Scott Cawthon spent more than a decade as an independent game developer working to create Christian video games (and movies) and they went absolutely nowhere:
Despite good reviews, my Christian projects were all financial failures. I came to a point where I was very disillusioned and frustrated with God… actually it was more like a broken heart. I felt like I’d squandered so many years of my life, years that could have been spent going back to college but were instead spent working on Christian projects that went nowhere. I came to the conclusion that I could not have failed so miserably unless God himself had been holding me down. Either God didn’t exist, or God hated me. I didn’t know which was worse.
It got so bad that even his life insurance policy was cancelled because he was seen as too much of a liability.
And then he came up with the idea for a completely different kind of game. A scary game — with no religious references at all — revolving around what happens with the animatronic creatures you might see at a Chuck E. Cheese’s after the store closes for the night.
That game, which, along with its sequel, has been ridiculously popular in the App Store and on Steam, is called Five Nights at Freddy’s.
In an interview with Joe Morgan at Geeks Under Grace, Cawthon explained how he still thanks God for his success… even though all of his games praising God were commercial failures:
I don’t regret a single moment that I spent working on those Christian projects. I feel like God had commissioned me to make them, and I had an absolute duty to make them, even at the cost of my job and a comfortable life (which it cost me).
Success comes on God’s terms, in His time, and in His way. God only allowed me to have success after I’d been broken, after I’d stopped seeking success for myself, and after I’d come to terms with the idea that my labors for God might not ever bring me a penny. It was only after I’d lost everything that God was able to get my heart right to the point where He could trust me with success.
There’s something to the idea of crediting your failures for eventually helping you become successful. But this is a perfect example of where Cawthon alone deserves credit for the game. Yet he’s handing the baton to someone else who had nothing to do with it whatsoever. It’s frustrating. Especially when anyone could offer very different explanations:
- God was telling you to stop preaching Christianity.
- God wanted you to create a game that was so far from Christianity, it’s downright demonic.
- God wasn’t telling you anything, and inspiration struck only when you had nowhere to go but up.
- People like games that are simple and creative, not preachy.
But none of those explanations are even considered by Cawthon. He knows creating a scary game for the iPhone was just part of God’s plan for him…
It’s also a reminder of why Christian movies rarely do well in theaters. Sure, there’s the occasional anomaly (like God’s Not Dead), but most bomb at the box office. The reason? Christian movie writers tend to be more interested in shoving a message down the audience’s throat than they are in telling a good, plausible story.
Cawthon only saw success when he focused on making a game tapping into people’s fears (scary noises, very little lighting, security cameras, large killer rats out to get you) and ignoring the urge to push Jesus onto the players. That God of his sure must love reverse psychology.
Five Nights at Freddy’s, by the way, is a major departure from his other games, one of which suggested a very pro-life message:
The Desolate Hope has only recently been getting more attention because of the popularity of Five Nights at Freddy’s, but has come under fire for having a pro-life message. The game itself was not designed with abortion specifically in mind (the word is never mentioned.) However, the game’s story focuses on the protagonist’s quest to save a human fetus that was intended as a scientific specimen. The game places a very high value on human life, even at it’s smallest, and that draws a lot of anger from some people.
I can’t imagine why that one wasn’t successful…
(Thanks to Crow for the link)