s both so rich and so sparse. There’s a LOT going on in these games, but we directly see almost none of that. What we do see if brief glimpses of past events in the form of Atari-style minigames in FNAF 2 and 3. There’s also several clues hidden in various newspaper clippings seen throughout all 3 games. The little bits of story we get don’t amount to much until you start connecting them and logically filling in the blanks that Scott is leaving us. When you connect what we’re given, we get a story about a pizza chain that has been the primary hunting ground of a serial child killer known by the community as “Purple Guy.” We also start learning more and more about the “Phone Guy” who has been with the company for a long time and is the person the player has the most contact with. There’s a lot of story and it’s told through very little content. The attentive players that have been following all of this are left with just enough threads to keep following, but not enough to get a definite grasp of the full story. I have a very strong feeling that this was intentional. Scott is leaving us just enough of a breadcrumb trail to keep us coming back for more.

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Overall, I love the Five Nights at Freddy’s series. Even more surprising is that I’m not that big on horror games and jump scares. This seems to be a common thing too. A lot people who normally wouldn’t be attracted to a creepy jump scare game are falling in love with this series. Hell, it’s even getting a movie. I think this popularity comes from a few things. Obviously, the exposure and becoming “Internet famous,” but it’s more than just that. The story that isn’t being told, but we know is there really drives people to learn more about it. It’s also very accessible. I mean this in two ways. It’s accessible by being simple enough for anyone to learn. The first game has you turning, clicking cameras, and closing doors. That’s it. It’s also accessible in that it’s available on PC with very low system requirements and on the two major mobile platforms, iOS and Android. If you’re at all curious about this game, I would encourage you to give it a try. It’s like $8, so you’re not going to be out much if you end up not liking it. If actually playing the game doesn’t appeal to you (and I’d TOTALLY understand that), check out Markiplier’s playlist. He has the best playthrough of the games that I’ve found. I mentioned it earlier, but Game Theory also has a very well put together look at the story.

-Nonulok

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Posted on May 12, 2015, in Apps, Reviews, Video Games, What's Killing My Social Life This Week and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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