Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How I got my Five Nights.

I love having my childhood ruined.

And no, I'm not talking about sequels and remakes that spit upon the memories of the franchises I cherished as a child. I've apparently got some pretty ridiculous feelings when it comes to that (my feeling being that a modern take on a beloved classic isn't necessarily destined to suck, and even if it does I'll probably survive).

I mean that, for some weird reason I still can't define, I crave that specific corner of the macabre. I mean, I crave all the macabre. Junji Ito is my guy when it comes to manga. I like the creepy, the disconcerting, the stuff that will wake you up at 3 AM a week later because it still sits heavy in your brain and your gut. As much as it chills me, it satisfies some weird corner of my soul that feeds on that.

But in particular, I love childhood nightmare fuel. And I loved it as a child, with both eyes open to what it was. Sometimes I'll see a YouTuber revisit something I watched as a kid — The Adventures of Mark Twain or that one Raggedy Ann movie being two regular contenders — and they talk about how we watched these without the faintest realisation just how dark and grim and morbid they are. And I think, no... when I was little, I was well aware of just how grim they were, and that's why I watched them. Even when I was little, I was drawn to that dark side of storytelling.

And I'm well aware that it colours a lot of what I do (said the grown woman who dyes her hair rainbow colours and wears stripey socks and fluffy dresses while making videos about her guinea pigs). My installment in The Perennial Miss Wildthyme was the story of a girl who decided to risk letting a giant monster eat her on her tenth birthday out of sheer curiosity. Maybe this stems from my grandparents reading me the unabridged Grimms' Fairy Tales when I was little. Maybe the Mother Alien maquette my dad apparently kept in my nursery really did scar me for life. I don't know.

But apparently I'm not alone.

I've been hearing about Five Nights at Freddy's pretty much ever since it came out, in large part because I still do the anime con scene and there's a lot of crossover. But, because the very nature of its gameplay relies on jump-scares and flickery visuals, I was blocked from playing. Epilepsy and anxiety make me not exactly the target audience. And I figured I wasn't missing much. As much as I appreciated the Chuck E. Cheese parallels — I was a child of the 80s and had my share of run-ins with those clicky-eyed animatronics — I wasn't starving for a dose of creepy nostalgia.

And then? Then I had to go and find out that there's story. Like hidden story. Like metaplot and a timeline and vengeful ghost children and dammit. I want that lore. But I couldn't play. What do?

My friend Ginger Hoesly inadvertently fixed my problem for me by idly mentioning the Game Theorists YouTube channel. I got drawn in by the video on brainwashing, bopped around a bit, and found MatPat's FNAF playlist. It was exactly what I wanted: a run-down of the storyline (mostly) free of jump-scares, plus someone piecing it together. Hoo boy. It was everything I wanted and more.

I suppose I'm a little sad that I can't have the experience of rooting out those plot points for myself, but the fact that I could still engage in the story was all I really wanted in the first place. I gave FNAF World a look because I heard it was a different format; but even with it being an RPG and not survival horror, the visuals get a bit too flickery to engage with. Which is all right, because now that I've got the main lore in my mind, reading through the Wiki makes it easy to pick up the threads.

So, with a few extra bucks left over from a recent Amazon gift card, I picked up the tie-in book, The Silver Eyes. The book is co-written by game creator Scott Cawthon and author Kira Breed-Wrisley, and expands on the base story of the first game. We get an identity for many characters mentioned or hinted at in the games. And while not every story point matches up with every single little minigame, it's close enough, dammit.

I enjoyed The Silver Eyes, and I feel it wrapped up a lot of things really well (while raising a few more questions). But... and maybe I only say this because I'm an editor... I feel like it was published one edit too soon. I mean, there were typos, sure; I've caught typos in bestsellers. But there were formatting issues (though those could potentially have been an ebook glitch), and... it felt like a first draft. I don't know how else to put it. It was unmistakably entertaining, but unpolished somehow.  Certain scenes, the important scenes, were definitely polished and quite well written, but the in-between stuff varied vastly. Perhaps the result of having two writers, one of whom is a professional author and the other of whom isn't. At any rate, the story is strong enough that I consider this an aside rather than a deal-breaker, and it actually can stand alone from the games.

All I know now is that another game, Sister Location, is coming out, and it's been hinted at in previous releases. I was able to watch the trailer, and it's as beautifully distressing as I was hoping. I won't be able to play it unless my neurological issues magically disappear between now and the release, but I look forward to theories and Let's Plays allowing me to interact on at least some level.

If you're not like me and can play and haven't yet, I actually do recommend them. Yes, I'm recommending games I've never actually played. I can do that under the circs. You can get all four games for $25 on Steam.