A Deep Dive into FNaF’s Storytelling

Why is Five Nights at Freddy’s lore the way it is? Everybody has questions about the convoluted mess that is the ‘completed timeline’ of the franchise, as evident from the various videos proclaiming that they have ‘solved’ the games, but has anybody stopped to ask why the story is so chaotic in the first place? 

FNaF 1 Title Screen (Image: Scott Cawthon via Wikimedia Commons)

Well, this foolish editor has, and I can tell you the short answer to that question would be capitalism. Depressing motive, I know, but allow me to elaborate. Scott Cawthon, the original creator of Five Nights at Freddy’s (which I will be referring to as FNaF moving forward), seems to produce his games not only to generate a sizeable income, but also to respond to fan complaints, which in turn affect their financial success. Not to call him avaricious, but this is the man who wrote an entire book series paralleling his games, created multiple sequels after naming a game the ‘Final Chapter’, and collaborated with Steel Wool Studios to produce games that while operating on a much larger scale, were also priced far more exorbitantly. 

In his defence, all of his past ventures into game development had proved fruitless, and FNaF was his last-ditch effort at creating a game before he was going to give up game developing entirely, so it would make sense that he would try his best to milk everything he could from this success. FNaF’s success story also explains his fixation on fandom satisfaction, since it was partly inspired by how people had criticised the character designs in his previous game, Chipper and Sons Lumber Company, for looking like creepy animatronics. The fact that one of his games finally turned out lucrative after he actively listened to criticism, plus the fact that it was YouTube Lets Play videos that caused FNaF to skyrocket in fame, clearly influenced the level of importance he put on how people reacted towards his creations.

But how does this affect the story of the games? Well, remember how I mentioned how FNaF was supposed to be a final attempt at game-making? Scott had no idea that his game about murdered children haunting animatronic suits would blow up, and therefore had no concrete story planned from the beginning. But rather than sitting down and planning the entire story after he realised he could continue the tale with future games, he decided to create the lore as he created the games instead. Which, of course, led to many confusing and contradicting parts of the lore.

FNaF 2 Title Screen (Image: Scott Cawthon via Wikimedia Commons)

After he saw how obsessed people were with the story in the first game, he made FNaF 2 and 3 with an emphasis on ‘the story’ in mind, which included fun additions such as new characters that were never explained, absurdly hard to access minigames, and the introduction of the series’ main antagonist — Purple Guy, aka William Afton, aka Springtrap. You see how that would be confusing. Provided how the ‘good ending’ of FNaF 3 involved setting free all of the trapped children’s souls from the animatronics, many assumed that it would be the final game in the series. They were wrong. Scott noticed the fan dissatisfaction with the jump-scare and gameplay, and decided to push out FNaF 4: The Final Chapter, and make it scarier than ever. Except it wasn’t really the final instalment, since he later made FNaF 5: Sister Location, which just continued the pattern of adding new characters that complicated the story, and showed the developer’s determination to satisfy the franchise’s enthusiasts, even if it put the entire story at risk.

Speaking of putting the story at risk, due to Scott never having a concrete plot and simply writing the story as he goes, core elements of the lore have been retconned, possibly even multiple times. For example, while design choices such as the different shades of purple guy and the number of buttons on Fredbear are supposedly for aesthetic purposes only, there are other design choices that have been changed to bear significant lore implications over the years. When originally asked about the design of Toy Chica in an interview with YouTuber Dawko, Scott simply replies that her lack of a beak was ‘just to make her look more creepy and uncomfortable’. Fast forward to the (practically historical) game theory live stream on September 18 2015, where Matpat collaborated with many other FNaF YouTubers to discuss theories, one of the questions Scott brought to their attention was ‘In the FNaF 4 minigame, why would the tiny Toy Chica be missing her beak?’, which directly contradicts his previous statement that the toy animatronic’s appearance was lore unrelated. This had disastrous effects on the theorising community, as this essentially opened the floodgates for people to analyse every minute detail since everything now had the potential for narrative significance. One can only imagine the sheer amount of incorrect theories that came from this encouraged act of over-analysis. 

Speaking of incorrect theories, Scott has changed FNaF’s account enough that even once-correct theories are now impressively inaccurate. In a Steam post from 2015, he highlights how ‘game theory did an incredible job on part 2; getting almost everything right’, but if you were to watch the part 2 video in question, you would find that it has aged like milk. In the video, Matpat claims that Phone Guy is Purple Guy, who used the Golden Freddy suit to kill the kids, and that the puppet was the first child to be murdered, all of which are incorrect now. But how could one story have so many inconsistencies? Why, by changing core lore elements of course! For those not cursed with FNaF brain rot, there is an infamous box in FNaF 4 which nobody knows the content of. I repeat, nobody knows the content of this box, including Scott himself. He quite literally says that Matpat was ‘absolutely right’ in his theory, and ‘the contents of that box have changed over the years’. With all these changes, it’s no wonder the plot is so contrived.

So, I may have lied at the beginning of the article. Maybe it really is Scott’s own liking for a more…flexible story, rather than capitalism, that caused this franchise’s plot to morph into a burning mess. But at the end of the day, it’s just a theory, isn’t it?


Featured image by Scott Cawthon on Wikimedia Commons

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Our YouTube Channel