Five nights at Freddy’s: Why having almost no information is the best information.

I hate jumpscares. It’s so bad that when playing Gone Home in that spooky house, I freaked out several times even though I was assured by multiple people that there was nothing to worry about in this game.

So why the hell am I consuming Five nights at Freddy’s lore and fan theories like they’re Hershey chocolates?

It’s because there are so many unanswered questions!

This game is an indie game that was released Aug. 2014 on Microsoft windows and as a mobile app. It was made using Clickteam fusion 2.5 engine. Its mechanics consist of a stationary character sitting in an office trying to defend against four animatronics that will kill you if they get their hands on you. You have cameras that watch the rest of the building and doors to close when they approach, which use up a significant amount of your power. It makes every movement you have to make precious and deliberate or you get munched by these demons from Chuck E. Cheeses’ past.  You only have to last for five nights from 12am to 6am, then you complete the game.  The mechanics are intriguing (if you’re into that sort of thing,) and the attraction brought it a lot of instant fans, generating many “lets plays” on Youtube.Bonnie_in_the_Office

But what keeps people coming back is the “hidden” lore.

It’s not really hard to find. If you take the time to look around the walls of this east hallway you’ll find the history of the place: Freddy Fazzbear’s Pizza. The place fell out of favor when five children disappeared and are presumed dead, by a man that used an extra mascot suit to lure them into the back room and kill them. The police caught him but the children’s bodies were never found. It is heavily implied that the children were stuffed into the five animatronics (yes there is a secret fifth animatronic if you look hard enough.).

This is easy to figure out, but only if you find these newspaper clippings. The clues are really straight forward compared to the rest of the plot. So why are there a ton of people obsessed with this game and it’s “subtly?” People love feeling like they’ve worked for their prize, especially gamers. Even just having this “hidden lore” leads to a sense of accomplishment. It’s like opening a really tough pickle jar. When everything is desperate (I.E. you’re hungry or animatronics are trying to kill you), and nothing is working out (the lid isn’t coming off or you’re running out of power). Then one thing goes right (you have ham instead because pickles are the grossest thing ever or you figure out some hidden lore) and then you feel amazing, and it’s even better because you didn’t need any help, you accomplished this entire mission on your own, so what if you didn’t get your first goal (pickles or surviving through the game) you got a secret achievement. It’s enough to let you sit down and enjoy the rest of your day.

But then you get into the spin offs.

This game as not only spawned a huge fan base in a matter of months, it also spawned two games, FNAF 2 and 3, each one upped the ante of game mechanics and in suspense, but they also added to the convoluted lore.   The events leading up to the second game aren’t explicitly stated, only portrayed by these “Death minigames,” that will sometimes appear if you are killed by a certain animatronic. The information is so vague, not even giving you a straight answer on anything. In the beginning, people were raging about whether the second one was a prequel or a sequel, with the majority landing in the prequel section eventually, and that was only after a few weeks of piecing together tiny, miniscule pieces of information. It’s just enough to tease, and not enough to give concise facts, leading to forum after forum of fan theories.

Almost everything pertaining to the plot has to be picked apart, and once that is done, there are many interpretations. It keeps the discussions alive and thriving, prompting the game’s creator, Scott Cawthon, to create the rest of the series in such a short amount of time. And he doesn’t even have to do much to hide things. His fan base has gotten so dedicated that even his mistakes and glitches are scrutinize as contribution to the lore. Half of the interaction with this game is outside of the programing and in the fanbase itself.

Whether the hype is because of innovative game mechanics, purposely vague lore, or a terrifying concept that hits too close to home. It has grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let go. Though I have a no intention of playing this game again.

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  4 comments for “Five nights at Freddy’s: Why having almost no information is the best information.

  1. James Rives
    April 14, 2015 at 4:31 am

    While not having played the FNAF games, I can appreciate any game that allows (or forces) the player to pay attention to their surroundings to gain information. When thinking about it from a perspective of subtlety, some things work a lot better when you solve them on your own because it fosters a genuine sense of appreciation. Opposing that is the notion that having information thrown at you without giving you a reason to care can be problematic. That said, there are games that find a nice balance between context and situation. Overall, I do find FNAF to be a series that does what it does well, no more and no less. Good post!

  2. amandariffe1
    April 14, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    I have never played Five Nights at Freddy, but I have seen a few videos of people playing it. I think it’s really interesting that it’s become so popular because, personally, I stay away from the horror genre on any medium. I can, however, acknowledge and appreciate the fact that to understand the back story, you have to pay attention to the background. It makes it difficult I assume, because you have to constantly be on guard with the animatronics running around, but that’s just another challenging aspect that, as you said, makes people feel accomplished. Also, from my understanding, the back story is fairly vague, which is cool because it leaves so much room for theories. The theories allow, in my opinion, the horror genre to work even more effectively because it creates a world of lore, as you said, which is both fascinating and very dark.

    I agree with you, and maybe I’ll try it out one day. Or maybe not. I’m way too easily scared.

  3. silver
    April 15, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    I, too, am among the masses who did not play Five Nights at Freddy’s, although it is making a big mark on society. Not too many people play jump scares, so it does seem odd that even people who can’t handle them too well find themselves playing (or attempting) this game. One thing that we can observe in any medium is the information around a given work. You can read, watch, or play it with the information given about it, but you are always left wondering more. This is observed in art work as people can tell who made the piece, but make their own assumptions about the painting based on what it contains. The same goes for this game, as a limited amount of information is given about the action in the game itself, the fans are left to look for hints in their thirst for more. It’s not just the things going bump in the night that is terrifying about this game, it is the unknown danger of what lurks in the corner, the dark history of the game and the lore that makes people scared and come back to try again.

  4. Andrew Boswell
    April 16, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    I haven’t actually played the FNAF games, but I have watched a lot of playthroughs of the series for the lore. I love how the developer makes you fill in the holes, so you can come up with various theories about what went down or how it went down. Leaving it vague like that is also a good marketing strategy to sell the game. It also gets players to buy the sequels since they should have the answers, but when one question is answered, another appears, causing you to buy the next game for more answers. Thus creating a loop. This marketing strategy helped the series sell enough to get Warner Bros. started on a FNAF movie. I have to say, the developer is genius.

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