From Horror to Adventure: Scott Cawthon’s FNAF World

It always seemed clear, at least to many Five Nights at Freddy’s fans, that Scott Cawthon was not finished with Five Nights at Freddy’s even after stating that his fourth game would be the last in the franchise. Yet what has always been striking was the fact that while the premise of the games was that the animatronics of Bonnie, Chica, Foxy, Freddy and friends were possessed by the spirits of dead children, the animatronics themselves seemed to have personalities and history beyond just being haunted.

When you also consider how much time Scott Cawthon put into designing these animatronics and their toy selves, it isn’t really surprising that he wanted to create a new game like FNAF World.

Oops. Wrong bite.
Perhaps the first clue that FNAF World was going to happen came from FNAF 4 itself:  in the form of its easter-egg Fredbear and Friends.

The main indication that FNAF World was going happen was through Cawthon’s constant website updates. Cawthon’s fanbase got to watch as his page changed from a thank you tribute with all of its motley antagonists, into a shinier version of its former self replete with new additions and cartoon “Adventure” character makeovers.

It was during this transition, from horror into fantasy, that Cawthon informed his fans on Steam of his intentions to make FNAF World as a role-playing game: in which all of the animatronics, formerly nightmarish enemies, will become its player characters.

FNAF Thank You

This transformation from Five Nights at Freddy’s horror into FNAF World‘s adventure is not unlike watching Disney create cartoons from the grisly nature of early folklore. Still, early Disney always had a dark and adult sensibility and with Scott Cawthon’s storytelling abilities, FNAF World will have its own intriguing story premise.

FNAF World

FNAF World‘s adventure begins in 2016. Seriously.

Was It Me? Five Nights at Freddy’s 4 Speculation

Scott Cawthon’s Five Nights at Freddy’s series has taken Internet imagination by storm this past year or so. There has been so much speculation as to what is going on in the story line. For games where you must survive five (or so) nights against stained and rusting animatronics trying to stuff your frail little fleshy body into a suit filled with pistons and wires — if not worse — it has a very complicated plot that is spread across narrative fragments of 8-bit mini-games (often only accessible when after you die), newspaper clippings in the background, easter-eggs in the games, and even code on Scott Cawthon’s own website.

It’s insane: in a very good and deliciously evil way. Much like this cupcake.

Bet you wish this cake was a lie, huh?
Bet you wish this cake was a lie, huh?

All of the games have been talked about and analyzed: from gaming journalism sites, to professional YouTubers and Let’s Players, and all over Reddit forums. It is also no exaggeration to say that the series has its own dedicated community of fans: many of them attempting to dissect the game as if they are playing a warped and twisted totenkinder version of Halliday’s Easter Egg in Ready Player One. But one particular Five Nights at Freddy’s Game is getting a lot of attention right now.

Five Nights at Freddy’s 4: supposedly the final game of the series.

The fact is, Scott Cawthon could have ended the series with Five Nights at Freddy’s 3: where the fate of the murderer of all the children that he, might have, stuffed into the animatronics at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria was finally revealed. But Scott couldn’t leave it at that. Each game reveals a part of the puzzle, of the story, that we didn’t know about before. And everyone is scrambling to figure out the significance of what happened in Five Nights at Freddy’s 4.

This is all the more poignant due to the fact that Scott Cawthon went on on record as stating that while the community fanbase seemed to have solved most of the mysteries in the previous three games, they still didn’t get everything in Five Nights at Freddy’s 4. He then rubbed some salt in the wound by saying that the October 31 update for the game will not include the opening of the locked box included at the completion of the game’s Night 7.

So aside from an obligatory Challenge Accepted meme across the Internet, I have my own theory with regards to the story of Five Nights at Freddy’s 4: and what the game may have really been about.

The issue is taking details literally. Here is what I think happened. People went onto Scott Cawthon’s website and saw the source code for his page while waiting for Five Nights at Freddy’s 4. They looked at the source code and saw the number 87 repeated over and again in chains. 87 was believed by many to refer to the Bite of 1987 in the game’s lore: where apparently an animatronic bit off the entire half of some poor unfortunate’s frontal lobe.

There were no other details provided aside from that and so, when people saw 87 in the code of Scott’s page many people believed Five Nights at Freddy’s 4 would either be set during that time, or would at least explain what happened via some mini-games.

And it seemed so clear cut. The game even ended, initially, after Night 5 with an 8-bit rendering of the crying child protagonist getting his head chomped down — seemingly by accident — by the Golden Freddy animatronic: know known by some to be the original Fredbear and possibly the first animatronic in that franchise. We thought we saw the Bite of 87 in action and the events that led up to it.

