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Developer defends ‘fuck the Oscars’ rant from The Game Awards (update)

‘I was caught up in the moment’

The Game Awards 2017 - Geoff Keighley and Josef Fares
Josef Fares made The Game Awards 2017 all about him.
The Game Awards
Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

The indie developer whose “fuck the Oscars” rant at The Game Awards 2017 went viral last week doesn’t regret his outburst, telling Polygon that he got “caught up in the moment.”

Not even a fetus giving a thumbs-up from the inside of Norman Reedus’ stomach could top the three-and-a-half-minute tirade from Josef Fares, co-founder of Swedish indie team Hazelight Studios and the writer and director of its first project, A Way Out. He was scheduled to debut a trailer, and announce the game’s March release date and a unique co-op trial. Fares only accomplished that goal with the help of The Game Awards host Geoff Keighley, who tried in vain to keep him on track.

Fares used his time on the mic to go off on the Academy Awards, flipping off the camera in the process. “Look, the Oscars should fuck themselves up,” he said. “This is the shit! I’m telling you — this is, this is the real shit!”

If nothing else, Fares proved the truth of one thing he said: “There are, like, passionate people, there are crazy people and there is me.”

The morning after The Game Awards, Polygon asked Fares about what was going through his mind during his outburst. He described the rant as an expression of “who I am,” and explained that his passion sometimes overcomes what he wants to say.

“I can’t change who I am,” said Fares in a phone interview. “It’s very hard to control. When I get excited, it’s like — it’s hard to control. Like, it’s almost like: In my head I want to say something, but my mouth, it kind of, like, takes out everything.”

Fares added that he “was caught up in the moment,” but also noted that he might express the same sentiments even if he weren’t appearing live at The Game Awards. “I mean, I would probably do the same thing now.”

Asked why he repeatedly called out the Academy Awards, Fares — who directed multiple feature-length films before he started making games — characterized his “fuck the Oscars” tirade as another instance of failing to explain himself properly. He said his intent was to use the Oscars to illustrate what, in his mind, is the inferiority complex that the video game industry holds onto with respect to more established art forms, such as films and television shows.

“This is an example,” said Fares. “It’s not that I have anything against [the] Oscars. But there’s a lot of talk about, like, you know, ‘This is like the Oscars.’ Like, the Oscars, the Game Awards, ‘we’re trying to be like the Oscars.’ I’m like, come on, man. I mean, it’s time for people to understand that games are, like, a serious art.”

Outspoken creators like Fares may feel the need to make provocative proclamations about the power of interactive media, but in the end, the art will speak for itself. Fares’ previous game, 2013’s Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, was widely acclaimed for its heartfelt story. The adventure draws much of its emotional heft from a physical connection to the player: It can only be played on a gamepad, with each analog stick controlling one brother. (The Android and iOS versions replicate this scheme with virtual joysticks.)

A Way Out - Vincent and Leo playing baseball
Leo pitches to Vincent in A Way Out.
Hazelight Studios/Electronic Arts

That’s the kind of thing you can only do in video games, and Hazelight is attempting something similar with A Way Out. The upcoming title can only be played cooperatively, with two humans at the controls, whether online or in person. And the entire game plays out in a split-screen view, so both Leo and Vincent are on screen at all times.

A Way Out is scheduled to be released March 23, 2018, on PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One. You’ll be able to play the game for free with a friend who owns it.

Update (Dec. 12): Geoff Keighley, creator and host of The Game Awards, told Polygon that he “[knows] where Josef is coming from” regarding Fares’ anti-Oscars rant at the show.

“Games are a huge force on the entertainment landscape, yet they don’t get the respect they deserve,” said Keighley. “In many ways we don’t need to be the ‘Oscars of gaming’ or to draw that comparison to the Oscars for validation or legitimacy. The Game Awards are distinct and successful on their own.”

Indeed, The Game Awards are getting more and more successful every year. Keighley announced today that the 2017 show had more than three times as many live viewers as last year’s event, with the number of livestreams topping 11.5 million in 2017 compared to 3.8 million in 2016. For more, read our full interview with Keighley.

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