Remember the first time you started this gig? The dude on the phone said that the animatronics were a bit wonky, yeah, but you never took to heart just how serious he was being. Started the night with a cup of coffee and a view of the whole place from inside your cozy office. You never knew that you were going to be fighting for your very life. Now, though, you frantically keep the rhythm going. Check camera, flash lights, right then left, close right door, check camera, open right door, flash lights, right then left, close right door, check camera, open right door, rinse and repeat and hope to God you’re quick enough to close that door if anything out of the ordinary happens.
Five Nights at Freddy’s is one of those horror games that clearly has a low-budget, and very little to work with, but that’s usually where the best horror comes from. Silent Hill’s iconic fog that obscures everything you see until it’s so close it’s breathing down your neck isn’t just there for artistic purposes, for example. The PlayStation’s hardware wasn’t able to handle the 3D environments, so the development team threw in a lot of darkness and fog to bypass the hardware limitations.
But in the current era of gaming, we aren’t really limited by the hardware. We can create something lifelike and realistic, such as P.T., or go the abstract way and create something artistic like Limbo. We’re lost in a sea of games that try to get the player’s attention, whether it be turning a beloved series into a generic action flick or watering down the themes of a game to be more palatable for wider audiences. Five Night’s at Freddy’s? You get the atmosphere right, the lack of music that just eats away at your nerves, the knowledge that SOMETHING is going to happen but you don’t know what? That’s a beautiful game of horror. However, FNAF and it’s sequel aren’t just about the horror, especially in the latter halves.
Every once in a while, a difficult game comes out that just makes everyone that plays it turn into a raging psychopath. Some of these games appear to be completely silly, like Winnie the Pooh’s Home Run Derby. Someone will play it with the expectation of beating the most childish of games but then they realize they’ve entered the Fifth Circle of Hell. They realize that Christopher Robin is patiently awaiting at the end, not to congratulate a friend of play some friendly baseball, but to deliver the most brutal and punishing torment that any mortal has ever seen.
Then the challenge to beat the game becomes not just something to do on the off-hours. It becomes the reason you breathe. The insanely difficult challenge is in every fiber of your being. You won’t be satisfied until this game has been conquered, or you will DIE trying.
Once in this state, the player will leave everything out of their minds until either one of two things happen. The first possible outcome is that the player eventually burns out on the rage and becomes exhausted. They lose all momentum and subsequently stop playing the game. Maybe they’ll get back to it someday, but for right now they need a breath of fresh air.
The second outcome is the one that separates the men from the boys. It cause the rage to focus inward to the single minded goal. The fire disappeared, consumed by the desire to win. What’s left is the cold steeled heart of the player. Though they appear emotionless on the surface the drive to win will completely consume any other thought. This keeps players from even acknowledging they spent the last four hours trying to beat a flash game on the internet. Usually, people in this state have one thought that dominates every other: “I’m going to beat this goddamn piece of shit if it’s the last thing I do.”
These types of difficult games are the ones that are infamous in the history of the internet: Home Run Derby, I Wanna Be The Guy, Takeshi’s Challenge, Kaizo Mario World. These games are the ones that challenge the player not by simply providing them with an obstacle to overcome or a goal to achieve in a nice little package that explains all the rules and lets the player learn them throughout the game. No, difficult games are the kind that will spit in your face and laugh, mooning you before running off and yelling out a dare to catch them. The Game Over screen is the only companion in these games. The death sound effects are akin to the wails of the damned in the River Styx. And Five Nights at Freddie’s is one of these games.
See, once you’re able to know the patterns of all the animatronics, players are able to narrow down the important parts they need to keep track of. Check the camera, make sure Foxy isn’t running down the hall. Right light, Chica’s not there. Left light, Bonnie’s there. Close door. Close right door, Freddie uses the right door and will kill me if I use the camera with it open. Check camera, Foxy is gone. Open right door, left door still closed, wait until Foxy bangs on left door. Left light, Bonnie is gone, open door. Right light, Chica is there, close door. Check camera, Foxy is back in place.
The rhythm is a high paced one, and a single slip up can mean starting the night over again. You won’t get that third star on the main menu. The game will not have been conquered if you die. This is no longer a game about guessing where these animatronics are. This is a high-stakes fight for your life. Ten minutes of keeping up a rhythm, acting when necessary, and keeping calm under extreme pressure. The time on the upper right no longer tells you how much you have to endure the fear, but instead taunts you for only dying at 3 a.m. If only you hadn’t forgotten to close the right door before using the camera, you were so close. You’ve been doing this for hours, there’s no reason to continue. Perhaps it’s time to take a break.
This game is one that challenges not only a player’s ability to understand the patterns of enemies, but also on paying strict attention to detail. Every minute action could cost you. The determination is fading away, and now players are left with an icy realization of what they’ve been doing. But that doesn’t stop gamers. We’re the people who modded Mario to make it insanely difficult. We’re the ones who found people’s complaints about God Hand’s difficulty laughable. We’re the ones who asked for this challenge, and there’s no way in ANY Circle of Hell that we’re going to call a game ‘unbeatable’ if we can help it.
I can only imagine Scott Cawthorn planning on making Five Nights At Freddy’s 3 with 20 animatronics to watch out for. Actually, no, don’t do that, Scott. 10 was hard enough, man. Can’t we get a break for at least a month before that?More About This Game