Five Nights At Freddy’s: Should it be as popular as it’s become?

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Ayah Wilson, Contributing Writer

Picture this: The year is 2014 and every hit YouTube channel has the same animals in its thumbnail and bold text reading “THIS IS THE SCARIEST GAME OF THE YEAR.” Deciding to check it out you learn that this brand new horror game is Five Nights At Freddy’s. Published on August 18, 2014, retailing for $4.99 the horror game scene was changed forever. Created by the now widely known Scott Cawthon, describes the game to possible customers as:

“Welcome to your new summer job at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, where kids and parents alike come for entertainment and food as far as the eye can see! The main attraction is Freddy Fazbear, of course; and his two friends. They are animatronic robots, programmed to please the crowds! The robots’ behavior has become somewhat unpredictable at night however, and it was much cheaper to hire you as a security guard than to find a repairman. From your small office you must watch the security cameras carefully. You have a very limited amount of electricity that you’re allowed to use per night (corporate budget cuts, you know). That means when you run out of power for the night- no more security doors and no more lights! If something isn’t right- namely if Freddybear or his friends aren’t in their proper places, you must find them on the monitors and protect yourself if needed! Can you survive five nights at Freddy’s?”

Many famous gaming YouTube channels were the driving force that gained popularity to this (at the time) indie game. “WARNING: SCARIEST GAME IN YEARS | Five Nights at Freddy’s – Part 1” a video with an alarming 99 million views, was published by the famous channel under the name of Markiplier. On the date of publication (August 12, 2014) Mark had 2,930,119 million subscribers. To any indie game, this kind of publication can work miracles, and that isn’t even taking into consideration the 99 million views and 1.1 million likes. When I interviewed a friend of mine who requested to remain anonymous about this game, I asked the question, “How did you find out about the game?” to which they replied, “I found out about the game through YouTuber ‘Markiplier’ and ‘GameTheory’ as many others did.”

YouTuber Markiplier reacting to Five Nights at Freddy’s

The game had obtained a very distinct group of fans, who wanted more games and more information to the storyline of events encapsulated in the games lore. One channel that really brought interest into the topic of FNAF lore is none other than the beloved GameTheory. The main man of the channel Mat-Pat (short for Matthew-Patrick) is known for deep diving into the lore/storyline of all sorts of video games. On October 23, 2014 he published the viral video titled “Game Theory: Five Nights at Freddy’s SCARIEST Monster is You!” Obtaining over 29 million views the video breaks down his first of very many theory videos over this game. His first theory starts by breaking down the game, to which he sums down to: You’re the new night guard watching the security cameras of a children’s pizza place, there are four animatronics (Freddy Fazbear, Chica the chicken, Bonnie the bunny, and Foxy the pirate fox) roam the halls at night, you cannot let them get near you or else they kill the player on the spot, and if you’re lucky and survive all five nights you receive a paid check and a game completion screen. On the face level this game feels rather simple in mechanics and complicated in story. 

The first theory of this game goes as follows: Freddy Faxbear’s Pizza was a pretty popular pizza joint for families. That was until they fell into rough waters when five children went missing there after being lured into a back room and killed by a man wearing a character costume (evidence of this event happening is shown on the newspaper clippings found on the walls you can view on your security cameras). The children were never found and the murderer wasn’t convicted. Customers started complaining about the cleanliness of the establishment after strong unpleasant smells came from the animatronics. On a news clipping found on the wall in the game it reads “local pizzeria said to close by year ends.” Much to the security guards’ surprise, there is a fifth animatronic known as “Golden Freddy.” He appears and disappears throughout the night, he can travel through doors, can cause hallucinations, and when he kills you your game crashes rather than bringing you to the “game over ” screen. As confirmed by the games creator the pizzeria is haunted. Game Theory speculates that it is haunted by the five missing children. This theory then progresses to Mat-Pat comparing the events of the game to a murder case, however this theory has now been deemed irrelevant because everything he speculated was found to be incorrect. He would then spend a multitude of theory videos on the games trying to make up a timeline of the story.

Over the next 7 years twelve more games for this franchise were created as well as twelve novels. The games in order of publication go; Five Nights at Freddy’s, Five Nights at Freddy’s 2, FNAF 3, FNAF 4, Five Nights at Freddy’s: Sister Location, Five Nights at Freddy’s: Pizzeria Simulator, Five Nights at Freddy’s: Help Wanted, FNAF: Special Delivery, Five Nights at Freddy’s Security Breach. There are also a few spin off games Five Nights at Freddy’s world, Ultimate Custom night, Freddy in Space 2, and Security Breach Fury’s Rage. However, those spin offs have been marked as “not canon to the timeline” and are often ignored by theorists of the game. As well as the novels.

