A number of Youtubers have recently covered this new horror game “Five Nights at Freddy’s”. The short version is that you play as a night shift security guard in a restaurant with animatronics that get bored during the off hours, taking the time to torment and try to kill you. Detailed below are my arguments for why it is one of the scarier horror games in recent history. Some spoilers ahead, but it’s a short game. Also, not putting pictures, because the monsters are creepy looking son-of-bitches and I am not using my bandwidth to give myself nightmares.
5- It has a fresh mechanic
This type of gameplay hasn’t really been seen since Night Trap. If you don’t know what that is (I didn’t, so don’t feel bad), you’re helping prove my point. This is something that hasn’t been done to death, unlike “find notes while being stalked by a creature” or “brown-tinted military FPS”. Even if this game does not do very well, it introduces a new generation of gamers and game designers to an interesting mechanic that can be further developed. Will it also be painfully overused? Maybe, but I bet we’ll get some fun (see: utterly horrifying) games out of it.
4- It taps into a childhood fear that is underutilized elsewhere
Seriously, who wasn’t afraid of these as a kid? In all my time reading creepypastas and whatnot, this is the first time I’ve seen animatronics used as the monster. That might just mean I need to read/watch more, though. Anyway, it’s already a concept that creeps people out, using it as the monster was a great idea.
3- It grants you truly limited resources
To do anything, be it check the cameras for movement, hit the lights outside the security room, or slam shut the emergency doors, you must cut into a limited amount of power. Power does not regenerate, you are not awarded more for successfully blocking one of the mascots, and you can’t undo any power-draining mistakes. This power supply must last you an entire six hour shift. It’s perfect for pitting your sense of impending doom (“I need to check the cameras again!”) against… well, another facet of your sense of impending doom (“I can’t use more energy, I’ve got 3 hours left to go!”).
2- It uses the presence of another person to add to the horror
At the start of each shift, you get a message from a fellow employee, who gives helpful advice and just generally takes the edge off. Well, at least when he’s not casually describing what the monsters will do if they catch you or how he understands how the mascots could get a little roam-happy after hours of singing the same damn songs. His long, rambling explanations are oddly enjoyable to listen to while giving you information on the game mechanics and the lore of this world. At least until night 4. On this day, he calmly explains that he “may not call tomorrow” as the sound of banging in the background increases in frequency, just before the recording cuts out. Then you realize you’re completely alone.
1- It gives players a feeling of utter helplessness
Even in the acclaimed “Amnesia: The Dark Descent”, you always have options with the monsters, something you can do. Avoid the monsters, hide from them, or flat out run away. FNaF doesn’t allow this. You’re stuck in that security room till dawn, with security systems that often do more to inform you of your imminent demise than actually stop it. And what do you get for surviving the night? The chance to do it all again tomorrow.