The Fan-Game Fanfare That Surrounds ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’

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For years, the bug-eyed, giant animatronic characters of Five Nights at Freddy’s (also known by the acronym, FNAF) have been terrorizing children and adults alike. Since debuting in 2014, the series’ unique first-person perspective survival-horror experience has spawned a myriad of sequels and spin-offs, significantly influencing the horror genre in both gaming, and even in film: Blumhouse officially announced a Five Nights at Freddy’s movie to be released in the near future. With an expansive and somewhat loose lore, a significant appeal of the series has been the opportunity for fans to engage with the in-game universe—the result being loads of fan-art, fan-theories, and an impressive community of fan-game creations.

Many of these Five Nights at Freddy’s inspired fan-games can be accessed for free on GameJolt; the most acclaimed fan-games can be found on the “best” tab of the tag, “FNAF”, and includes titles such as Eddie and the Misfits, Baby’s Nightmare Circus, Dayshift at Freddy’s, and Super FNaF. While some of these creations take inspiration from the series to create completely original titles, other creators have tried their hands at making spiritual successors or prequels to the original series. 

Five Nights at Freddy’s creator Scott Cawthon is privy to the acclaim and fanbase of the series, and interacts and encourages the community as a result (which isn’t a huge surprise, given Five Nights at Freddy’s own humble indie-game beginnings). In an effort to engage with fans and elevate creators in the community, Cawthon established a project known as The Fazbear Fanverse Initiative. 

Originally announced in August, 2020 via Reddit, Cawthon introduced the project as, “a giant collaboration involving several fangame creators who have made some of the most popular fangames” in the Five Nights at Freddy’s community. Cawthon is essentially investing money towards the development of multiple fangames heavily inspired by the series, and even remakes of original titles. Current projects that Cawthorn has selected for the initiative include: Five Nights at Candy’s 4, Popgoes Evergreen, One Night at Flumpty’s 3, The Joy of Creation, and a remake of the original game called Five Nights at Freddy’s: Plus.

Kane Carter, a developer currently involved in the initiative with the fangame Popgoes Evergreen, describes the initiative as, “an official collaboration between [Cawthorn] and five fangame developers, where Scott funds, promotes, publishes, and essentially treats some fangames in the same way he would treat his own.” 

These fangames, with the exception of Five Nights at Freddy’s: Plus, will be released in “bundles.” The bundles will include the previous creations of each fangame series with expanded content, as well as the newest entry picked up by Cawthorn for the initiative. Eventually, the goal is to have the bundles to be ported to consoles as well.

Naturally, the Five Nights at Freddy’s fanbase exploded with excitement over the project, and with Cawthon’s mentioning of possibly taking on more fan-creations for the initiative in the future, it ignited the fervor for many creators in the community to begin new projects. 

I got into contact with indie-game developer, Ultranite (who is also developing the upcoming indie horror game, Dryad), to discuss the development of his own Five Nights at Freddy’s inspired fan-game, Chomper’s—a project he was inspired to undertake upon hearing about the Fanverse Initiative.

Chomper’s takes place in the old Freddy Fazbear’s location, and Ultranite intended on making the story of the game feel like it could fit directly into the canon lore of Five Nights at Freddy’s—describing it as a sort of spiritual successor. While not currently involved in The Fazbear Fanverse Initiative, Ultranite describes that a reason why he appreciates it so much is that it gives fans a platform to tell their own unique stories that could then be even further built upon in the Five Nights at Freddy’s universe.

As an indie creator working on his own original games, Ultranite describes how this type of fan-game creation is what had initially inspired him to pursue game development at an early age. Ultranite describes the development as Chomper’s as a win-win—if he were to be selected for the initiative and gained notoriety in the indie-game community as a result, that would be a huge success. However, he also describes the development as also being a passion project. Developing Chomper’s, and similar fan-games in the past, has enabled him to connect with other creators in the community, and even work with them professionally.

This ultimately seems like Cawthon’s intention with The Fazbear Fanverse Initiative—while it generates more buzz surrounding Five Nights at Freddy’s, it also brings the fan community closer together and stokes the flames of excitement surrounding it. It feels a bit full-circle, as Five Nights at Freddy’s began as a crowdsourced, indie project, and is now a platform being used to bring attention to other indie games.  

The product of all of this is an extremely active, collaborative fan community, and a wide array of indie-horror games to be checked out. To get a taste of it, check out the first teaser for Ultranite’s Five Night’s at Freddy’s fan-game, Chomper’s, below!

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