Let's talk a bit about Alex. He's pretty... mysterious.
Yeah. We always had this idea for a character who wore a hood, because you put up your hood when you don't want to be seen and don't want to be bothered by someone. One of the guys on the team said he had read an article - this was about a year after we started this project - where they described the hood as being a modern day equivalent of the fedora. With his hood up, he doesn't want to talk to you, he wants to listen to his iPod, read his newspaper, or just be on his own. It's the universal symbol for "keep away from me". And I think that was kind of the key for us. When we hit on that image (of the hooded character) that was really important for us - it emotionally resonated. When we put that character on the streets of New York, and you could see all these people buzzing around doing their own thing, and him standing there on his own on this really busy street, it kind of tied in with the experience that we really wanted to create.
The idea of a loner?
Everyone has a moment when they want to be alone, right? Have you ever heard of the phenomenon called 'social loathing'? It's a phenomenon in psychology. Let's say you're walking up a country lane and you see a guy who's fallen down in a ditch and he's face down and not moving. You walk up to him, right? You walk up and you're like, "are you alright, mate?" You check his pulse. Is he conscious? Is he dead? Is he just crazy? But you put a guy face down on the streets of New York and you know what happens? People just walk on by. It's a behavioral thing. Everyone thinks, if something's wrong with him then someone would have done something about it because I'm not the first person to see him. The end result is no one helps him. For that reason you're never at your loneliest than when people who just don't react to you are surrounding you. When we showed you the game, we spoke about Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. He's God's loneliest man but in the liveliest city on Earth. No one connects with him.
Two other characters you mentioned to us when talking about Alex was Hannibal Lecter and Darth Maul - both what you might term 'evil'. How do you get people to identify with Alex when he's capable of tearing someone in two just for the fun of it?
You identify with him because you get to do cool stuff. But if he's just running around doing these things and doesn't ever mention it, or discuss it with anyone, or no one ever addresses what he does, that would be weird. So, we have to have a system with him, a moral core, I guess. If you look at someone like Hannibal, we're familiar with Hannibal The Cannibal. But, while he does these terrible things, to him they're right because he has this system and that system is, if someone's rude I can kill them and humanity's better off for that. Alex isn't the same, but he is someone that needs to sacrifice people to achieve his goals and his goals are big enough in this game that he's willing to do it.
But he doesn't take it lightly?
No. He definitely doesn't take it lightly.