Five Nights at Freddy and Systems of Systemic Fear
As it turns out, Flayrah never reviewed Five Nights at Freddy’s when it was released to much fanfare in 2014. But to be fair it never won an Ursa Major, getting beat by a Pokemon remaster in 2014 and Undertale in 2015. What a bullet the furries dodged on that one, huh?
You see, in recent days, the independent creator of the franchise, Steven Cawthon, had his sizable political contributions to members of the Trumpian Brigade(™) picked up by Social Media. The candidates in said brigade typically speak about the subversion of American Values and see people who are outside those “Values” as an enemy. They use this fear to get people to donate money to them.
To highlight this, we see Cawthon’s statement in response to this revelation. "I felt [Trump] was the best man to fuel a strong economy and stand up to America's enemies abroad, of which there are many" he goes onto indicate that he prioritizes the need for this foreign defense over the issues of American citizens' treatment by their own government with, "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"
Basically he is noting that we should fear foreign governments more than we should our domestic one. Which is usually a position that people who are generally left alone by their own government can comfortably have.
Interestingly it is this quote that made me think of the story of Five Nights at Freddy’s in a whole new way. So let’s go down this Bonny hole— metaphorically, you freakin’ furrys!
It’s just tasks
So let’s begin our review looking back at the mechanics of Five Nights at Freddy’s. Spoiler Alert, I thought the game itself was not fun. I did respect that it did have an aspect of fun in watching others play it. Watching a person slip into the madness of trying to keep up with the tasks before they fail and get jump scared.
That tension is dramatic and fun to watch. This led to a lot of Let's Players delving into it, and it made you wonder how each person would deal with the problem before them. Even if you knew the mechanics yourself, you couldn’t wait to see how the streamer would discover them.
This aspect of the game is what made it popular. Nothing more, nothing less.
The game itself, when playing it by yourself, is just repetitive and stressful. If I wanted to do something like that on my computer I would just spend some extra time in the office.
When Art Imitates Artist
The entire premise of Five Nights at Freddy’s is that you are trying to keep yourself from being attacked by animatronic animals that wander about a haunted children’s entertainment establishment. If you fail to keep them out they, according to some guy on a radio, will stuff you into an animatronic exoskeleton which will crush your own human limbs in the process.
This message is enough for you to do everything you can to prevent these mechanical beasts from getting to you. So you do the most sane thing that anyone would do. You put yourself into a security room with the strangest doors in the universe that require power to remain in a closed state. You check the cameras to know where ‘they’ are. And you try to keep the power from going out by keeping the doors open as often as you can.
Instead of, you know, quitting.
I guess some people just get addicted to the adrenaline rush that fear provides.
But even if you do it for the thrill, eventually during one’s playthrough of the game, one will start to understand the mechanics behind the mechanical creatures. And as those characters become more active, anything less than optimal play will not get you through the night. In other words, a game that was once about tension of the unknown, is now simply one measuring mechanical response. The jump scares which used to scare now just bring disappointment that you were not machine-like enough to get through the night.
This is why I disliked the game, it’s a mechanical response game disguised in a horror motif. Though when I look back on it, it unintentionally shows how powerful an agent fear actually is. The fear of becoming a machine becomes the fear of failure, and that drives you to forget the initial fear of becoming a machine.
You see, you can’t win Five Nights at Freddy’s. You just play yourself into becoming an animatronic monster. A being that sits in a room and clicks buttons in a particular order with the greatest of efficiency. At some point Freddy and his friends are convinced: they don’t have to make you into one of them, you always were one of them.
So lost in fear, that you became the monster you sought to keep out.
On That Note
If you sacrifice the freedom of your peers at home in order to protect yourself from the tyrants thousands of miles away, then what is it you are working towards at home behind those closed and resource-hungry doors or walls?
But that’s just a theory, a social-political theory! Thanks for watching.