“It’s a horror game.”
I have to admit that I’ve never heard of a horror game. I didn’t even know they existed, but I have increasingly been hearing kids talk about a game called Five Nights at Freddy’s.
The ten year-old girl who told me and showed me some of the graphics from the game went on to say, “At the end, you start having hallucinations cause you don’t have the frontal lobe of your brain anymore.” I asked her how she learned what a frontal lobe was and her quick response was, “from the game, of course...”
She sat in my office and showed me pictures of the game that she said was her “favorite thing to do for hours after school”. There was Freddy, as well as Nightmare Freddy, and a host of other characters I could honestly barely bear to look at, as a grown-up.
According to Wikipedia, the game is an “indie point-and-click survival horror video game.” The premise is that you, as the player, are acting as a night security guard at a Chuck-E-Cheese type fictional restaurant, called “Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza.” The backstory is that there was an incident referred to as “the Bite of 87,” which evidently involved the loss of someone’s frontal lobe (thus, my ten year-old friend’s comment). Since that time, these five animatronic characters are no longer allowed to roam during the day, and only can through the pizza place at night, so that their motors don’t lock up. The player is warned that if a robot encounters a human, they will automatically assumer that it’s an “endoskeleton not in costume yet and forcefully stuff them into a spare costume, killing them in the process.” Newspaper clippings are strewn in the background of one scene, revealing that five children disappeared after a man dressed as an animatronic lured them into a back room and murdered them. Afterward, the animatronics evidently started to smell foul, with blood and mucus stains appearing around their eyes and mouths, leading one to believe that the murdered children were inside. The game consists of five “nights,” in which the player has to survive against the attacks of the animatronics. In an additional sixth night called a “custom night,” the player can adjust the artificial intelligence of the animatronics himself.
A horror game. The folks at Common Sense Media refer to it as a “terrifying psychological thriller”. Again, it’s the game we’re hearing about the most from children at Daystar these days. We’re particularly hearing about it from children who are struggling with anxiety.
For years, I’ve met with kids who have had spikes of anxiety after seeing movies about clowns or dolls who come to life. I’ve talked through lots of Goosebump type something-goes-bump-in-the-dark types of stories. I’ve had parents move dolls temporarily from rooms while we work through anxiety related to some of these images that get locked in the brains of these little kids who just don’t have the maturity and often capability to sort through their very real and paralyzing fears.
If you follow our blog or have heard us speak, you’ve heard us say anxiety is now considered a childhood epidemic in America. Over half of the children at Daystar today, under the age of twelve, are there for anxiety-related issues. And we allow these very kids access to terrifying psychological thrillers about nightmare bears who murder children.
Five Nights at Freddy’s is downloaded an estimated 4,694 times per day on iphones, earning a daily revenue of $12,879, according to “Think Gaming” in July of 2015. The age given by the developers of Five Nights at Freddy’s is 12+. My friend who told me about it was 10. How old is your child? Do you know if they’ve heard of or played Five Nights at Freddy’s?
As with all technology, we would say it is of the utmost importance that you 1) consider your child and 2) consider the app before you allow your child to download it. Play the game first, thinking specifically of your son or daughter. Does he have nightmares? Does she latch on to fearful images? Does he tend toward anxiety or anxious thoughts in any way? If the answers to these questions are yes, then it may not be the best game for him or her. We would also say definitively, if he or she is under the age of 12, this is most likely not the best game for him or her.
If you do decide to allow your pre-teen or teenager to play it, talk to them first. Express your concerns to them and have them talk to you about their reasons for wanting to play. We always are of the belief that conversation and awareness are the two most important tools in teaching children responsibility with technology.
Your child, at every age, needs you to be aware. Children need you to protect their minds and their hearts as they navigate this technological age. Teenagers need you to engage with them…to be thoughtful, conscientious parents who not only engage them in conversation, but ask questions that help them develop their own critical thinking. We want teenagers to develop their own values and awareness, especially with technology…and your questions and conversation can help lead them to a place of more thoughtfulness themselves, and the responsibility that is all too lacking among teenagers when it comes to technology.
For more information, check out Common Sense Media’s review of Five Nights at Freddy’s.