Skip to main content

Director Josef Fares takes a break from Hollywood to try something new (and old), with ‘Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons’

Brothers 1

Josef Fares has been circling the world of video games his entire life. For more than a decade, the 35-year-old director has drawn from his life growing up in Lebanon, and later Sweden to craft a series of poignant and funny films about family, like his 2005 his award winning film Zozo. But while his hand has always been drawn to the camera, that same steady hand was also raised with a controller in it, playing everything from the 16-bit RPG classics of Squaresoft, to modern adventures like Heavy Rain.

Josef Fares
Josef Fares Image used with permission by copyright holder

Now Fares is working with Starbreeze, the studio behind the pair of The Chronicles of Riddick games and the recent Syndicate, on his very first game. Digital Trends talked with Fares about the difficulty of writing stories for video games, the troubled relationship between gaming and movies, and dreams of a new Secret of Mana.

Why make a video game now? What made you want to step away from film for this project with Starbreeze?

It has always been a dream for me to make a game and when I got this chance it was impossible to refuse. I haven’t stopped making movies, I’m just taking a break from it. I’d like to do more games in the future.

Brothers 3
Brothers Image used with permission by copyright holder

There has been a struggle with storytelling in video games over the past twenty years regarding how best to use the tools of film. On the one hand, dramatic camera perspectives, acted dialogues, and sweeping scenes are useful for telling a story, but they’re sometimes a detriment to interactivity. You’ve said, “Films are films and games are games.” How do you best tell a story in a video game?

Personally, I appreciate games such as Heavy Rain and The Walking Dead which have a more cinematic feel, but I think they are too close to a movie experience. I love the interactive aspects of games and this is reflected in the character development in Brothers.

How one would best tell a story in games is hard to answer, there is so much to discover within the actual medium itself. I personally think that more attention should be given to the interactive aspect. Movies have, for obvious reasons, more experience as a medium and what they do best is to have total control over the experience, while a game does not.

Most of your films deal with families. Why is family such a potent subject for you as a creator?

I grew up with a big family. I have five siblings so it is natural for me to be affected and inspired by it.

Your films are also heavily informed by your life in two very different cultures, Sweden and Lebanon. How is that perspective reflected in Brothers?

There are no cultural connections in Brothers, however the language that the brothers speak is strongly inspired by Arabic. There is also something extremely personal in Brothers that I have experienced. I can’t go into much detail without spoiling the game

brothers 8
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What was the genesis of Brothers? How did you first come up with the idea?

I was asked and given the chance to develop a video game prototype together within one month with a group of students. That same night I sat in my hotel room and figured out the whole foundation of Brothers.

You’re not a fan of motion controllers. What would it take for motion controls to be useful for telling a great story in a game?

They simply don’t work and don’t contribute anything to a game. One redeeming feature is that [motion controls give] people that haven’t played games before a chance to enjoy them too. I feel it’s a shame that so much focus is on how we control games. It is obvious that the games need to be developed, not how we control them.

There’s been a resurgence in nostalgia for the 16-bit RPGs you grew up playing. What distinguished those games from the type of role-playing games you see now? How did they influence your ideas for Brothers?

I think that role-playing games of today have become a bit too complex in their menus and upgrading systems. What I really liked with the 16-bit era was its simplicity. Nowadays, some games need to be played for 4 to 5 hours just to understand how they work. It takes so much energy that I am thrown out of the experience. I find this to be a common problem in games; the player has way too much to think about. However, good examples of games that have variation and simplicity are Half-Life 2 and Final Fantasy VII. And regarding their influence, I feel that the whole top-down idea has been a base for Brothers since I do like 16-bit games so much.

Brothers 2
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Brothers is a breath of fresh air because it’s the rare game on the horizon with no guns. Shooting games are great, but there are just so many of them. It’s just so easy to make them. Shooting is an easy to understand and fun mechanic, and people eat them up. How do you wean the game industry and game players off of their gun obsession?

