Fun fact: This episode was recorded and edited by Chris. Josh was visiting relatives during this session, so we couldn’t do Last of Us. And Chris has been angling to try some “quick look” type episodes where we spend just twenty minutes with a game that’s interesting, but maybe not interesting enough for a whole season of Spoiler Warning. (And we’re calling these short episodes, “Twenty Minutes With X”, even if the episode isn’t twenty minutes.)
Since we were joking around too much to do proper analysis (it’s the holidays, we were in the mood to goof off, and some of us had been drinking) I guess I’ll do my analysis here:
First off there’s the whole “jump scare” debate. I don’t see that as a worthwhile discussion. You can make all the bullet-points you want, you can never make an argument that will enable me to enjoy jump scares. They piss me off, end of story. On the other hand, there’s nothing I can say that will make a fan of jump scares stop enjoying them. This bypasses a lot of our higher-level behaviors and jabs us right in the amygdala. It’s either fun for you or it isn’t, and there’s no sense in arguing about it.
I actually really appreciate a game like Five Nights At Freddy’s. It’s unapologetically all about jump scares, and the gameplay is built around that idea. Now that I know this, I can avoid the game. It’s more of a problem when a game designer starts cramming jump scares into a game but then markets it as if it operates on an emotional level. I go in expecting to be scared by dread, mystery, emotional tension, and body horror, and instead I’m just waiting for the sudden loud noise and spooky face. And after the noise, I’ve got all this angry adrenaline in my bloodstream. I can put the game down, but that adrenaline doesn’t magically go away.
If you think about it, Silent Hill 2 is the opposite of a jump scare. You can hear the static before you see the monster. It’s all about the slow buildup of a fight you know is coming. Then there’s a quick encounter (combat or fleeing) and it’s over. After a session of Silent Hill 2 (or parts of Thief) I walk away with a sense of catharsis. After a jump scare game, I walk away grouchy.
Anyway. FNaF is sort of cute. It’s silly and it makes no sense, but its not trying to. This isn’t like Dead Space 2, a big-budget game with pretensions of terror but totally lacking in mood, pacing, and tone. (And story, and theme, and characterization, and logic.) Unlike Dead Space 2, FNaF is goofy on purpose. It does exactly what it says on the tin, and I can’t fault it for that.
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