by Nathan Greppi

When, on December 16, 2021, was released the video game Five Nights at Freddy’s: Security Breach, it received a mostly positive public and critical reception, which confirmed the success of the horror series Five Nights at Freddy’s (also known as FNaF). However, who may have been able to rejoice little for the success of the new title was the creator of the saga, developer Scott Cawthon, who in June 2021 retired from the world of video games following attacks and threats received online for the sole "fault" of being a Republican.

Who is Scott Cawthon

Let's start at the beginning. Cawthon, who was born in Houston in 1978 and still lives in Texas, released his first video game, Doofas, in 1994, when he was still a teenager. Since the early 2000s, he has made dozens of independent video games and children's cartoons, but the real success began in 2014, when the first two FNaF titles were released. Here, the protagonist is the night watchman of a pizzeria, characterized by the presence of several robots with the features of animals. If during the day they entertain the customers, at night the same robots come to life and wander around the restaurant like sleepwalkers and, if they meet the keeper, kill him. The objective is to manage to hide and survive inside the pizzeria for five nights in a row.

Starting from the bottom and with limited resources, Cawthon has managed to achieve several milestones with this series: with a total of ten titles and three spin-offs published in just seven years, already in 2015 it entered the "Guinness Book of World Records" for the largest number of sequels published in a single year (three). Based on its success, Cawthon himself has written novels inspired by the plot of the games. Currently someone is also working on the possibility of making a film.

The controversy over his political views

Cawthon's star began to wane on June 10, 2021, the day the record of his donations made to various candidates over the years went viral on "Twitter." Apart from Democrat Tulsi Gabbard, they were all Republicans: among them were Devin Nunes, Ben Carson, Mitch McConnell and then-President Donald Trump. Following this, several gamers heavily attacked him, especially LGBT gamers, who falsely accused him of supporting homophobic and racist politicians.

In the face of the attacks, Cawthon did not try to apologize or deny his ideas to please the public, far from it. In a message posted on the "Reddit" platform a few days later, he stated:

To say that the last few days have been surreal would be an understatement. 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. I'd like to think that the last seven years would have given me the benefit of the doubt in regards to how I try to treat people, but there I was, trending on twitter for being a homophobe, getting doxed, with people threatening to come to my house. My wife is six weeks pregnant and she spent last night in fear because of what was being said online. She has already been struggling with her pregnancy so seeing her so afraid really scared me. All this because I exercised my right, and my duty, as an American citizen, to vote for and support the candidates who I felt could best run the country, for everyone, and that's something that I won't apologize for.

Speaking of Trump, he added:

I felt he was the best man to fuel a strong economy and stand up to America's enemies abroad, of which there are many. 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.

Finally, he concluded his message this way:

I'm a republican. I'm a Christian. I'm pro-life. I believe in God. I also believe in equality, and in science, and in common sense. Despite what some may say, all of those things can go together. That's not an apology or promise to change, it's the way it's always been.

Even before this declaration, Christian (and more generally spiritual) elements were already traceable in his work: in particular in those in the field of animation, made mainly for the company "Hope Animation", focused on Christian themes. In 2005 he released on "YouTube" an animated series based on the novel The Pilgrimage of the Christian, written in 1678 by the English preacher John Bunyan, from which he also made a video game in 2011. In addition, in FNaF the spiritual element plays a key role, since in the course of the saga it is revealed that the robots came to life because they were possessed by the ghosts of children killed long ago by a mad killer.

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The retirement

On June 17, exactly one week after the controversy began, he announced his retirement from the video game industry, officially to devote himself to his family: "I have had a blessed, fulfilling and rich career. I've been shown great kindness and I've tried to show great kindness in return. I've tried to make good games and have witnessed the creation of perhaps the most creative and talented fanbase on the planet."He added: "I miss making games for my kids, I miss doing it just for fun, and I miss making role-playing games even though I stick at it. All of this to say I'm retiring.". He concluded that the series will not end, but he will turn the management of it over to someone he trusts.

In spite of the attacks he received, most players gave him respect on this occasion as well: right after his announcement, the hashtag #ThankYouScott became one of the trending topics on "Twitter" in the United States.

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A freelance journalist, he has written for the newspapers Mosaico , Cultweek and Il Giornale Off . Member of the Council of the UGEI (Union of Young Jews of Italy). He was editor-in-chief of HaTikwa and communications officer of the US-Italy Global Affairs Forum .