A later project, called "The Desolate Hope," got praise (and criticism) for its pro-life message—the premise is that you play as a coffeepot that tries to save the life of a discarded embryo. People who follow geeky religious websites very well may have seen Scott's work in the past, before he was famous.


Five Nights doesn't seem very religious. It's not, right?

It's not. Cawthon does believe that there's a spiritual reason why he's stumbled onto such success with Five Nights, though, according to this excerpt of an interview with Geeks Under Grace:

My relationship with God through the years has been absolutely essential, and only now can I look back and see what He has done. For about twelve years I dedicated my free time to creating Christian movies and later Christian video games. It didn't go well, but I had faith that God wanted me to create those things anyway.

Despite good reviews, my Christian projects were all financial failures. I came to a point where I was very disillusioned and frustrated with God…actually it was more like a broken heart. I felt like I'd squandered so many years of my life, years that could have been spent going back to college but were instead spent working on Christian projects that went nowhere. I came to the conclusion that I could not have failed so miserably unless God himself had been holding me down. Either God didn't exist, or God hated me. I didn't know which was worse.

I decided to change careers, at times pursuing web design, then computer programming, even truck driving, but I always felt drawn back to games.

A pivotal moment came for me when my life insurance policy was cancelled. The insurance company had caught wind that I'd mentioned suicidal thoughts to my doctor. It was at that point I realized that not only did my life have no value but now even my death had no value. I went before God again, and it was the first time that I truly went before him with nothing. I had nothing to offer him. I told him to use me somehow. Although at that moment I had no idea what he could possibly use me for.

I felt drawn back to games again, but not Christian games anymore. It's not that I wanted to leave the Christian market, I just didn't feel "led" to make another Christian game. Instead, the events of my life led me to a great idea for a horror game- Five Nights at Freddy's.


But, that's not the only reason Five Nights came to be. The other key thing that led Cawthon to making Five Nights was the reception of a different game, Chipper & Sons Lumber Co, an adventure game where you play as a beaver that chops down trees and builds stuff.


Beavers. Cawthon submitted the game to Steam Greenlight, and it was eviscerated by critics like Jim Sterling, who called the game unintentionally "terrifying," and that the characters—which were meant to look cute—seemed "soulless."

"People said that the main character looked like a scary animatronic animal," Scott Cawthon said in an interview with IGM. "I was heartbroken and was ready to give up on game-making. Then one night something just snapped in me, and I thought to myself- I bet I can make something a lot scarier than that."


And so, Five Nights at Freddy's was born. It was the product of heartbreak, soul-searching, great design, and luck. Kind of amazing, no?

That's a pretty great story.

Definitely more interesting than your average game creation story, yeah!

What game should I start out with?

Given how short and cheap they are, I suggest trying both. While FNAF 2 is the more complex game, playing both lets you get invested in the story, and that's one of Five Night's biggest draws. If you're short on time, though, just try the second one. You'll get the signature Five Nights experience, but improved from the first game.


Are any of the fan games good?

Typically, the fan games are more of the same, but with different themes.But, if you're hooked in Five Nights already, that might not be such a bad thing.


There's a take that uses Nintendo characters called Five Nights at Wario's. A different fan game uses Disney characters, and that one is called Five Nights at Treasure Island. There's a bizarre JRPG take on the game, and it pokes fun at the characters—it's good if you're looking for a laugh. If you want to make things more intense, though, you should probably check out the multiplayer version of the first game: it lets people control the animatronics, and they have to try their best to kill the players controlling the security guard.


What if I wanted to watch the games instead?

The easiest way would be YouTube. You can find the most popular Let's Plays of Five Nights here. Fair warning: you're going to hear a lot of screams.


So, these games seem very "now." Surely they're going to burn out. Can they really stay this popular?

I get your skepticism, especially given how fast new games are coming out. Even the people who feature the games heavily on YouTube, like Pewdiepie, criticize the phenomenon around the game…but they'll still make videos about it.


If we look at previous games that enjoyed virality, like Slenderman, it seems like they all but disappeared after a few months of hype. I get the sense that people are starting to get fatigued of Five Nights. At some point, the games won't be as popular as they are now—these things do go in cycles, after all. For now, the third game looks promising. It takes place thirty years in the future, and it features one frankenstein animatronic put together from the parts of other animatronics. That's a neat enough premise that I'm willing to give it a shot, at least.

Okay, well, I think I understand these games better than I did. Thanks!

No problem.

Image by Sam Woolley.

To contact the author of this post, write to patricia@kotaku.com or find her on Twitter@xpatriciah.