This article was originally published on the blog Chat on the Sofa, under the title “Five Nights at Freddy’s is not a bad series”.
Five Nights at Freddy’s 4 was released last week, and as always, the internet has blown up with people complaining about its existence in the world of horror. Now I’m not a FNaF fanboy, and I do understand how hard it is to drown out their incessant cries of “best game evur!!1!” but I feel the series as a whole should be defended against the other end of the spectrum.
It’s no secret that I love horror – particularly psychological horror. Silent Hill is possibly one of the greatest videogame series ever to exist, and it has left me leaving the lights on for weeks after playing. However, that doesn’t mean that anything that doesn’t have you crying for your mother in the middle of the night isn’t good in itself. For most people, Freddy has no long-lasting effect on the people who play the games, but jump-scares and tension building are still a valuable part of horror. When you’re playing the game, you’re still frantically trying to rid the room of screaming animatronics, and why? Because they’re something to be feared. They make your heart skip a beat. They’re horrific.
Personally, I wouldn’t place FNaF in the horror genre: at least that doesn’t seem to be the main focus of the series any more. The series has a set formula and set characters that don’t really leave people screaming past the first couple of times.
(As a side note: for those who complain about the games being repetitious and lazy, Silent Hill, Mario and Final Fantasy games all follow the same formula. Because it works. Because it sells. Things still change between each game in the series – it’s not down to being lazy at all.)
Instead the series puts a large focus on skill. You’re supposed to fail each night and as you do, you learn a little more about how the animatronics work. You have to manage your time each night well and learn to have eyes in the back of your head. The feeling of relief and achievement when 6am rolls around is incredible, no matter how many times it happens, and that’s a sign of a successful game. Even that pales in comparison with the elation of completing Nightmare Mode.
Another common argument against the series is the lack of a plot. As a game that tests your skills and offers a quick thrill, the story is hardly a focus (feel free to look back at the Super Mario series to see how this still creates great games). However, when you delve into the numerous fan discussions online, the plot is much greater than it first seems. People have managed to completely immerse themselves in the FNaF universe, and the Bite of ’87 has been a site of discussion for the past three games (we now know the full story, hurrah!) with rumours and deep analysis of the tiniest game features flying around. The fact that Scott can hide little hints around his games and keep players debating for so long is something that great teams of developers struggle with.
The main issue with people who dislike the game seems to be a “lack of effort” from the developer. Whether that is for the set formula discussed above or another reason, people assume that Scott doesn’t put a lot of work into creating and releasing a new game in the series. While he does release them incredibly quickly for brand new games, I strongly believe that he puts absolutely everything into each edition. He knows his audience, he listens to what people want, and he creates games that just keep selling – that’s the sign of an incredibly smart developer in my book. Specifically focusing on the first and last games, the series has made leaps and bounds. With Five Nights at Freddy’s 4, as well as being from a child’s perspective (something I love in horror games), Scott has made the sound the most important thing – you’ll struggle to beat the game using eyes alone. It’s a very clever tactic, and one that seems anything but lazy to me.
Remember that this is one man, a man who still has people uploading videos on YouTube of them sitting in a pool of sweat and urine, struggling through the same night over and over again, determined to beat the game. They do it because it’s worth beating in their eyes. Bad games make you give up while great games keep you motivated to try again, even if you are cursing every aspect of it as you do.
If your mind hasn’t changed about the series (and I’m not expecting to start epiphanies with this post) then just remember: Five Nights at Freddy’s 4 is the last of the series. The nightmare is over. Carry on with your lives.