Scott Cawthon, the creator of blockbuster indie horror series Five Nights At Freddy's, has announced he's retiring. He says he wants to focus his attention on his kids. This comes a few days after many fans were upset (particularly some LGBTQ fans) by the discovery that he had donated large amounts of money to politicians who have repeatedly opposed rights, protections, and support for queer and trans people. He and his family were also then doxed and threatened, which is obviously horrifying. But while he's retiring, the series will live on.
Five Nights started in 2014 after someone told Scott Cawthon a character he made for another game looked like a scary animatronic. He's said that almost made him give up on games, but he leaned into it. The series is about a chain of family restaurants with horrible animatronic animalfolk who come to life at night, and we play as the security guard they're trying to murder with jump scares. He announced his retirement on his website yesterday.
He started out saying he's had "a blessed, fulfilling, and rich career", and celebrated the creativity and support of fans. "But here on the seventh anniversary of the first game's trailer, as I realise that I was in my mid-30s when I created the series and now I'm approaching my mid-40s, I realise that I miss a lot of things that I got to focus on before FNAF became such a success," he explained. "I miss making games for my kids, I miss doing it just for fun, and I miss making RPGs even though I stink at it. All of this to say that I am retiring."
He went on to say that his kids were his "whole universe", and that he wants "to focus my attention on them, focus on protecting them, and spend my time making things for them."
It's probably no coincidence that this comes the week after controversy over his political donations. It was discovered in public records that he donated tens of thousands of dollars to politicians including Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, John Cornyn, and Ben Carson. Many were disappointed to see large sums of money going to some staunchly anti-LGBT politicians - money which likely came from people buying his games. Especially Mitch McConnell, who's just the worst in every way.
Cawthon responded to the upset on Reddit on Saturday.
"I've debated greatly how best to address this, including not addressing it at all, but with so many people from the LGBT community in the fanbase that I love, that's not an option," he said. He also said that he'd been "getting doxed, with people threatening to come to my house." This particularly scared his pregnant wife, he said, scaring him in turn.
Doxxing and threats are appalling, no question.
Cawthon said he had supported "the candidates who I felt could best run the country, for everyone". He explained, "Even if there were candidates who had better things to say to the LGBT community directly, and bigger promises to make, I believed that their stances on other issues would have ended up doing much greater harm to those communities than good."
Given some of those politicians' active efforts to hinder the rights and lives of LGBT people (among other minorities), they'd need to do amazing jobs to come out as net positives. Mitch McConnell, man.
Cawthon had earned his loyal fanbase, often doing the right thing with his games then going a step beyond. When he released RPG spin-off FNAF World in a state he wasn't happy with, he pulled it from sale, offered everyone refunds, then re-released it fixed-up as a free game. Then when another FNAF game was delayed, he released a free beat 'em up spin-off to tide people over. And he's not only supported fan games, he's encouraged them by giving money to some to fund development. He also made a game to support a fundraiser stream for a children's hospital, and ended up donating $500,000 (£350k-ish) himself. He even scrapped a plan for NFTs following criticism from fans.
He has at times seemed to struggle with the pressures and expectations from having fans (who wouldn't?). In 2017, he said mounting expectations for the next sequel had led to him neglecting other things in his life, and he wanted to spend more time with his family and "get back to what made me enjoy making games in the first place." Now, with five children and another on the way, the support of some fans lost, and the stress of being doxed, I can see why he'd finally bow out.
As for FNAF, he says "someone else will eventually be running the show; someone of my choosing, and someone that I trust." Presumably Security Breach is still coming, the full 3D wandering-about FNAF he was making with Steel Wool Studio. An official movie has been on the way too, following a weird Nic Cage knock-off.