Hazelight Studios’ co-op adventure It Takes Two arrived in March 2021, reigniting the conversation about Josef Fares, the mastermind behind Hazelight. Fares pioneered co-op gaming with his previous projects, A Way Out and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and continued to develop the genre with It Takes Two, but there’s more to Fares than quietly working on game projects.
Actually, Fares has never quietly worked on anything. He’s one of the biggest personalities in the gaming world, and he has discussed his many accomplishments confidently in interviews, awards shows, and beyond. Fares has already left a tangible mark on the gaming industry, and plans to do more work in the future. As a film and game director, as well as a writer, Fares continues to produce work that wows his fans and surprises critics.
Since It Takes Two received such positive reviews, some fans might want to know more about the man behind the co-op hit.
Fares is a gift to Sweden
Josef Fares describes himself as many things, but one of the most surprising is as something of a gift to Sweden. Fares grew up in Beirut for part of his childhood, amidst civil unrest and dangerous circumstances. He and his parents tried to move to Sweden five times, and were eventually granted visas to escape the civil war in Lebanon.
Fares described his experience growing up in Beirut, and his attempt to move to Sweden, in an interview promoting It Takes Two. In the interview, Fares said, "We tried to move five times to Sweden. The fifth time, they let us in, and that’s lucky for Sweden, because I’ve given Sweden a lot, you know?"
Everything wasn’t easy for Fares once he reached Sweden, though. In another video, he described getting bullied after moving to the new country with his family. Of course, Fares didn’t just accept that he’d be bullied forever. Instead, he pushed back; first against his bullies, and then against the confines of the gaming industry.
Fares sees filmmaking and game directing differently
Fares made several films before turning to game directing, but he sees the process of making a film and making a game as two completely different tasks. Fares told PlayStation, in an interview promoting It Takes Two, that "it’s way hard to make a game. It’s almost like the audience has control of the pacing of the story, while the movie is being paced for you." In other words, games are a strictly active experience, while movies allow viewers to watch more passively, allowing the story to unfold before them.
"In video games, there’s so much to be explored from a storytelling perspective," Fares said. "Because of the interactivity. There are some students out there that are making [games] to have good stories but they pretty much have one mechanic." Fares believes that varied gameplay, which fits with the game’s narrative, is key to making a successful experience. So far, it’s worked for him.
Fares wanted a new genre of games, so he made it
While Fares isn’t the first game director to create a co-op game, he is a pioneer of the co-op only game. It Takes Two and A Way Out must be played in co-op mode, although two players can play online with only one copy, thanks to a "Friends Pass" system. While there are plenty of games that can be played cooperatively, there are only a handful that must be played cooperatively.
Fares pioneered the genre of the co-op narrative game, according to an interview with IGN. Fares explained his love for narrative co-op games, saying, "There are so many unique and cool story experiences with a tailored co-op experience you can create … You can create this tension between the players, or this relation between the players through the game."
Fares went on to say, "That’s something that we as a studio really want to push and become the best in the world at." Fares has spent his gaming career working towards that goal. He made the type of game he wanted to see in the world, one that married specific gaming mechanics with narrative to create a cooperative experience.
Fares will never make a horror game
Some fans may have wondered if Fares will ever break into an entirely different genre than what he’s familiar with, but Fares said he’ll never make a horror game. In a talk with YouTuber Wassup Conversations, Fares responded negatively to the suggestion he might play in the horror genre. "I don’t even look at horror movies. I don’t like horror," Fares said decisively.
He elaborated that he doesn’t like being alone with his thoughts after a horror film, saying, "I live in a big house. I don’t want to have weird thoughts in my mind!" Fares went on to explain that he’s not sure what his gaming career holds, but it definitely won’t be any sort of horror. For fans who want to see Fares’ take on a sexy monster or haunted house theme, there’s nothing frightening in Fares’ future, or so he says. There’s no way for sure to know what the director will do next, as he’s known for breaking boundaries and making unconventional choices.
Fares is willing to put his money where his mouth is…sort of
Fares feels so confident about his latest game It Takes Two that he’s willing to back a promise with his own money. In an interview with Game Informer, Fares said, "It’s impossible, and quote me on this, to get tired of this game. You can put this as the headline. I can literally give 1,000 bucks to anyone who says, ‘Oh, I’m tired of this game now because it doesn’t surprise me.’ One thousand bucks! I guarantee. I’ll give it to everyone who gets tired. But they have to be honest about it."
He went on to elaborate that if anyone didn’t like It Takes Two, "It would be nuts. I wouldn’t accept it."
Fares’ confidence is infectious, and while there’s no word if anyone has taken him up on his offer to cash in on their boredom, his willingness to back up his promises takes guts. Fares’ promise to pay people who grew bored of his game, following immediately by the claim that no one could possibly be bored of his game is the kind of whiplash-inducing, bold statement Fares makes in many interviews. It’s also a huge reason why so many fans feel attracted to his work: he’s truly confident in it.