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Ireland's influence in videogames

10:00 AM on 03.17.2012 // Stephen Beirne

Well, it's Saint Patrick's Day, and what better way is there to mark the occasion than by doing something flippant and pointless?

Naturally, the Irish are fantastic at everything they do (and they're handsome, too), so it's no surprise that a huge amount of the videogame ecosystem can be credited back to the weather-worn shores of Ireland. It is in this spirit of talent and modesty that I present to you a magnificent list detailing all possible Irish contributions to the industry, with varying degrees of tenability.

I'm from Kildare, so it's ok.

Irish stereotypes

Oh atoy atoy, sure it's all in good fun. I've seldom come across a halfway decently portrayed Irish character myself, but I can take turns laughing and scorning the many caricatures that pop up from time to time. As with most liberal interpretations of Irish culture, they usually shift unconsciously between the offensive and ridiculous.

From the cowardly drunkard Irish in Red Dead Redemption to The Saboteur's thuggish Sean Devlin, the rootin' tootin' half of the stereotype is well covered. On the other hand, I can't think of many examples who fall into fits of poetry, although I'm sure there's an FPS sergeant somewhere who gave his dramatic last stand the "isn't it terrible, terrible" treatment.

Honorable mentions include BioShock's Atlus, husband to Moira, father to Patrick; Catherine O'Hara from Valkyria Chronicles, for being more competent than most; Mercenaries 2's Ewan Devlin, whose constantly changing accent had him traveling the whole of Ireland mid-sentence. Shenanigans.

Alcohol

It wouldn't be St. Patrick's Day without a sardonic reference to drinking. Just like in real life, alcohol in games often grants drinkers powers beyond their natural capabilities. Surely there isn't a more socially acceptable way to artificially increase your Charisma or Strength at the cost of a little Intelligence. In some cases like BioShock, it even restores your health.

Although consuming virtual alcohol lacks the potential for craic in comparison to its real counterpart, you can still enjoy a diverse range of visual distortions and collapsing animations from game to game. My fondest memory of Red Dead Redemption involves John Marston plunging head-first into the ground, as such as he deserved. Drink responsibly, kids!

Havok Engine

Perhaps the most significant Irish contribution to the world of videogames (and the most legitimate thing on this list) is this physics engine. If you've played Assassin's Creed, Dark Souls, Half-Life 2, Uncharted 3, BioShock, Fallout 3, or a slew of other titles, you might have come to recognize this software from the way it feels in-game.

Probably because of how little Ireland has actually contributed directly to modern gaming, I always feel a glimmer of joy whenever the Havok logo appears in a new game. It's wonderful to see this Dublin-based company rise to such an accomplished place in the industry in the short time it has been around.

Irish Mythology

I'm always surprised by how much of Irish legends can be found in videogames from all across the globe.

To my knowledge, the Japanese-made Folklore, based in a small town in the west of Ireland, delves heavily into the Celtic bestiary. The shape-shifter Morrigan from Dragon Age: Origins has her beginnings in Irish mythology, which might shed some insight into her relationship with her mother Flemeth. Korean MMO Mabinogi, set in the real Irish location of Tír na nÓg, is another game steeped in Irish folklore, although at times it can be insulting rather than endearing. Final Fantasy games have long had some form of Cait Sith, and Cú Chulainn was an Esper in Final Fantasy XII. Both have also featured in the Megami Tensei series.

Speaking of Cú Chulainn, it's worth noting how his character and adventures could be easily sourced into the most ostentatious videogames. He's essentially the prototypical Super Saiyan/Kratos-like ultimate warrior.

It would take more effort than this list is worth to account for all instances of Irish myth in games, but here's one for the road: the modern incarnation of Dracula, created by Bram Stoker and probably inspired by the dearg-dua, without whom we definitely wouldn't have had the Castlevania series.

(Cheers to Matt for helping with that one!)

The Ending Theme to Metal Gear Solid

'Tis a beautiful song.

The Color Green

Since it's well known that Ireland invented green, without green pastures, Videogame Land would have missed out on some of its most significant icons. There would be no The Legend of Zelda -- you can't have a naked Link running around the place -- nor would there have been a Sonic the Hedgehog -- the first level is called Green Hill Zone. We wouldn't even have Shadow of the Colossus, since the cover of the European box is mostly green.

So in the true Irish spirit of talking utter shite, cheers to the color green!

These are but six of the many wonderful things Ireland has brought to our fair hobby. As I'm sure you can imagine, the original article was quite a bit longer, but austerity affects blogging, too. Since we can of course keep the Irishness alive through casual begrudgery, what would you rather have seen be included this list? Let us know in the comments!



Stephen Beirne, Contributor
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There once was a man from an island Who preferred his spare time to be silent. He liked Final Fantasy XIII, Epistemology, And when gamers got mad he got violent. more   |   staff directory



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