Lore Speculation

Did Afton cheat death in the Pizza Sim inferno?

The question of whether Afton (and by extension, Henry) survived Pizza Simulator is a contentious one in the wider FNAF fandom. This has always surprised me, as to me at least, it always seemed self-evident that if the larger franchise endures, so too will the central characters that made it popular. No one was saying they were tired of Freddy Fazbear and I didn’t expect the general opinion of the fandom regarding the slasher antagonist to change so much over the space of a year.

In Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza Simulator we play as what is generally agreed to be Michael Afton, who is working a new Freddy’s franchise location. We find out through the course of the game that he is unwittingly working for Henry, William’s old business partner, who is gathering up all the remaining items from Freddy’s to burn them, including his old business partner and himself. Whether this presents the death of William Afton is debated for numerous reasons that I’ll go into below as best I can.

Here too long?

One of the main complaints I see from fans on social media that I (obviously) don’t agree with in the slightest is the concept “William Afton has overstayed his welcome” or sentiments along those lines. This has always been surprising to me, as FNAF is almost unique in its complete omission of fine details about its protagonists and antagonists. In Final Fantasy VII, I could tell you pretty much everything about the character of Sephiroth, from his birth, through the Wutai war to his eventual death(s) as the games provide this information in a clear and accessible way that fans can mutually agree on. In Five Nights at Freddy’s people cannot even agree on a question as simple as “Which games does William even appear in?” and “Do we ever play as him?” Even the members of his family and his relationship to them are hotly debated, along with which animatronics he created and his role in Fazbear Entertainment. We do not even know with absolute certainty which type of weapon he used for the murders (there are hints it may be a knife, but even this is never defined in-game). With this level of uncertainty about the character, his motivations, and actions, it seems very odd to me that people would have decided they had had enough of a character we know fundamentally very little about.

I can only speculate at this point that the shift in public perception was precipitated by the pressed release date of Security Breach and the subsequent hasty completion and weakening of the impact of the final confrontation with Burntrap. What was presumably intended to be a larger boss battle (as evidenced by the fact that Burntrap has extensive model animations and even his own “chaser” AI in the vein of the active animatronics) was cut short for time constraints. Enduring bugs in the animatronics AI and the event triggers on the day of release resulted in a confrontation that could be confusing at best and absolutely chaotic to the extreme at worst (though I still laugh when I remember Freddy frantically spinning in Markiplier’s playthrough) this resulted in another damaging public relations incident for Afton where the “Peepaw Afton” meme took off, based on his slow movement and lack of perceived threat. Rather than simply take this as a silly meme which was entertaining (though could slant ageist/ableist in its more extreme iterations) and maintain that we were not seeing the full picture, many fans took this as a slight on William’s reputation and responded by quite unfairly deciding that his legacy should have been left at the end of Pizza Simulator rather than put into the hands of Steel Wool.

As an aside, you may have noticed that in this article I am assuming that Burntrap is William Afton. I’m aware of the theories about the mimic and its relationship to him, and though not fully discounting this as a possibility with more evidence in future, at present I believe Burntrap was intended as Afton, and it is undeniable that the fans certainly perceived him that way at the launch of the game itself.

I do think the concept that because of one unfortunate boss fight that William Afton should be put away forever is ridiculous. Springtrap could be held almost indefinitely in the doorway of the office when required and people didn’t consider this some grave fault. The boss fight for Burntrap wasn’t even as out of character as people like to try and portray it. A vulnerable half complete William is not at all out of character for him, and the boss battle where he sends the animatronics after you is completely in line with his behaviour as we have seen in the novels.

In the novel trilogy, William uses the animatronics to do his dirty work. In the Silver Eyes, he expects that the animatronics will kill the teenagers he doesn’t get to himself and says as much to their face, aware that he’s perceived as “one of them”. In The Twisted Ones he goes even further, becoming integrated with the choreography system as Springtrap and sending his twisted animatronics after Charlie. When he personally confronts the teens in either iteration (as Dave OR Springtrap) he gets kicked around like a ragdoll half the time. People portray Springtrap as some terrifying entity, but we can’t forget the scenes where Charliebot punches him so hard his eye is rendered completely useless or where he gets knocked out cold. In the fourth closet, he once again relies entirely on his robots to do his bidding, whether these are Baby, Funtime Freddy or Mangle.

There is no distinct precedent for William going after anyone his own size, he’s an opportunistic predator who prefers to be hands-off and Steel Wool preserved this fact in the final confrontation with Burntrap. The concept that somehow, he was “diminished” by Security Breach is a flawed one founded on an over-the-top fan perception of his character in the earlier games in the series.

A Fitting Ending?

Another common refutation of the fact that William died at the end of Pizza Simulator is that the game itself was meant to be an “ending.” From what I understand this is derived from the perception that Scott intended to “end the series” at this point. There are a lot of projections from the fandom onto Scott’s intentions for the games, all we must go by in terms of his intentions are the words he has said in the very few interviews that he has done or words he has written in his communications with the fandom. Most of the speculation about FPS as the final narrative iteration of the series seems to come from Dawko’s interview with Scott.

“I know there’s much debate about that on the subreddit, like, oh you know, some kind of mad genius that had, you know, seven games planned out from the beginning. No, I didn’t. However, uh, you know, but I definitely knew the story I was telling in the game was a small snippet of a larger story. Even if I didn’t have all the details of the story fleshed out yet, you know, I knew that the story being told in that game was a smaller part of a whole.”