Worst birthday ever.
Worst. Birthday. Ever.

But some things just didn’t add up. The YouTuber MatPat, in his two Game Theory videos on the matter, explained that the game itself — which seems to take place in the nightmares of that comatose child’s mind after his bite — had inconsistencies if he had been the victim of the bite. For starters, missing his frontal lobe would have affected his fear responses and even his subconscious perceptions. And there is also that fact the person who lost their frontal lobe, according to FNAF lore, actually survived while this child does not.

And then there is that fact that if you find an Easter egg following Night 3, you will realize that there is a cartoon playing on the crying child’s television that is Fredbear and Friends: with the date of 1983, not 1987.

Oops. Wrong bite.
Oops. Wrong bite.

Yet here is the thing. At one point, before Scott changed his webpage to create a chain of nightmarish animatronics asking, “Was it me?” and seemingly referring to which of them caused the Bite of 87 — a major point of contention in the FNAF Community — he had an image of Freddy Fazbear’s top hat lying by itself on the stage: making it unclear as to whether or not he would continue the series past the third game.

Musicians like the singing animatronics aren’t the only ones that perform on stages, however. Stage magicians also perform on stage. They traditionally wear top hats, and they are known for their misdirection and slight of hand.

Nothing up my sleeve, nothing in my soul ...
Nothing up my sleeve, nothing in my soul …

Scott Cawthon is no less an entertainer of that caliber. Mostly everyone was so distracted by the idea that they might be seeing the Bite of 87 unfold and the mystery of whodunnit finally solved that other possibilities were not as prevalent.

Look at it this way. In the first Five Nights at Freddy’s game, Scott added an update after being asked about the Bite of 87 so often. There is a Custom Night menu where you can program the difficulty level of the animatronics that you are dealing with. If you type in 1-9-8-7, Golden Freddy will automatically appear and “crash” the game. Many took it to be that Golden Freddy caused the Bite, while others thought that Scott was just trolling them after being harassed about this question for so long.

It's me.
It’s me.

But what if the code chain of 87 in on his webpage was actually there to tell everyone that Golden Freddy was central to Five Nights at Freddy’s 4? And what if that reoccurring question “Was it me?” in all the subsequent images that followed on the same page had nothing to do with the Bite of 87 at all? 87 was a red herring, or at least a way to make you possibly more aware of Golden Freddy: of Fredbear.

What if the real question wasn’t who made the Bite of 87, or how? What if the real question is which spirit was impetus in making the events in all of Five Nights at Freddy’s possible?

MatPat and other YouTuber theorists believe that the crying child in the fourth game becomes the Puppet: the animatronic who reanimates the spirits of four other dead children into their current animatronic forms in all the games. But he doesn’t rule out that the crying child also becomes Golden Freddy: that in terms of the story it would be much more satisfying given what happened in the third game.

Here is my understanding of the situation. In the second game, we see a child get murdered outside of what might be the first Fredbear’s Family Diner: and he becomes the Puppet. Then years later Fredbear’s expands into a chain of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzerias. We see the crying child in 1983 get tormented by his older brother in a Foxy mask, and also the fact that he is deeply terrified of Fazbear’s: as if he saw something happen in there he shouldn’t have. On his birthday, his brother and friends stuff his head into the Fredbear animatronic and it accidentally chomps down on him. The Puppet, sensing a kinship with another tormented child who didn’t even get to enjoy his last birthday, takes action. He doesn’t have his body, but he makes the child is first attempt to restore life: and makes him into a Golden Freddy ghost as that was how he had been fatally wounded and rendered comatose.

Then the murders of the children start to happen. Everyone thought that the Puppet was reanimating the children through the animatronics of Freddy, Chica, Bonnie, and Foxy to get revenge on their murderer. But if you play the secret mini-game in Five Nights at Freddy’s 3, you have the opportunity to set the spirits of those children free. If you are successful you get a final scene where children wearing the Puppet, Freddy, Bonnie, Chica, and Foxy masks give a cake to another child in a Golden Freddy mask. Then they pass on.

Happiest Day ...
Happiest Day …

Scott Cawthon used to create Christian games before he set out on his adventure into horror. One central tenet of Christianity is redemption. Perhaps, when it comes down to it — though not in a purely transparent C.S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia fashion — the question of “Was it me?” was really which animatronic’s spirit motivated the Puppet to set everything into action: that it was more than vengeance or blood lust but an actual need to set things right. And it would only be fitting that Golden Freddy, possibly made after Fredbear the first animatronic, would be so integral in beginning and ending the series.

Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.
Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.