While researching the lore of this game, I was met with many crossed opinions and different ideas. So it is very safe to say none of this has been confirmed at all and while some people feel as if they have come very close to figuring out the timeline, nobody officially has. However, while researching this I found a very detailed timeline made by Reddit user “ItsTheOrangeShep” which can be read at this link. 

Something I found rather admirable about all of these people trying to figure out this video game franchise, was how their connected interests built up one dedicated community of fans. Millions of people have given this game a shot, and many of those people find such joy in deep diving into the many mysteries of Five Nights At Freddy’s. I asked a friend of mine who requested to stay anonymous whether they believed that  this series was overrated or not to which they replied, “No, I don’t think it’s overrated. I think the fact Scott Cawthon managed to create such an intense and large web of lore from one indie horror game shows how brilliant of a game designer he is and how the concept of the game interests so many people. The game was released originally at a time where most people playing it had been to places like ‘Chuck E Cheese’s’ as a kid themselves so this thought that those animatronics could be haunted and evil was relatable to many. However I also believe Mat-Pat is a huge reason for the success; he took what was a simple game into a lore bending roller coaster and even Scott recognizes that since he has confirmed and used many of Mat-Pat’s ideas in games” Personally, I have to agree with what they said.

Scott Cawthon, the game creator, does deserve the credit for creating this incredible game and giving people access to find comfort in the community of fans. However, seven months ago, he was issued extreme social media backlash after his political views were outed to the public, after Reddit users discovered that he was making donations to Republican candidates and PACS in 2020. In his apology post published on Reddit he states, “I exercised my right, and my duty, as an American citizen, to vote for and support the candidates who I felt could best run the country, for everyone, and that’s something that I won’t apologize for.” As well as, “I supported President Trump because I felt he was the best man to fuel a strong economy and stand up to America’s enemies abroad, of which there are many. Even if there were candidates who had better things to say to the LGBT community directly, and bigger promises to make, I believed that their stances on other issues would have ended up doing much greater harm to those communities than good.” He ended his post with the quote, “If I get canceled, then I get canceled. I don’t do this for the money anymore; I do it because I enjoy it. If people think I’m doing more harm than good now, then maybe it’s better that I get canceled and retire. I would accept that I’ve had a fulfilling career. Besides, most things that people can take from you are things that never had much value to begin with. I have always loved, and will continue to love, this community and this fanbase, even if someday it doesn’t include me anymore.”

In  response to this the tag #Istandbyscott was created on the popular social media platform known and loved as Twitter. Under this tag one can find overwhelming support through fan drawings and kind words. For example one user said “As a member of the LGBT+ community and Fnaf community, in my heart, I see Scott as a human being and he does not deserve, nor his wife who is pregnant, to be doxxed by a heartless twitter user and be slammed by people who don’t have the capacity for common sense. #istandbyscott” However, not all of the responses were supportive for example one user sent out a tweet saying “******s in the #ThankYouScott and #istandbyscott be like ‘he did so many kind things, he’s a good guy!’ but then proceed to call trans people and gay people slurs just because they don’t like the fact he was directly funding people who wants us dead.” Following this backlash he has been receiving Scott Cawthon made a post to his website announcing his retirement, for the betterment of his family.

While many fans were rather upset by this news, others viewed it as a way to distract from all of the backlash he was getting, and others showing nothing but support for him. After the months went by the drama surrounding his name died down, even so to a point where it feels like everyone began to forget about it. Personally, I don’t really think Scott Cawthon being a republican is a bad thing. He just voted for former president Donald Trump because that is who he believed could provide a good economy for his country. What I disliked about all the drama was how everyone auto assumed that he was doing it with homophobic intentions. Someone can be Republican and also not be homophobic; the two don’t play hand in hand. Sure, the Republican side of things does tend to lean that way, but it isn’t true for every single Republican. However, if Scott was specifically exposed to be a homophobic Trump supporter, my opinion would be completely different. As someone who is more in favor of the Left side politically and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I believe that this situation has its understandable reasons for backlash under the understanding that many people don’t like the Republican way of things, however I don’t believe that it should have been drawn out to the point that people were doxxing his information online, and replying to his tweets saying, “I hope your wife has a miscarriage.” 

This article started off with a big question right in the title, “Should It Be As Popular As It’s Become?” After reading numerous tweets, watching many YouTube videos, I have personally come to the conclusion that yes I believe that this game deserves all of the fame it has received. This point was very solidified after my encounter with the community of people created in favor of the franchise. I have never seen a fanbase of people so captivated by creating the perfect timeline of these horror games, and while some people view it as lame and nerdy, I think it is extremely admirable. While the future of this franchise is uncertain to the fanbase after Scotts retirement, some information that has been made public is the information that there is a film adaptation of the movie possibly coming out in 2022. I think after all of this Five Nights at Freddy’s talk, I should look more into these theories over a nice slice of cheese pizza.