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When videogames go to Ireland…

October 22nd, 2016 by George White Comments

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I am Irish. I like to play videogames set in places I recognise. Ireland is an odd country. We are literally in the middle of the Atlantic. Our finest exports include magical creatures and globally-feared terrorism organisations. So you’d think we’d have a place in videogame history.

Irish characters are often portrayed as drunk mucksavages e.g. Red Dead Redemption, or as IRA terrorist rebels eg the accent-mangling Ewan Devlin in Mercenaries 2 to the Saboteur’s Sean Devlin (calling IRA heroes Devlin seems to be a tribute to Jack Higgins’ hero Liam Devlin).

However, Irish settings can be more interesting.

Clive Barker’s survival horror first person shooter period drama Undying for the PC was set in rural nowhereland, in the Irish coastal estate of one Jeremiah Covenant, had some dodgy accents and Barker himself voicing a character in his trademark pretentious mid-Atlantic Scouse patois. Like many Irish-themed games, it mixed Celtic mythology with mispronunciations of Gaelic (what is known as the “Samhain Situation”).

The 2007 Japanese videogame Folklore also featured Irish mythology, set in the coastal village of Doolin, which is hilariously portrayed as a sleepy little rural hamlet, unlike its real-life equivalent – a notorious seaside traditional music-obsessed party town. It had some strange touches e.g. the pub looking like something from Skyrim, though it did have actors of Irish origin such as Lorraine Pilkington, Richard Coyle and Belfast-born X Factor voiceover giant Peter Dickson. And the touch of a derelict phone box in the middle of the village was a nice bit of verisimilitude. And it did dress its heroine like every South Dublin teenage girl c.2007.

Other games in Ireland focus on the terrorism aspect. 2005’s Chameleon (below) was a stealth game set in variety of locales including a very well-designed approximation of 70s Belfast. However, its accents were less realistic. At least, it looked like Belfast, unlike the dock located inside a cave that claimed to be Dublin in Syphon Filter 3.

Two of the biggest British videogame franchises of the 90s went on trips to rural Ireland.

Broken Sword – the beloved 1996 cartoon-action-adventure point and click caper (above) memorably featured a trip to Lochmarne, based on the Limerick town of Newcastle West, but named after creator Charles Cecil’s brother in law. The accents weren’t great, but the addition of a dodgy young skanger and a genuine basis in Irish history and the deliberately tacky tourist trap pub were inventive touches, as were the notorious goat puzzle.

And even Lara Croft went to Ireland. In Tomb Raider Chronicles, we meet an old priest, the Oirishly-named Bram Patrick Dunstan, played by the great Belfast actor Harry Towb, who recounts in flashback a level where the young Lara visits the small fishing village of Connussie where her butler Winston was born. It is wet, windy and full of skeletal trees and ruined cottages, and is occupied by a demon who looks like one of the Titans from Attack on Titan.

There has yet to be a definitive Irish-set videogame, one that realistically portrays Dublin and shows the Irish spirit. Let’s hope the boom of Irish independent games developers leads to this.

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George is 21, lives in Bray, still struggling to find a paying job. He has ambitions of being a mad genius, but is content with his current life - and has been published in SFX, Empire, Fortean Times, Retrogamer magazine, etc. He is still trying to get work as a narrative designer in videogames, and has a few scripts in need of sale, but they're probably a bit sh@#e.

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