There are a lot more details I haven’t gone into of course, but I will leave that in more capable hands. We may never know what is in that locked box, of it is as simple as whether or not the Puppet or Golden Freddy started all of this. But remember: the narrative above the box, and in Scott’s Steam message didn’t say that the secret would never be revealed. The text above the box reads: “Perhaps some things are best left forgotten, for now,” while Scott himself states, “maybe some things are best left forgotten, forever.”

Based on the fact that Scott Cawthon has released the Five Nights At Freddy’s series relatively more quickly than most people expected, while releasing the fourth game earlier than his originally stated Halloween date, and his history of playing with assumptions, I think he is kind of a tease and I take everything he says with a grain of salt. I would not be surprised if there is more to this story one way or another.

And now, more than ever, I am looking forward to Halloween.

It’s Always Halloween At Five Nights At Freddy’s

“And under this carnival disguise the heart of an old youngster who is still waiting to give his all. But how to be recognized under this mask? This is what they call a fine career.”
— Jean Anouilh, The Waltz of the Toreadors

Freddy Fazbear

My first disclaimer, right off the bat, is that I haven’t played any of Scott Cawthon’s Five Nights at Freddy’s games. However I have been following them and, specifically, the overall story line.

The reason that the story behind Five Nights intrigues me so much is due to my own particular interests. Some of you who have been following Mythic Bios for a while know that I am absolutely fascinated with a special kind of creepypasta. You know the one: a short story told through different forms of media that become viral memes which proliferate through the Internet and user imaginations in the most strange and disturbingly wonderful ways. At the same time, I am a very nostalgic child of the 1980s and 1990s: especially when it comes to 8-bit and 16-bit video games.

In addition to all of this, for a while now I’ve been following the work of Kris Straub: the creator of Ichor Falls, Broodhollow, and the infamous Candle Cove. And, frankly, if I didn’t know any better I would say that in a lot of ways Scott Cawthon’s Five Nights at Freddy’s feels like stories that Kris Straub would create if he were working in the medium of video games and playing with late twentieth century children’s nostalgia and urban legends eroded by adult decay and a wickedly self-aware sense of humour. At the very least, it taps into a similar place of childhood nightmare fuel from which Straub’s horror work and Christopher Howard Wolf’s (SlimeBeast)’s Abandoned by Disney series also spring.

FNAF Gameplay

As it is, Cawthon takes a multimedia approach to his interactive storytelling. For the most part, each Five Nights game is a point-and-click endoskeleton requiring exacting precision tempered by a slow-burning sense of paranoia and and an ever increasing level of danger: all an attempt to survive long enough before faulty spring-traps snap down in a jump-scare that will leave your peace of mind — in pieces — for at least a night or two.

But then there is the rest of the game’s material — its costume — to consider. There are, after all,  the masks that you’re forced to wear, and those that stare at you right in the face before the long dark.

You have the newspaper clippings on the corners of your office. There are the children’s drawings on the walls of the pizzeria which you have to watch through faulty security cameras. You have an answering machine from your supervisor telling you about the dangers of walking animatronics in the night, and then more ominous references such as “The Bite of ’87.”

Then we get into the second disclaimer of this article: namely spoilers. You play this game from a second-person perspective: working six hours at night a week in a pizzeria to keep an eye on the place, but aside from seeing your character’s name on a pay cheque — should you survive to the end of at least two games — you never see your face. In fact, you don’t see any human faces in any of the three games. The only faces you get to see are those of the animatronics, the walking large, cuddly, worn, and mouldering robotic children’s mascots at night as they try to stuff your sad naked flesh “endoskeleton” into an empty suit full of pistons and wires.

FNAF Gameover

Even your supposed ally, Phone Guy, is just a voice on an answering machine: and the person who is responsible for all of this is a loathsome 8-bit purple sprite.

And here is where I think Cawthon’s genius truly shines. In the second and third games of the series, Cawthon institutes a platform game element. These mini-games are often considered reminiscent of those created for the 8-bit Atari 2600. You would totally think that with their blocky graphics and crude sound effects couldn’t be taken seriously. Of course, even if you somehow disregarded the resurgence and adoption of the 8-bit aesthetic by contemporary independent game designers, you would still be dead wrong.

FNAF Death Mini-Game 2

Between the “Death Mini-Games” of Five Nights 2 and the hidden mini-games akin to easter-eggs in Five Nights 3 — morbidly reminiscent of Warren Robinett’s Adventure and the Pac-Man level 256 perfect score glitch respectively — the mythos of Five Nights becomes more fleshed out.

