The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines folklore as “ideas or stories that are not true but that many people have heard or read,” while lore on its own is defined as “knowledge gained through study or experience; a particular body of knowledge or tradition.” In the modern day, lore appears most commonly throughout digital universes crafted by video game designers. Video games have very open ended stories, which gives people room to make their own conclusions. These video games begin conjuring followers, and eventually a community of people begin to piece together stories, essentially creating modern day folklore overtime.
The past two years have introduced the internet gaming communities to many new gaming phenomena, such as the indie horror series Five Nights at Freddy’s by Scott Cawthon, and Overwatch by the Blizzard franchise. Both of these games have amassed large followings, not only for their gameplay and overall story, but for the lore behind the game.
Five Nights at Freddy’s lore follows a story of multiple restaurant locations, different animatronic robots, and a series of injured children. Many followers of the game series spend days, even weeks, trying to piece together the six game long series of mixed up stories. Players are never told anything that’s really going on within the game, just given hints that there are dangerous things happening around the player. This makes it nearly impossible to really figure out the game’s true story, and therefore sends its fans into a frenzy of decoding and detective work. This game, having been highly anticipated by its Steam Greenlight page months before its release, brought in record high views for certain gaming youtubers who made videos on the game. One youtuber, Markiplier, had his first video on the game reach over 53 million views. Another youtuber, under the channel The Game Theorists, dedicated his time to figuring out the lore behind Five Nights at Freddy’s. As the newest game in the series was released, Five Nights at Freddy’s: Sister Location, countless blogs and forums dedicated to piecing together the lore of this single game have sprouted in addition to the remaining active forums for the previous five games. All of this devoted energy shows that people are looking for more information to this ever growing story; they’re dedicated to this game franchise and the story behind it.
Many people have tried to explain the phenomena that is the FNAF series. One article at Kotaku starts with; “It has racked up millions and millions of views (and screams) on YouTube. It has hundreds of earnest fan games, and dozens of rabid fan theories. The Five Nights at Freddy's hype train is incredible.” However, many games have seen the same lore hype like this series, such as Dishonored or even the Pokémon games at times, so why do people keep talking about FNAF? The lore is so quickly produced and twisted, each game being released only months after the other, that people keep bringing it back up, trying to understand it, much like old folklore. The game, while called overhyped by many, is still drawing attention to itself with how many people have gathered to discuss the lore behind it.
In the Overwatch side of things, fans of the game have been watching a webpage for the last two months, lying in wait for a counter to reach 100% and trigger the release of a mysterious character. A website called amomentincrime has been counting up from zero since late August after a few fans dug into an alternate game reality of Overwatch, which showed a shadowy ghost figure that resembled what they’d seen of this new character. Blogs have been dedicated to watching the percentage, and the source code of the website, for hints as to when it’ll reach 100%. The only real hint given is the text on the website that says “Initiating protocol Sombra” in Spanish, which leads every fan in radius of the website to believe 100% means the ultimate release of Sombra, a character known for her association with the games “bad guys.” Blizzard has said very little about the game’s origin itself, but through the brief descriptions of the 22 playable characters’ backstories, fans have built up their own versions of the origin story. No story is ever the same, much like the way folklore stories are passed down through generations and changed to fit individual morals. People are creating individual versions of video game lore to fit the things they seek out in a good lore-based game.
Unlike FNAF, Overwatch has used the characters they have to make real world connections, such as the animated short The Last Bastion showing a robot with signs of PTSD from the war he fought in, or the short Dragons showing family problems in a different light than usually seen. This lore being canon ties back strongly to the notion that video game lore is becoming the modern day folklore; real world problems being shown in a light where things can get better, stories told in ways meant to be relatable to anyone who reads them. In the words of Blizzard; “We poured a lot of effort into creating a game—and a new universe—that anyone could enjoy.”
Video games with lore like these two have hit the internet gaming communities by storm; millions of players have taken to forums and blogs to figuring out detailed stories worked within the games they’ve come to know and love. These stories have begun to spread, and be passed around different groups of people, essentially creating a system of modern day folklore. Although many gaming communities outside of these two might not fully see the impact of modern folklore, overtime it will begin influencing other game developers. When these new developers see the success of lore-based games like Five Night’s At Freddy’s and Overwatch, they’ll be more likely to follow that format, eventually creating a completely new genre of folklore games.
@GeekAnthro. "Contemporary Folklore in the Digital Age." The Geek Anthropologist. N.p., 21 Oct. 2015. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
By Lola at Monday, June 06, 2016 12:10:00 PM. "A Few Important Words from Blizzard about the Overwatch Phenomenon." Gamezone. N.p., 06 June 2016. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
Hernandez, Patricia. "Why Five Nights at Freddy's Is So Popular." Kotaku. N.p., 06 Feb. 2015. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.