First: seriously Roberts, pets? Anyway:
Five Nights at Freddy's is an odd game in which there isn't specifically a reason for it to be as popular as it is that relates to the actual gameplay mechanics, versus the new trend of popular YouTube stars making it into something relevant. FNAF is a game that is boring, slow to play, and uses the worst of any horror games to create the "scares" necessary to call it horror. Games journalists write about it as if it is the most special snowflake of any game, giving it feelings and emotions it doesn't have. Often enough I've read about how "genius" FNAF is because it reverses the roles in a horror game and makes it where you have to wait for the enemies to hunt you.
Let's start with the game itself. It's not fun and it's not even really that great. The first night is the only night in which most users I've ever talked to get anything of any interest out of it. The first night is when you can actually take the time to examine the cameras to see the locations of the various animatronics and you get a general idea of where they're located. This properly emulates the feeling that there is something out there hunting you and you can watch it come for you.
That, alright, can be scary the first few times through - the first few times one of the animatronics comes and jumps at your face screaming - it's pretty scary. But not scary in the super creepy kind of way, scary in that natural human response way. Your body forces you to get scared, because you're super attentive to something and then a noise and movement you didn't expect comes out of nowhere.
Of course in later nights this doesn't happen. You can't really spend the time to look at the other rooms. In FNAF you only look at Foxy's room and FNAF you only look in the music box's room. Why? You don't have specifically the time. The game begins boiling itself into a game of mathematical equations, where you try to apply the best rotation of actions to hedge against RNG. On the very hardest stages, you could spend hours or days working on it until you watch video guides on how to put the viewer down, lock one door, check the light, unlock the other door, check the light, lock the door, unlock the other door, put the viewer up, and repeat.
That's not fun or scary, it's boring and tedious. That first 10 minutes or so is pretty much "the game" and the rest of it, after you see the posters change and bonnie staring at the camera, you've got the full experience. These things jump at you and they want you dead. Congratulations! Good job. It's more simulation than game and even then, it's all RNG.
Scary games need atmosphere and FNAF fails to create anything truly interestingly. The graphics coming straight out of a default copy of MAYA or 3DMAX or BLENDER seem to be... very simple. This is an indie game and that's okay, but again - it's an indie game. It's an indie game with a novel idea and about 10 minutes of real gameplay.
In Silent Hill 2 throughout the game you randomly encounter Pyramid Head. This guy, with no ability to die, doesn't even let you kill him. He just haunts you, constantly showing up and freaking you out, and to add to everything he has an instant kill where he just cuts you in half. Every room you enter, you don't know if he's going to be in it. He could be in the most innocent of rooms, you unlock a door and bam he's there and you've got to hang out with him for a few minutes of true terror until he's gone.
In FNAF/FNAF2 you sit at a desk and wait for animatronics to come and stuff you into a suit. It's not even a question of if but when they come for you. The only time you're going to be afraid is when the shrill sound of their voices play assuming you just didn't turn the sound off to avoid any chance of a scare because you're trying to move forward in a game where the only fear is that you just wasted 8 minutes of your life and have to start over.
So why is it popular? Because YouTube made it popular. Markiplier and a bunch of other "famous" YouTubers blessed the game with their grace, turning what would be considered another niche horror indie game into mainstream, and yeah there is now lots more porn than you could ever imagine of it. The fanbase, hilariously enough, don't even play the game! They watch it. FNAF is a game about watching someone take all of the really funny "omg guys this thing just so scared me" and condensing it down into a short series of videos online.
Actual for real footage of what happens in FNAF after the screen goes blank (NWS)
At which point, the viewers go and purchase the game, play the first night, then put the game down. Various "time recording sites" like Raptr have never had FNAF in their most played lists (when I've checked) and even on the Steam "how many are playing what," Euro Truck Simulator is on the list but FNAF isn't. YET, when I go to Facebook or any social media outlet, I can just sit all day long and stare at FNAF videos, memes, etc. while there isn't a single post about Euro Truck Simulator.
FNAF is all about people watching other people play a game and be amused by their jump scares, then the fandom tries to take the very limited amount of "spooky story" and make something out of it. Now, it's an indie game, it's made by one dude, and I'm not specifically saying it's his fault. He made something kinda cool, but it's nowhere near as cool as the fanbase makes it. The Binding of Isaac is a great example of a good spooky out of place weird game that can actually freak you out and get your blood pumping on the idea that you could, at any moment, take that final hit and die. That's a game! That's part of the fun mix of horror and gaming right, that you want to protect your character from the horrors that await it and in FNAF you just sort of sit and fiddle with some buttons in hopes that everything will turn out ok.
Interestingly enough though - FNAF is on the top charts for iOS, which is interesting how it translates much better to mobile where the jump scares are much less intense and it does turn into a fiddle with doors / flashlights / smelly bear heads and with the removal of the headphones, dark room, and bright monitor becomes something a bit more in-depth.
Which is great, anytime a game is fun and gives value to someone is awesome, yet at the same time, there is this culture of near worship for the game online and yet there isn't specifically a game on the PC to really obsess over. While I know a lot of people who bought it on PC and played a total of 5 minutes, I almost think the same of mobile. In this modern age, watching youtubes on the iPad, it's obvious you'd reach for the game to buy it in the easiest to get to platform.
Of course, either way, I still don't like the worship of the game and the fact that it almost seems like every article I read seems as if someone played a total of 10 minutes of the game and then figured those emotions persist indefinitely - they don't, it's novel those 10 minutes, but after that it becomes a game of trying to find the best pattern to hedge against the RNG.
Indie games are great, just look at Goat Simulator. While it's almost in the same category as FNAF, it does have some game components and the ability to do new and interesting things via modding, achievements, and discovery. In FNAF, once foxy activates in FNAF and mangle/foxy/balloon boy/etc. in FNAF 2, you've seen it all. All the cards are on the table.
If you like the game, that's great, I love super cheap pizza (when it's fresh and hot, not before the different chemicals begin to separate and turn into some kind of weird is this actual food) even though I know way better. Anyway tomorrow we'll talk about WoW or pets in Star Citizen or something equally inane.
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