Light Mode

Silver Eyes to the Silver Screen: The Evolution of Five Nights at Freddy’s

These days, you can’t walk five feet in a store and not see merch for Five Nights at Freddy’s. Or maybe you know it as FNAF, which is a common acronym for the game series. Whether it’s a Hot Topic or Target, you are bound to come across some plushie or T-Shirt. However, these uncanny animatronics were not always the big name in gaming that they are now. Five Nights at Freddy’s had its humble beginnings before making its way to the big screen.

Let’s set the scene.


- Advertisement -

The Evolution of Indie Horror From Slenderman to Five Nights At Freddy’s

The Indie horror video game scene tends to go through phases, with websites like itchio or game jolt being flooded with imitations of the popular game of the time. Before Five Nights at Freddy’s hit the scene, the big game of the time was Slender: The Eight Pages.

Slenderman was the monster of the week, spawned as an entry in the Something Awful forums. Slenderman is a pale, tall, faceless figure in a black suit. He stalks his victims, playing mind games and inducing insomnia and paranoia before going in for the kill. Then one day, the victim seemingly vanishes into thin air, never to be seen or heard from again.

Many horror indie games featured dark and menacing forests, collection mechanics, and a static-y death screen that fills with Slenderman himself if you get captured. Slenderman, like many other indie horror games, relied on the thrill of the chase: an entity stalks you around a maze, and part of the adrenaline rush is hiding or outrunning it.

Then one day in August 2014, people’s screens filled with a new kind of horror. What set this game apart from others of the time was that there was nowhere to run.

Let’s Players and Theorists

Instead of a first person game with the freedom to roam, Scott Cawthon, the creator of Five Nights at Freddy’s, presents a claustrophobic point-and-click survival horror. In the first game, you play as Mike Schmidt, a part time night security guard at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. The goal is simple. Survive until 6am.

However, the mechanics were not so simple. You are camped in the one room that can provide a semblance of safety while being hunted by four angry animatronics. And your survival depends on how well you can manage your energy consumption. And EVERYTHING uses energy.

- Advertisement -

You must not only track the animatronics with the camera, you must also check the hallway right outside the office with floodlights, and as your last line of defense you can close the doors. However, every single one of these tasks consumes energy. If that power bar hits zero, everything goes black and you’re a sitting duck until one of the animatronics comes for you. Or if you’re lucky enough, 6am rolls around before they get you.

One of the big influences to Five Nights at Freddy’s blowing up the way it did, was the widespread proliferation of gameplay through let’s players. Let’s players are gamers who upload playthroughs of video games while also providing continuous commentary.

The indie horror and lets player ecosystem have always closely been intertwined, as let’s players provide interactive content as they play through the game, sharing it with their loyal fanbase. In this ecosystem, let’s players are also able to crank out content with free or affordable games to keep their audiences engaged, especially if they are able to break a popular game up into multiple parts. With its tricky and at times ruthless gameplay, getting through all five nights was an endeavor, meaning lots of content for let’s players to put out and for fans to enjoy.

Famous let’s player and theory Youtuber channels all covering the game at the same time meant it took the internet by storm. Everyone had a different strategy, so if someone wanted to keep getting their FNAF fix, there were options. Famous let’s players like JazzyGuns, Markiplier, and JackSepticEye skyrocketed the initially unassuming game to fame.

Another reason Five Nights at Freddy’s took off the way it did was the theorist channels. Youtube channels like Game Theory would break down the frankly dense and confusing timelines and hidden story in the game. So fans were getting not only game play content from Five Nights at Freddy’s, but there was also in game lore to parse through and piece together like a puzzle.

In that sense, Five Nights at Freddy’s gameplay extended beyond the game itself. As the game series continued, fans were primed to know where to look for clues in the game play trailers, promotional social media, and even the game files themselves. From raising the brightness of an image, to finding hidden content or decoding cyphers and converting binary code to messages, it was all on the table for the meta gaming aspect of this series.

- Advertisement -

Arguably one of the biggest gaming theory youtubers, Matthew Patrick, has made 43 theory videos about the nine games that were released, further adding fuel to the virality of the series.

Silver Eyes on the Silver Screen

The comparisons of Slender: The Eight Pages and Five Nights at Freddy’s doesn’t just stop in the game sphere. In 2018, a Slenderman movie released to pretty negative reviews. With a fanbase hungry for lore and scares, the final product unfortunately did not deliver.

To be fair, it is very difficult to translate an interactive experience that can take place over multiple days to a 2 hour film. However, that is all to say, Five Nights at Freddy’s is not only being held to the standard of the video game’s extreme detail, but also is facing pressure to outdo its predecessor.

The Five Nights at Freddy’s movie was announced in 2015, during one of the high points of the game series. However, despite trying to stay on top of the hype, the film has been stuck in development hell up until now.

During some of the first rounds of preproduction for the script, that iteration of the film had to be scrapped, with Scott Cawthon posting on Steam about “roadblocks,” but also promising to be involved with the story production.

On top of that, the labyrinthian lore of the game series has been shifting ever since the first game released. Cawthon couldn’t have known how much the series would blow up, and certain continuity and lore elements have been updated or clarified. Despite this, the lore is still a bit hard to get a grasp on, and translating to the big screen would further complicate the adaptation.

Despite multiple scripts being scrapped, changing studios, and even directors, Five Nights At Freddy’s is premiering Friday October, 27th.

Helming the project, Emma Tammi (The Wind) worked closely with Scott Cawthon, and had Seth Cuddeback co-write the script. Despite the ways that the game has grown and spiraled in so many directions, this movie is keeping things simple. We’re starting with where it all began. With Mike Schmidt, focusing on the story of the first game.

Josh Hutcherson takes the lead as Mike Schmidt, the security guard. Elizabeth Lail plays Vanessa, a security guard not present in the main game series, but debuts in the most recent of the franchise, Security Breach. Other cast members include Piper Rubio, Mary Stuart Masterson, Kat Conner, Grant Feely, Christian Stokes.

Certified scream queen and Hollywood sweetheart, Matthew Lillard stars as the brutal and ruthless William Afton, the main antagonist of the game series.

Certain changes such as Vanessa’s inclusion in this game absolutely bring up questions of what direction the film’s lore will take. Either way, the film is sure to be a wild ride, perfect for Halloween!


More Like This: Five Nights at Freddy’s Trailer Out Now

- Advertisement -