If you have been paying attention to YouTube recently, you probably have seen a bunch of different people playing the newest horror game craze, Five Nights at Freddy ’s. The game puts you in the role of a security guard at a Chuck E. Cheese analog. Your job on paper is to, you know, guard the place, but your actual job is just to survive.
You see, when the lights go out, the animatronic robots come to life, and they want your blood. You can keep track of the robots movements via a security camera, and as long as you are looking at them, they won’t move… standing in creepy stillness. However, if you aren’t looking, they can move freely, and they are all coming for you security booth.
You have the ability to turn on the lights in your booth to see the robot coming and, once again, they will stop in their tracks. You also have the ability to shut iron doors to your booth which the robots can’t get through, causing them to find another path. Unfortunately, your employer is incredibly cheap, and instead of using power from the main grid, he keeps the place on a remote battery. Using your camera, doors, or lights, all drain the power, and if the power goes out before the night is up, the robots are free to tear you apart. So you have to keep your doors open, your lights off, and simply block the robots advances slowly in the hopes that you can stall them until the night is up.
Five Nights at Freddy ’s is an amazingly fun game, and it’s truly scary. I have jumped out of my seat several times playing the game. However, many people have called this the “horror game of the year” and I actually have to disagree with that.
Five Nights at Freddy ’s is scary, but it’s not a horror game. It’s scary because it’s lose condition is a jump scare. If a robot manages to get into your room, they will pop up right in front of your face screaming, and you will jump out of your seat, you always will jump out of your seat.
But that’s also what makes the game not really a horror game. You never become afraid of the robots themselves. Even if you have a fear of these creepy animatronic abominations, their presence isn’t what gets to you. It’s the upcoming jump scare that gets to you. You live in dread of a loud noise and a sudden image, not of the actual environment you are in.
The game itself plays a lot more like a combination of pac-man and a tower defense than anything else. Each robot has its own method of behavior that needs to be kept in check in order for you to survive. The fox will sprint to your room, the bear will teleport into your room if you don’t meet certain conditions, and the bird and bunnie will try to jam your doors and screw with your lights. Your goal is to keep an eye on all of them at the same time. You can think of your power as sort of a limited ammo, and your sight as your tower’s gun.
The game strikes me more as a black comedy than a horror. The situations you are put in are just absurd. The game stands as a hilarious piece of commentary on capitalism in that your bosses pay you next to nothing and barely value your life as an employee. The final reward for surviving is a check barely over a hundred dollars. If you complete the bonus extra hard level you get… fifty extra cents. If you manage to complete the hidden seventh night, you get fired… hooray?
The whole time you are being given advice from a friendly man on the phone who treats this all very nonchalantly. It’s as if dealing with murderous robots is just normal for him. This adds to the black comedy atmosphere.
But black comedy tower defense pac-man is not the same as a horror game. The horror here is only in the anticipation of a jump scare and that’s all. It doesn’t have an atmosphere of horror to it. It doesn’t feel like something is wrong here, or as if there is an underlying terrible truth to the events of the game. Everything is put on the table at the beginning. “KILLER ROBOTS ARE GOING TO GET YOU STOP THEM!!!”
I’ll say it again, Five Nights at Freddy ’s is an awesome game, a scary game, and a game that you should definitely play considering it only costs five dollars on Steam right now. I just can’t count it as “the best horror game in ages.” Perhaps the scariest but certainly not the most horrifying.