The Free Radical team has a long interest in speaking about video game violence. In Perfect Dark, when you threatened to kill a soldier, he sometimes said "I’m only doing my job." In Second Sight, your violent acts were questioned by Hanson and if you killed one of the cleaners in the Conspiracy chapter, one of the agents, which happened to be her boyfriend, entered the room and screamed "No" after seeing her body… So I guess the idea of Haze comes partly from that?
DL: Yeah, it's definitely becoming a bit of a theme. Personally I've always been fascinated by perspective, the idea that an object that appears flat and two dimensional from one point of view can, with just the slightest change of perspective, suddenly reveal three dimensional depth. And that applies to people too -- we've all been in the situation where we've learnt something about someone that causes us to see them in a completely different way, with added depths we hadn't considered before.
So those little touches in Second Sight were really satisfying to me, because you could see people experience them and suddenly, these very two dimensional, archetypal "bad guy guards" that you've been running around killing, suddenly became deeper characters, with girlfriends, wives, families, and lives beyond just being a guy walking on a patrol route around some office complex somewhere. And not only that, but you put the player in a really interesting place where they might start to think about the consequences of their actions, which is something video games rarely explore, particularly with regard to the consequences of killing.
Free Radical sums up Haze as "a war game that becomes a game about war". How did you come up with this idea? Did you make Haze because you were simply fed up with the stupidity of most video games? Or as you get older, you want video games to get older too? Or since you make violent video games, you feel a responsibility towards society, towards your family, towards the media, towards the video games industry? Or maybe since you think that, by making more clever games, you can get more people to play video games?
DL: We made Haze for both of
these reasons, and more. I think the idea of trying to tell a story
that is mature in the sense of not treating the player like an idiot,
and of actually trying to highlight and explore the complex moral issues
associated with shooting human-like characters in games, rather than
simply ignoring them, was our core motivation for making Haze.
There's nothing wrong with a game that's just a game -- that's something some people have misinterpreted in our comments about the game, like we're somehow saying that every game has to have a philosophical or political message. Well, of course they don't -- I can sit down and enjoy Super Stardust HD for just being a great blend of precise shooting action and pyrotechnics and nothing more -- and games like that will always exist.
But at the same time, I've always felt that creative media are at their most compelling when they actually speak to the person experiencing them about their own life, and cause them to ask questions, or look at things from a different perspective, than they'd considered before. Haze certainly isn't the first game to try and do that, but it's still definitely the exception rather than the rule. I don't think we're going to cause every gamer who plays the game to look at war and violence in games in a completely different light, but I think the game will at least create a debate about those questions amongst some of the people who play it (to an extent, seeing people's reactions to some of our comments on the game, it's clear that debate is already happening), and that's an achievement enough in itself, I think.
Are there precise events in the world, or in your life, that made you feel like designing Haze?
DL: There's definitely a number of recent events that fed into our desire to make Haze but we've been careful to not be too overt in referencing them. I'd prefer to let people take their own interpretations away from the game rather than have one message forced upon them.