When most children grow up in a household with gaming parents, their taste in games is largely molded by what they see played at home and what their parents introduce them to. That has certainly been the case for most of my children’s lives, but now that they’re getting older and spending less time hanging out with mom and dad and more time with their friends, they’re beginning to develop their own taste in video games, which is awesome to see.
My oldest daughter Chloe told me recently that she’s really gotten into the series Five Nights at Freddy’s, despite the fact that she’s never played a single one of the actual video games. In a time when kids spend so much of their free time on YouTube, she’s been able to learn all about the characters and the world just by watching Let’s Play videos and talking with her friends online. So after enthusiastically telling me all about the world of these murderous animatronic animals, I asked if she had any interest in actually playing the video games.
“Are you serious? Yeah!”
If you’re unfamiliar with the franchise, Five Nights at Freddy’s is a horror game that places you in the role of a security guard newly hired at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. If you’ve ever been to a Chuck E. Cheese’s or Showbiz Pizza then you know the place. As the overnight guard, it’s your job to sit in the office and monitor the security cameras to make sure that everything that nothing goes wrong after hours. Unfortunately, Freddy and his animatronic pals have a habit of… wandering when the door is locked and the sun goes down.
As I looked into where and how to play the game, I was surprised by how many of them there actually are. By my count there are roughly 13 games in the series, including the various spin-offs. There’s even a VR edition, but that seemed a bit too intense for our first time and I didn’t want anybody pooping their pants on a Friday night. We decided to start with the very first game, which was available for about 7 bucks on the Xbox store. I was also a bit surprised that Chloe seemed legitimately nervous to play the game, and not knowing anything going in, it got me wondering just how scary these games really were and if they were going to be too much for a 12 year old?
When we sat down on the couch I tried to hand her the controller to let her play first, but she pushed it back at me as if I had handed her a live snake. “No! I can’t do it. You play!” Well okay then, time to be the big tough dad and play through the scary game without crying.
The premise of the game is pretty simple and straight forward. You sit in the security office of the restaurant, monitoring all of the surveillance cameras scattered around the building. There are 13 cameras in total that you must check to make sure that none of the creatures are wandering around where they shouldn’t be. You won’t actually see them move, but as you switch between cameras you’ll suddenly see one that’s disappeared from where they were and reappeared somewhere else. I think the effect of them always being still is actually creepier than if you saw them walking around.
If you see any of them getting a bit too close to your office for comfort, you have a panic button that can drop a metal door down at either of the two entrances to the office, preventing them from getting in. The tricky part is that switching between the cameras or using the panic button uses up electricity, of which you have a limited amount. So you can’t just jump back and forth between the cameras all night or leave the doors shut all of the time, if you do that the generator will shut down leaving you without cameras, security doors, and completely in the dark. Which is very bad. So you must use everything sparingly and try to make it last until 6am at which point you’ll be safe, and if you can survive for 5 nights… you win.
The first night was pretty uneventful. I kept a close eye on the main stage and once in awhile one of the characters (Freddy, Bonnie, Chica & Foxy) would disappear and show up in a hallway or adjacent room, but they never wandered too closely to the office so I never had to worry about using the door buttons. While not much happened, it was still kind of unsettling knowing that it was only night one and that things would escalate from here. As 6am arrived with plenty of power left I commented that it wasn’t so bad, but the look on Chloe’s face told me that she wasn’t as comforted as I was. All of the YouTube videos and books had gotten into her head a little bit I think.
On the second night, the tension ramped up quite a bit. It played out pretty much the same way that night one did, but with Freddy and company being a little more prone to wandering this time around. As more than one of them disappeared from the main stage, I quickly jumped around between cameras trying to find them while Chloe yelled in my ear “Check camera 6! Look in the bathroom! Oh no, they’re coming!”. The game gets a bit trickier to manage at this point. The more they wander, the more you have to keep tabs on them, the more quickly your power drains.
As time slowly ticked away, I lost track of one of the characters when they disappeared from the hallway where they had been staring into the camera. I turned off the camera and discovered them standing right there in the doorway to the office, motionless, wide-eyed, and mouth agape. Chloe let out a yelp that sounded like a dog whose tail had been stepped on and covered her eyes as I slammed the button and watched the metal door clang down between us. The power was draining more quickly now and as the clock reached 5am I was nearly out of juice. I opened the door to try and conserve some power and saw that they had disappeared again, but despite that the power finally ran out. The cameras turned off and the lights went dark. There we sat in the total darkness. Exposed, helpless, and ready to be eaten by a psychotic bear and his robot friends.
Thankfully though, after what seemed like an eternity and before a six foot bunny had a chance to tear us apart, the clock struck 6am and we were safe. We had narrowly escaped our second night at Freddy’s with hardly a moment to spare. As I was about to press the start button to begin night three, Chloe turned to me and said “Maybe that’s enough for one night. We can do more tomorrow.” We had made it this far so we decided not to press our luck and called it a night.
Five Nights at Freddy’s was a fun and (relatively) family friendly evening of scares that I would recommend for families with older kids looking for some good Halloween thrills. Now to work up the nerve to try and survive the rest of our stay at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza.
Three nights and about a dozen games to go.