The “Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise has undoubtedly become one of the most iconic horror video game franchises to date. The franchise has spanned over 9 different installments. It also spans different types of media, from comic books to VR games. Each type of media transforms the story, changing the impact of the game’s horror aspects.
“Five Nights at Freddy’s” is a horror video game franchise created by Scott Cawthon in 2014. The series surrounds a defunct pizzeria/arcade franchise, “Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza”, and the haunted animatronics that roam around at night in the abandoned restaurant. Each type of “Five Nights At Freddy’s” media builds on this narrative but gives the audience a different level of immersion into the story. In each game, the player is an employee of one of the many rundown Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza restaurants. The employee must fight off the group of deadly animatronics that have come to life, each group of animatronics changing with each game. The “Five Nights at Freddy’s” franchise also consists of three book series, many novellas, and two graphic novels. The book series began with “The Silver Eyes” in 2015, and ended with “The Fourth Closet” in 2018.
The game series of the franchise not only took full advantage of every aspect of the video game format, but set new standards for the horror genre in general. It perfected the jumpscare, and gave rise to a whole new slew of mascot horror games for years to come. It immerses the player in the world and situation in ways the novels cannot, providing visuals and sounds that are truly terrifying. They, unfortunately, can be unaccessible for the blind and hearing impaired communities, as they rely on those senses to truly strike fear into the player.
This is best exemplified by the 2019 VR game, “Five Night’s at Freddy’s: Help Wanted’. In this VR game, the player is up close and personal with the terrifying animatronics fans have known for years. They are required to repair them, resulting in a terrifying jumpscare if they fail. \
The video games also send a message of fear in isolation, and also requires the player to be quick and pay close attention. The later games build on the story narratively, and express messages of existentialism, and fighting against what we were made for. They also build on a message of corporate greed, and the dangers of fame.
The first FNAF novel, “The Silver Eyes”, centers around a young girl named Charlie. Her father was one of the owners of the restaurant. He was also responsible for creating the animatronics that now roam the halls. In the book, Charlie returns to her hometown after college, and catches up with her childhood friends. When the group were younger, they suffered a tragedy in the horrific death of their friend Michael. The remaining friends decide to return to the place where Michael died, only to find that dangers still lurk at the restaurant. At the end of the book, they discover the one who’s been stalking the abandoned pizzeria is also the one responsible for Michael’s death. This is where we see the first introduction of William Afton, the series’ biggest narrative villain.
William Afton is not only the co-owner of the Freddy Fazbear franchise, but responsible for many of the deaths throughout each iteration of the series. His actions and their consequences have been felt since the first game, but “The Silver Eyes” is the first piece of include and address him. He is responsible for the deaths of many children in his restaurant, and forced his co-owner to continue to make the animatronics. Afton’s introduction, and Afton himself, are the biggest example of media convergence in the FNAF series. The games real villain and story remained speculative until the release of these books.
The video games purposefully add very little narratively. The story is meant to be ominous and mysterious, and left for the users/readers to interpret. As fans continued to demand more narrative information, creator Scott Cawthon used the novels as an opportunity to expand on his story. He began to combine the narrative from the novels with the narrative from his games, while making slight changes.
The boundaries between digital media and other forms of media consistently shift, and the FNAF franchise is a great example of this. In the earlier years, the boundaries were broken because of the consistency of the books and the games. Now, the boundaries have been reinforced because of the franchise’s reliance on the digital format. Because the narrative has already been built upon and is so well known, they no longer need the books to expand on the history of the world.
Both forms of media have many affordances and limitations. The videogames are able to tell the story with visuals and sound, enhancing the overall theme of horror the series consistently puts out. The books were only able to express the series’ horrifying nature through words until the creation of the graphic novels in 2020.
This gave the novels a visual affordance it needed to express the trepidation of the series. The original versions of the novels had the affordance of being more accessible than the videogames, despite not enhancing the franchises themes. The games are limited to certain amount of digital platforms. This might be a hindrance as forms of playing video games evolve in the future. The games are also limited by having less accessibility.
Overall, the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” franchise has spanned many different media formats. The digital format is of course the most popular, but is enhanced by and reliant on the others. This is shown through the unique and expansive narrative of the franchise, which has kept fans coming back for years. FNAF’s special media convergence is one of the most intriguing yet underlooked aspects of the franchise’s success, and should be looked on further.