After watching a few streamers play through Five Nights at Freddy’s it reminded me that the player’s agency, their ability to control their actions to elicit outcomes, is extremely important to create a consonance (harmony) between the player and the game. And it is when that agency is reduced or limited is when cognitive dissonance sets in. You’re playing a game and you aren’t jiving with it. The actions that you want to do and the reactions that you’re getting on screen aren’t connecting. In psychological terms, you have multiple mental beliefs that are conflicting with one another causing discomfort – cognitive dissonance. The actions that you want to do and the actions that you’re allowed to do are in conflict, causing the anxiety and discomfort. But in a game like Five Nights at Freddy’s (FNAF) or any other suspense game designed to instill paranoia and anxiety, it’s the lack of agency that helps to inspire these emotions.
We can always look back on games the past games like Resident Evil where Jill Valentine moved like a Old 70s Buick, or Panzer Artillery Tank, which actually worked as a benefit to the game. The lack of mobility took away any agility that we could have had and made even the slightest danger – zombie, hound, Lisa Trevor – much more tension-rising than normal because we knew maneuvering pass them was a chore and a half.