The first thing I want to say is that games aren’t easy to develop, even if one does a simple shooter. Yet I agree that it is an easier concept to approach since it’s been done so many times before. Personally, I am convinced that those who love games won’t want to play the same type of game over and over again. Hopefully, when they see a game like Brothers it will be a natural transition for them to want to try something new.

After work on Brothers is finished what’s the next game you want to make?

I have plenty of ideas and it would be extremely fun to make more games. Yet I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t working with a publisher that would trust me and was giving me and the team freedom to work alone.

If the opportunity fell in your lap to remake an old game with complete creative control, what would you want to remake?

Since I have a great love for 16-bit role-playing games I would love to do a remake of Secrets of Mana. Imagine that in HD graphics.

Anthony John Agnello
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Anthony John Agnello is a writer living in New York. He works as the Community Manager of and his writing has…
Warframe: 1999 is the Y2K dating sim I didn’t know I needed
Arthur from warframe clashes swords with the excalibur frame.

After over a decade, Warframe continues to grow, evolve, and reinvent itself. The third-person shooter/RPG hybrid has thrived as a free-to-play game thanks to steady updates expanding the story, systems, and weapons. With the upcoming release of Warframe: 1999, Digital Extremes looks to conquer some completely unexpected things: Y2K, chat rooms, and boy bands.

As Rebecca Ford, creative director for Warframe, tells Digital Trends at this year's Tennocon, “The Journey that Warframe has taken is unexpected.” Following the conclusion of the New War storyline, the team was looking for the next narrative direction to take, and Ford credits former art director Michael Brennan, better known as Mynki in the Warframe community, with the suggestion it would be cool to visit other times.

Read more
You can prepare for Dragon Age: The Veilguard for $4 during PlayStation’s Summer Sale
A dragon appears on the ground in Dragon Age: Inquisition.

Dragon Age: The Veilguard from BioWare and EA is one of the biggest games set to launch this fall. It will mark the first new game in the fantasy RPG series in a decade and hopefully be a single-player return to form for BioWare after the ill-regarded Anthem. If you're planning to play Dragon Age: The Veilguard when it launches later this year, you should catch up on the series' lore by revisiting some of the older games in it. Thankfully, the PlayStation Store Summer Sale just gave you the perfect opportunity to get Dragon Age: Inquisition for quite a low price.

For the rest of July, Dragon Age: Inquisition -- Game of the Year Edition, which includes the 50+ hour-long RPG and all of its DLC, is discounted to just $4 on the PlayStation Store as part of this Summer Sale. That's a 90% discount from its typical $40 price tag. If you've been wondering what to pick up as part of PlayStation's big summer sale and plan on playing Dragon Age: The Veilguard later this year, then getting Dragon Age: Inquisition and all its DLC for just $4 is clearly the deal to go with.

Read more
Wordle Today: Wordle answer and hints for July 22
Someone playing Wordle on a smartphone.

We have the solution to Wordle on July 16, as well as some helpful hints to help you figure out the answer yourself, right here. We've placed the answer at the bottom of the page, so we don't ruin the surprise before you've had a chance to work through the clues. So let's dive in, starting with a reminder of yesterday's answer.
Yesterday's Wordle answer
Let's start by first reminding ourselves of yesterday's Wordle answer for those new to the game or who don't play it daily, which was "SPECK." So we can say that the Wordle answer today definitely isn't that. Now, with that in mind, perhaps take another stab at it using one of these Wordle starting words and circle back if you have no luck.
Hints for today's Wordle
Still can't figure it out? We have today's Wordle answer right here, below. But first, one more thing: Let's take a look at three hints that could help you find the solution, without giving it away, so there's no need to feel guilty about keeping your streak alive -- you put in some work, after all! Or just keep scrolling for the answer.

Today’s Wordle includes the letter c.
Today’s Wordle uses two vowels.
Today's Wordle means a person in training.

Read more