While the animatronics in the point-and-click parts of the games come from a grim place where neoteny — child-like traits often incorporated into exaggerated cartoons — is combined with the uncanny valley — the notion of discomfort caused by an object that unsuccessfully tries to imitate a living being are terrifying because of how realistic they are made to look, they are creepy in a different way when rendered into pixel form. They are like 8-bit hieroglyphics, allowing you to explore the horror with a detached and almost dream-like manner. There is just something incredibly archetypal and gloomy about the graphics of the games that brings out its dark subject matter: especially when you consider that they are traditionally from a child’s medium of entertainment.

FNAF Death Mini-Game

The Death Mini-Games of Five Nights 2 introduce you to the Purple Man and his role in what might be wrong with the animatronics that are attempting to kill you while, at the same time, giving you a little more background into the development of Freddy’s pizzeria and the animatronic characters therein. And in Five Nights 3, instead of having to die in order to gain random access to mini-games, you can voluntarily search for the other mini-games to perhaps change the fate of certain characters in question.

FNAF Game

I think there are two elements that I truly appreciate from the combination of mini-games, newspaper articles, and answering machine information. First, there is what Cawthon is not telling you. There is what he implies and what he leads you, as the player and viewer, to put together. Cawthon even goes further in the advertisements for his games: implanting secret codes and clues into his messages. He makes you do all the work and all of the speculating: somehow making the dread and horror that much worse.

After all, there is a particularly challenge in another form containing the horror genre: how can you keep building up tension in the story when you reveal what the monsters look like? In addition, you certainly don’t want to reveal everything about the horror in the story or it becomes expository and rote. You have to keep a little bit of mystery in horror so that you always ask yourself why: while a part of you is always at least partially afraid of the possible answers.

These are the kinds of elements that inspire fans: that made this series into something of a viral meme on par with creepypastas. There are fan-made stories, games, animations, art, and trailers based on the archetypes that Cawthon creates. A Five Nights at Freddy’s movie is in the works and there is even speculation that Freddy’s is a real restaurant somewhere: probably based off Chuck E. Cheese’s. Certainly the mascot costumes, pizza, and arcade games taps into a resonance in me as a child of the eighties and nineties: a nostalgic feeling that Cawthon is trying to invoke and distort.

The fact of the matter is that, for the most part, the three Five Nights at Freddy’s that exist right now can stand by themselves. There didn’t need to be another game after these. However, I had my suspicions. Perhaps it was because of the empty product page he kept for some time with the discarded top hat. Maybe it was his silence about whether or not there was going to be another game.

But sure enough, come October 31, the fourth and final Five Nights at Freddy’s will arrive. And if you look at the graphic on Cawthon’s page, it is extremely appropriate if you think about it. I think it actually sums up a lot of the second element that has been on my mind, in some form, when I think about this game.

FNAF 4

I mean, of course it makes sense for the last chapter of a horror survival game to come out on Halloween, but here’s what gets to me. Imagine Freddy’s Pizzeria is like Chuck E. Cheese’s or even Disney World or Land. Certainly, a place for children would celebrate Halloween in some fashion: or at least take advantage of it commercially. Maybe “The Bite of ’87” might not come into it as many fans are speculating, but imagine how freaky it would be to be in a haunted children’s restaurant on Halloween of all days: perhaps even during the day this time around. Perhaps there are actual Nightmare toy versions or animatronics for such a lovely occasion.

But all speculation on my part aside, take this a step further. Remember what I said earlier about faces? How you never see any human faces in any of the Five Nights games? There are always costumes involved. There are always roles to consider. You arguably wear a uniform as a security guard. A murderer might have worn a animatronic suit. In Five Nights 2 you have to hide your face under a Freddy Fazbear Head in order to survive an animatronic intrusion. And children might be hiding — or hidden — in other inside the darnedest places. Even Phone Guy, the former security guard who showed you the ropes of your new job and was your only ally for the most part, tells you that he is curious to see what is inside those animatronic suits.

Freddy Fazbear Mask

The fact is: it’s always Halloween at Freddy’s, and I suspect that it’s always been. No one is as they seem, everyone wears masks, no one rests, and everyone wants to play. Sometimes nostalgia is an illusion of the fabled “good old days” that can, when stripped away, becomes a dark, ravenous thing in the late hours of the night. Sometimes you lose track of time when you so desperately want to keep living, and you don’t always want to see what’s under that costume. After all, some seemingly innocent dreams are, at their core, rotting nightmares.

And just when you think its safe to take that mask off, to forget the night time, to mistake the performer taking off his top hat with a flourish and a bow as the end: the story only continues at an elegant pace … and the suspense will kill you.

Freddy Toreador March