Recently, I watched the “FNAF IS DOOMED! The Real Truth of Five Nights at Freddy’s” video by Treesicle. I think they might have a point.
If you talk to others within the FNAF or YouTube Gaming “bubble” (as Treesicle called it), they would tell you Five Nights at Freddy’s is an important and game-changing game. But if you talk to people outside that bubble, they tend to look at you weird. “What is FNAF?” they say, “Is that some kind of new disease?”
If you mention Sonic the Hedgehog or Mario, most people would understand who you’re talking about. They probably wouldn’t have a great amount of details about them, but they would at least know they were video game characters.
And the Treesicle crew is right about the YouTube bubble. I’m always hearing about hundreds or thousands of people who buy the merch of people like TheOdd1sOut or It’s Alex Clark, but I never see anyone wearing the merch IRL. About the only time I see anything about YouTube Creators outside of YouTube itself is if they wrote a book.
The video continues to mention why some franchises stay around for decades while others don’t. The video starts out with character development and world building. I have to agree there isn’t much world building to FNAF. If asked by someone what FNAF is, I’d say, “You play as a security guard who’s trying to survive not being killed by pizzeria animatronics.” There isn’t much to say about who the characters are, what they want, the world at large, or anything else.
The Treesicle people continue to talk about FNAF being a mystery. They mention how people love a mystery; but eventually, they want it solved. It’s fun trying to solve a mystery yourself. (Why do you think game theory, or just theory in general, YouTube channels are so popular?) The problem is after a while the audience would like to know if they are right. FNAF has been going on since 2014 with little to no information about “the truth.” By now, people want to know why the animatronics are after security guards, how did they come to life, and so on. There’s a lot of theories on YouTube but not a lot of answers.
Next, they talk about the fact FNAF is a horror game. They show statistics that horror is not that popular of a genre. It makes sense. The first time you see a horror movie or experience a horror game, you’re nervous and jumpy. The first time that ax murderer jumps out from behind the rosebush, you scream, jump, and gasp. The second time, you might jump a little because you forgot about the scare; but by the tenth time, you aren’t reacting at all. It’s hard to be spooked when you know exactly when the surprise is coming.
Another nail in the FNAF coffin is the game’s randomness. There doesn’t seem to be any skill involved. In the Mario games, you can gain platforming skills. You can learn timing on jumps; you can learn strategy (like choosing to toss that turtle shell at the right moment in order to cause a chain reaction). But, in FNAF a lot of it comes down to luck. Is Freddy going to come for you? Is Freddy even going to move that night?
For example, in a Mario level there might be a red warp pipe that takes you to a coin room. If you replay the level, the red warp pipe will still take you to the coin room. You could play the level 80 times and the red warp pipe will take you to the coin room. If it was a random game, one time the red warp pipe takes you to the coin room, but the next time the warp pipe doesn’t work; the next time, it might take you to a lava room.
Finally, the Treesicle team talks about the games and shows that do stick around. Most of them are adventure based. Again, this makes sense. Look at Captain America. What is his goal? Battle evil. There is always going to be some new evil to fight. What is the goal of Ash in Pokémon? Catch ’em all, to become the very best like no one ever was, and make friends. Can he ever do it? Can he really “catch them all”? Can he ever be “the best”? And you can always make new friends. The goals of the franchises that stick around are general enough that the characters never reach their goal, but specific enough that the audience feels like the character is making headway. Captain America will never defeat evil, but he can defeat the Red Skull. Now, look at FNAF. What is the goal? Survive five nights. You did that…now what? It makes for a great standalone game but not a series.
So, my word of advice to any game maker or author or screenwriter is if you want to make a series with staying power, you need a developed world with characters who’s goals are just vague enough that the character will never accomplish them but defined enough that it seems like they are accomplishing them. If you do have a mystery series, you need to solve the mystery relatively quickly (probably within a couple episodes/issues at most) then move on to the next mystery. Look at the mystery book classics, the mystery was solved by the end of the novel. Look at mystery TV shows, the case is usually solved by the end of the episode; they don’t leave it unsolved for five years.
Joe Rover eBooks are available at many online retailers, such as Barnes and Noble, Apple Books, Walmart eBooks, and more.
The first interactive story game based on my book series can be found here.