For a long time, horror was no longer considered a relevant genre for gaming, more like sprinkles on top of an already cluttered cake of a AAA “masterpiece”. Former titans of horror franchises such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill were making titles with a heavier emphasis on combat than on actually scaring the player. Other developers tried their hands at filling the void but they too went down the same path, or they were just never released overseas like the Fatal Frame franchise after it was bought by Nintendo. Companies no longer found the games profitable and it seemed to be up to the indie games circuit to save it. Its saviors came in the form of Amnesia, Outlast and last but certainly not least, Scott Cawthon’s Five Nights at Freddy’s and the sequel Five Nights at Freddys 2.   Out of those three however, Freddy’s seems to be the one that has captured the attention of most people, gamers and non-gamers alike.  While the game surged with massive popularity thanks to a few let’s players, even without them there was something about these games that just screamed horror.

But what was it?

Five Nights at Freddy

Freddy’s is a game series where you play as a security guard working at a place called Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. While there you must get through your shift from 12 to 6, without letting the animatronics kill you and that’s it. At its core, the game isn’t that complex; you sit in the office, close the door if one of the animatronics is about to stuff you into a suit, wash, rinse, repeat. Pretty simple stuff, right? Well, deceptively simple at least, there is a lot more to Freddy’s because a lot of it is based around how you will keep your cool in this situation where it is you against these killer animatronics.

It’s more of a strategy horror in that way, because in the first game you have to figure out how much power you are using, when to check the cameras and when to close your door. You had to be careful or you’d run out of power and die. Same with the second game, except you had to balance between putting on the mask, shining the flashlight and turning the music box. Easy concepts, but with increasing difficulties to go along with each night of your “stay” at the pizzeria. Add onto that the fact that you are stationary, so essentially all you can do is hide from the creatures in question with either doors or the mask.

With that in mind, what makes this game so special?

Five Nights at Freddy

It’s all about the execution of this idea that makes it reminiscent of horror games long since passed, but done with less. Five Nights at Freddy’s 1 and 2 manage to genuinely scare many horror veterans that have assumed they had seen it all this point.  Both games reach into the subconscious of teenagers and young adults of this generation and use something pretty benign, such as the animatronics at say a Chuck E. Cheese, against them. The animatronics act as if they are alive, as if they are human and some of their reactions are just human enough to draw to the resemblance, but just alien enough to incite fear into its players. It’s called the Uncanny Valley and it has been used in various aspects of horror.

The animatronics in Freddy’s are as smart as humans but they aren’t humans… at least not physically.  If one goes deeper into the lore at Freddy’s they will find a grim tale of a murderer killing five innocent children, and the story of one of the animatronics biting the head of one of the guests in 1987. The thing is, if you just breeze through this game and not thinking about it, only viewing the jump scares as “those things that are in all horror media” then you’ll be missing out on what makes this game a bizarre masterpiece of horror. It sets up the atmosphere so the player will be unsettled, but only by further investigation can the player be truly frightened.  Seeing the animatronics move, or learning about the story through the posters or by carefully analysis of the Atari-esque games after you die in the second game, all help to fuel theories on the game itself.

The games have given the fan base enough material to write fan fiction, songs, draw animations and come together with their own theories about how things went. We aren’t given enough information to know whether or not all of our personal theories are true, we are just given enough to ponder. The games have hooked us as a collective audience and we are interested into seeing what happens next.

 Does this mean that Freddy’s is more of a masterpiece than other horror games? Freddy’s is just as much of a well-executed horror game as Amnesia and Outlast is. Just adding in the fear of the uncanny in to pull from long-forgotten childhood nightmares, but it has become part of a standard on how good horror games should be; building up atmosphere, keeping the player guessing and wanting more of this world that has been gifted to them by the writer. Freddy’s is the type of game people will be talking about for a while with and with the upcoming release of Five Nights at Freddy’s 3, it looks like we won’t be seeing the end of Mr. Fazbear anytime soon.  It’s a good thing everyone knows where their doors and flashlights are, right?

Five Nights at Freddy

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