Updated: Feb 19
Luck of the Irish, etc, etc…
The Irish, eh? We’re a pretty well-regarded bunch globally, or at least I would like to think so. You don’t have to go far to hear stories of the renowned friendliness of the Irish, and the joviality we are capable of bringing to social situations. As St. Patrick’s Day is looming, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be from the Emerald Isle, the pride that I have, and our placement in the wider world. More specifically, how have we been portrayed in the gaming world? Admittedly when this topic came to mind, I immediately arrived at my first hurdle - Irish characters in video games? Little came to mind. That in and of itself was interesting, is it a case of under-representation in gaming? Or is it more that there are few characters of this particular nationality, presented in prominent roles in gaming? Perhaps any characters I have encountered, have been portrayed rather stereotypically and thus are less memorable. Considering the time of year it is, the place Ireland is in at the moment (for better and for worse), I feel it’s a perfectly appropriate time to look into gas lads, in class games - Drunks, scoundrels, chancers, and well, hopefully, people of more positive repute as well!
The weight of the world
“You going to the bar?”
When I thought “Irish” and “Games” there was one character who came to mind instinctively, this scallywag above, Atlas from the BioShock series. Throughout the first game, Atlas acts as your guide and mentor. As you navigate through the fallen utopia of Rapture, battling the denizens within, Atlas acts as your one ally in an unfamiliar, unforgivably hostile environment. This game was on PlayStation Plus just last month, so in the interest of fairness…
*** SPOILER WARNING for BIOSHOCK***
Are you still with me?
As it turns out, Atlas turns out to be a complete con artist, using you to achieve his own goals. Following on from the famous “Would you kindly?” twist, Atlas reveals himself to be Frank Fontaine - A gangster who previously rose to power, and challenged the leadership provided by Andrew Ryan. The character of Atlas, as endearingly performed by Frank Fontaine, is notable for numerous reasons. I found it striking, even as a teenager playing this for the first time, that an Irish character would have such prominence in a AAA title such as this. Hearing the thick Dublin accent instilled a sense of familiarity and comfort - although not too much, I’m a Cork man, what can I say! This made BioShock feel a little closer to home, and that bit more meaningful. I feel the character of Atlas positively reinforces the notion that we are by our nature, friendly. While Fontaine is posing as Atlas he is absolutely nothing but helpful, and comes across as completely genuine in his attempts to assist. This is a far cry from the stereotypical drunkard. Kudos to Irrational Games and all other studios involved in development and publishing, for rather tasteful representation.
An Irishman, a Welshman, and a Frenchman walk into a bar...
“Not tonight, bud”
Let’s get this out of the way - Irish from Red Dead Redemption is far and away more of a cliche than the aforementioned Atlas from BioShock. He is a trouble-maker, a drunk and somehow, he just so happens to manage to get away with absolutely everything (don’t we all know someone like that?). There is certainly no argument from my side that this character is anything but a stereotype, but what characteristics is it that he reinforces? First and foremost, it’s the drunken buffoonery. I can’t think of a single moment in the game where the man is sober, he has a simply unquenchable thirst for the hard stuff. Irish also embodies the luck we boastfully think we have. When you meet him, you become his saviour in quick fashion, saving him from a potentially fatal encounter. He has ties to all the wrong people and possesses a penchant for getting into sticky situations, despite this he is a survivor. What is good about this portrayal is not so much the qualities shown, but more so as an exercise in Rockstar’s notable, sharp wit and the performer behind him. He is consistently funny and progressively outrageous, and doubles down on the more cliched character traits he exemplifies so well. He is memorable because intoxication and the use of profanities is encouraged.
The path of the righteous man
“You WILL eat your brussel sprouts!”
I would be remiss in not taking the time to mention Captain James Donnelly, from LA Noire. The captain is a no nonsense, gruff individual. While the Captain isn’t quite as extreme a portrayal as Irish in Red Dead Redemption, there are elements there. The way he speaks can be nearly melodic sometimes, leaning into the typical, singy-songy accent. One aspect of the Captain’s hard-nosed personality that does get explored is his faith. Donnelly claims to be a devout believer in God. While on the surface this may seem legitimate, as he even recites passages from the bible, it could be argued that this is a thin veneer used to justify more ruthless practices. James Donnelly is not above using violence to get what he wants from suspects and criminals. It’s an interesting exploration into faith and how it can be used to shallowly vindicate terrible things, and that no doubt can resonate with us as a people on a deep level. While Rockstar didn’t develop LA Noire, you can see that their trademark sharp writing is in the DNA of this game, as masterfully adopted by the now-defunct, Team Bondi. It’s a true shame we never got to see a sequel to this, as this time period would have been a perfect opportunity to see more Irish representation in gaming.
An… honourable… mention?
“Beamish isn’t it?”
The above image is one that is surely very familiar with a number of readers. Colin Moriarty in Fallout 3 is the proprietor of Moriarty’s Saloon, in Megaton - The first town you come across in the game. Naturally, as a game playing any RPG, it’s an innate need to go to the local tavern, and pick up a few quests. I would wager that Colin is one of the first NPCs that most players really attempt to speak with at length. There is nothing especially notable about the barman, bearing in mind the more wild and in-depth characters covered above. I did however feel he was worth mentioning, as he is one of the first characters that came to mind when starting this piece. Moriarty isn’t a person in bad moral standing by any means, but he also doesn’t exactly possess a heart of gold. In a way his nationality or how he speaks doesn’t even matter - There isn’t a terrible amount that is uniquely Irish about him. In a way I see this as a positive thing, this could have been anyone and it is great to see that this person’s origins didn’t define their personality.
At the end of the day
Whatever you’re doing on St. Patrick’s Day be it sipping on a few pints, or just enjoying the company of family and friends, maybe take a few moments to think about this yourself. Maybe take a few moments to reflect on your own experiences of these characters, and any that went unmentioned - More likely that I just couldn’t think of them. It’s pleasing to see that it isn’t all whiskey and leprechauns and that there have been some wonderful examples of care being taken with the handling of Irish characters. Who knows what is next, but I for one am chomping at the bit to see a game set in Ireland (even if it has to be Dublin). Before you ask, Gaelic Games: Football absolutely does not count
Who are your favourite characters from Éire?
Images on and three taken from Red Dead Redemption Wiki here
Image two is taken from the BioShock Wiki here
Image four is taken from the LA Noire Wiki here
Image five is taken from the Fallout Wiki here
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