– Scott regarding FNAF 1 in Dawko’s interview.

At the outset Scott mentions that the story has always been something he has been fleshing out as he goes along and that the games are part of a larger story that he wants to tell. This is exactly how most authors work (myself included) you discover the fine details of the story as you go along and characters in some ways tell you who they are as you place them in new situations. Scott later in the same interview also mentions Pizza Simulator itself.

“That was a game that was born out of necessity, because I needed to kind of bring a conclusion to several events from the series… the purpose of it was not to build a lot of hype. It was just to resolve from plot points that people wanted to see.”

Scott regarding Pizza Simulator in Dawko’s interview.

I think over the years people have taken the above statement as “proof” that Scott meant to end the series then. However, if you take the time to look at his wording, he states he is concluding plot events, not the entire storyline or the franchise. He felt he’d left some things open ended and that it was important to bring them full circle. He mentions that Ultimate Custom Night was originally intended as an add-on to Pizza Simulator but he separated it out to its own game.

Dawko goes on to ask about how Scott feels about the possibility that UCN will be his last game and Scott mentions that he would be satisfied and recounts his relentless drive to assess the things that he isn’t happy with, stating that for each he would go on to address this shortfall as a core principle in the subsequent game. He mentions with 4 he wasn’t happy with the storyline, so made Sister Location, but left some plot points open that were bothering people. He mentions Pizza Simulator was a response to this and that Ultimate Custom Night was a capstone in turn for that.

There is clear precedent for Scott finding some new facet that he can explore in a game and pursuing this. It seems like with Steel Wool, that was what happened in the end, the studio offered something unique that he wanted to explore, some untapped resource. When he worked with them on it, it inspired him, and he continued the series. There is no indication from this interview that he was done with the characters or the story itself. At the close of the Dawko interview he even mentions “I did finally get a couple of.. a couple of big deals signed with some companies, and I’ll be able to provide details on that later.” And clarifies by saying “And, uh, I’m in talks with a company right now to start porting Five Nights at Freddy’s to, um, to major consoles right now.”

Based on the timeline of these events, this is almost certainly Steel Wool and Help Wanted, and he mentions at that time that that they don’t have free reign but will be working with him closely. So even in the interview that people use as some degree of proof he intended to “end” the series, he was already in conversations to continue it!

This is why I don’t think that Pizza Simulator was intended to be some final ending for the characters, it was the close of ongoing plot threads at that time and a place Scott could halt if he wanted, but he chose not to. Was Henry’s speech impactful? Absolutely. Was it a heartfelt and emotional conclusion for that era of games? Also, without question. FPS and UCN were the end of the era of Scott solely developing the games, which was a meaningful milestone. It did not have to be some ending point beyond which nothing else lay.

People are not obligated to enjoy new content for a game series, they can disengage at any time, but for those of us who revel in all FNAF content, the prospect of a new era for the series was and is exciting to say the least.

I don’t think that FPS/UCN ever needed to be the end of the characters themselves. It was a shame that things played out the way they did with Security Breach and sometimes I do worry that later course corrections were made to avoid directly addressing the subject of William at all in RUIN and calm the unusual degree of ire floating around.

Go to hell.

I also do still see people say that William died because UCN is “hell” in a strictly Christian sense of the word. I disagree, I think that he does find himself in a type of hell, caught in a loop of suffering he must endure over and over. However, this appears to be at the hands of a particularly vengeful spirit that he killed and not demonic forces. This figure states through the animatronics that they will not let him rest or leave.

In the frights we see a character named Andrew who appears to re-confirm this situation, keeping the William in the frights prisoner in his decaying and undying body. To me this does not imply that William moved on after the fire but that he instead was preserved torturously by the spirit – or as I think spirits plural – tormenting him.

To me UCN is not a confirmation that William is dead but to the contrary it is a confirmation that he was not permitted to move on. I think that we later receive a hint through Princess Quest that he went on to deceive his captors and use them to escape, much as Springtrap does in In the Flesh in the frights.

Finally, I think for me the main thing that makes me think that William survived the Pizzeria fire is the simple that the entire premise of FNAF itself is that of individuals coming back to life again and again. It is absolutely littered with individuals with unfinished business, with children trapped in the animatronics and examples like Michael who cannot die.

It seems a little silly that the man whose catchphrase is “I always come back” never comes back.

In Pizza Sim are presented with the theory in the game that fire might in some way denature remnant, but this is not confirmed, only speculated on a blueprint. We never find out in the game itself (or in the FNAF trilogy novels) if remnant is actually destroyed by fire. Scott left it open ended enough that it could be the case that destruction is not guaranteed.

In the Fazbear’s Frights, William can regenerate even after quite literally exploding in the distribution centre, he is trapped for a year under a stage in the novel trilogy. There is frankly very little to say he couldn’t reassemble himself again either physically or in a more digital fashion from the components left behind after the fire. By that same measure I don’t think water would end him either. I think it will take something more specific and hinted at throughout the series to this point that I’ll go into in another article.

In conclusion, I think it is entirely likely William Afton survived the Pizza Sim fire, I think at one point that it was possible that he would not and that everything would end neatly at that moment if Scott chose for this to be so. But I think Scott and Steel Wool have more story to tell with these characters, story which does not harm or undo anything that has gone before.

And I don’t know about you guys, but I am more than happy to enjoy it!

I always come back… let me OUT!