Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Five Nights at Freddy's

You'd think that being a night security guard at a children's pizza restaurant would be pretty simple. There's no screaming kids, just the peace of your own thoughts, coffee, maybe a good book, and the occasional CCTV check. In a game like Five Nights at Freddy's, you'd be wrong.

If you aren't already aware of the series, the premise is this. From midnight to 6am, your role as a security guard is to keep an eye on the restaurant. They missed something from the job application, though. There's a group of animatronic animals at the front of the restaurant. By day, they dance and sing to the children, beloved, and most importantly, robotic. By night, however, they come alive, and they don't like being watched. What follows are desperate glances at the CCTV cameras throughout the building, trying to locate the various animals as they get closer and closer to your little security office, and nervous peeks through the open doors on either side.

The very worst part of FNaF is the fact that each time you look at the CCTV, turn on the lights for the corridors, or close the doors in a moment of sheer panic, it uses power. This power is limited, and if it reaches 0% before the night is through... Let's just say Freddy takes notice, and you won't have to worry about packing work lunches anymore. It's an extremely delicate balance, in which you have to fight the urge to constantly check the environment around you - by giving in to the tension too often, you will in fact be dooming yourself to experience a swift, terrifying death when the power hits zero.

This indie horror series has caused quite a commotion amongst gamers and critics, as it boasts relatively simple gameplay and jump-scares, but has spawned a total of four games in only one year. While I understand the fact that too much of a good thing isn't a good thing, the success of these titles has meant that Scott Cawthon has become a full-time, successful developer. In fact, Cawthon is quoted as saying:

"Did you know that last year I was working at Dollar General? I worked as a cashier. I had three bosses who were all still in high school. Before that I worked at Target in the backroom freezer, unloading frozen foods. I haven't had a successful life; and now that God has blessed me with some success, I'm doing my best to be responsible with that success. I don't party on weekends, I don't get drunk or sip martinis. I spend my evenings playing Megaman 3, buster only, with my kids. And I try to good with what's been given to me."

Personally, I don’t think it matters how many games Cawthon released in a short space of time – it sounds like he deserves all of that success that has come from FNAF, and he used his own ideas, time and talents to make it happen. And I’m happy for him. Critics be damned.

If I'm being honest, I haven't actually played them each sequel, but the latest in the series, Five Nights at Freddy's 4, has me interested. In a series twist, this sequel takes place at the home of a child. I know, the one place we thought was safe. The security guard is gone. I can only assume that he handed in his resignation and left a parting gift on the desk of the person that hired him, and then went home to forget all about it. But Freddy didn't forget about finding someone to scare the hell out of. 

The possessed robots of the series have followed a child to his home, and hide in the hallway, cupboards, and even sneak onto the bed when his back is turned. He has only a torch to protect himself. Seems unfair, right? I think this was a great move for the series, and may bring back a few gamers that thought the series was getting stale. Nicely done, Cawthon.

If you haven't played any Five Nights at Freddy's, why not try one? They’re not expensive games, but you’re guaranteed to jump more than enough times to make your money back in soiled underwear… so that’s something. It's a simple concept, but shows that even the most basic idea can become a successful franchise of tension-building, jump-scaring horror.

Need a little more convincing? We interviewed Scott Cawthon over on IGM – check it out.

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