On this day in 2014, a lone game maker named Scott Cawthon launched Five Nights at Freddy's on Indie DB. Thus began five years of gamers, particularly YouTubers, screaming, flailing, punching, and throwing heavy objects at their screens in futile hope of stopping the haunted animatronics that still thirst for their blood.
Five years brought us six Five Nights at Freddy's games (not including the FNAF World RPG, which is more of a parody), plus a recent VR game. All the games are jumpscare orchards that lock you in pizza-baking establishments of poor repute for nutty reasons. Trapped, you're forced to survive for hours at a time against cuddly animatronics that want to eat your skin.
I've always had a soft spot for Five Nights at Freddy's, even if I might be the only person over 15 who will admit to it. I guess part of the reason is I'm old enough to remember birthdays at Chuck E. Cheese, and how weirdly sinister the establishment's character animatronics were. Cawthon's art design really nails that line between "Fun" and "Satan's own puppet." Interestingly, Cawthon's animatronic designs started out as legitimate character models for another game until critics, most notably Jim Sterling, said "Oh God, these are horrifying." Cawthon's feelings were initially hurt, but he wisely decided to roll up his sleeves and show us what horrifying really is.
Millions of dollars later, I don't think Cawthon's feelings are hurt anymore. I'd ask him myself, but he's a very secretive guy (outside of the time he addressed his haters about four years ago), though he does show up on streams to donate large sums to charity. The few personal accounts from people who've met him say he's reserved and humble, and a dedicated family man. He's also a devout Christian, which makes the oft-nightmarish themes in his name that much more interesting.
I've written about these nightmarish themes in Five Nights at Freddy's story guide because they fascinate me a little bit. Five Nights at Freddy's doesn't simply employ you as a nameless nobody who's trying to survive in a series of inexplicably haunted pizzerias. The games weave an intriguing, sometimes baffling narrative that follows the exploits and eventual comeuppance of a serial child murderer. Even the now-iconic animatronics reveal themselves to be dark anti-heroes of a sort who want to keep other children from meeting the grisly fate that bound their own restless souls to the likes of Freddy Fazbear, Foxy the Fox, and Chica the Chicken. Kids who get into Five Nights at Freddy's generally do so because they're at the right age for spooky, mildly gristly stories. Hey, our generation had Are You Afraid of the Dark, right?
So, what's next? Will the Five Nights at Freddy's franchise survive another five years? Probably. Cawthon has a lot of half-built projects cluttering his workbench, including a movie that's supposed to come out in 2020. (Though it's already suffered multiple delays.) Whatever comes next for Five Nights at Freddy's, you can count on me to try and untangle the plates of plot-spaghetti as they come in.