Top of the morning boyos and girlos! I’ve been spending the last few weeks preparing to emigrate from my emerald-island home, which is making me a little prematurely nostalgic. This has in turn lead me to think about the state of the games industry here. While never reaching the heights of our neighbors in the UK or further afield in the US, Ireland has produced a number of meaningful developments and individuals that have in turn made their mark on the gaming landscape. What follows are some of my favorite examples in no particular order. So, make yourself a cup of tea and if you have a bowl of lucky charms at hand toss them out because we don’t eat those. I bought an imported box once for ten euro! Insane money for cereal, but sure listen. Lets move on to the games, mo chairde.
Eimear Noone, Composer
Kicking off the list is one of gaming’s most prolific composers, who also happens to be as Irish as a small town with one post office and three pubs. Noone’s portfolio includes a lot of collaboration with Blizzard, having worked on the scores for World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Diablo 3 and Overwatch. She also worked with Nintendo to mark the 25th anniversary of the Legend of Zelda.
I can attest to her talent and passion for what she does firsthand, as I was lucky enough to see her perform in Dublin late last year. She conducted the Irish National Symphony Orchestra in alternating between compositions from a number of games and the classical pieces that she and her peers felt they were inspired by. Her interactions with the crowd felt genuine and her talent spoke for itself.
Noone’s impact on the games industry is considerable, being one of a small number of Irish people to take on such a huge role in the industry at an international level. For those who wish to do the same, she’s an inspiration. A sample of her work.
Pewter Games Studios, Game Developers
Pewter Games Studios was founded in 2013 by masters students Ben Clavin and Christopher Conlan. Three years later with a much expanded team, the studio released The Little Acre, a whimsical point and click adventure game set in 1950s rural Ireland. Pewter Games have managed to stay afloat for three years and successfully launch a game which got attention outside of Ireland. This is rare in the emerald isle, placing them alongside a very small number of peers.
The significance of their achievement is that they managed to do it while staying here. Ireland produces a large number of IT graduates who go on to work in the games industry, but emigration is essentially a requirement to achieve that goal. Pewter Games managed to buck that trend and produce a charming game to boot. From what I can tell the Little Acre didn’t absolutely strike gold in terms of sales, but it got a decent critical reception, including a very positive review from Destructoid that I’ll link here. So few games are set in this country, which is kind of nuts when you think about all the legends and mystical creatures associated with Ireland - Banshees anyone - so I think it’s great that this game presents Ireland as a setting. If you’d like to check it out for yourself and see some exceptionally accurate depictions of rural Irish cottages and stonewalls - I’m not being facetious they genuinely delighted me - click here.
Havok, Physics Engine
This one absolutely blew my mind when I learned about it in my teens. The world-renowned physics engine that has been used in everything from Bioshock to Alan Wake to contemporary instant-classic 50 Cent: Blood in the Sand was born right here in Trinity University’s computer science department. This platform has served such a significant role in the games industry that when I was originally told this, I thought it was a joke.
Beginning in 1996, with the first game to use their tech going to market in 2000, Havok has been a household name in gaming for over twenty years. For Ireland the company serves as a testament to the potential financial and professional validity of pursuing a career in gaming, both abroad and at home, having created jobs around the world and right here in Dublin. If you’d like to learn more, here’s a handy info-graphic I found which covers the first 15 years of Havok’s history.
Danny O’Dwyer, Journalist and Documentarian
I’ve been reading, watching and listening to gaming media for ages, so I was used to primarily hearing American or British voices in the podcasts and videos I consumed. After hearing Danny O’Dwyer for the first time, it took me a few seconds to get over the shock.
O’Dwyer is best known for his time at Gamespot, having since left to form his own company, No Clip, to produce documentaries about the development of numerous games, including Rocket League and Doom. Prior to his time at Gamespot, he ran an independent gaming site, Citizen Game, and worked in a number of other non-games media roles. He was nominated for the “Trending Gamer” category at the 2016 Game Awards.
Many of you probably know all of this of course, which is fantastic. As a heavy hitter in gaming media, O’Dwyer not only produces some top notch content, he also acts as inspiration for many budding gamers back home who want to follow in his footsteps. Here’s a cool video he made which covers some of his career and why he made the move to his own platform.
The Land of Saints and Gamers
While the Irish games industry is still young and trying to grab a foothold, companies like Havok and Pewter Games Studio have proven that it is possible to make it work at home. For many of us however, the best option is to seek our gaming fortunes further afield, just like Eimear Noone and Danny O’Dwyer did. In a few weeks I’ll be leaving Ireland to hopefully find my own place in the industry but I’d love to come back one day and contribute to the scene here.
I hope you enjoyed this little detour to Eire, I thought it fitting what with St. Patrick’s day on the horizon. Once, a few Paddy’s days gone by, I witnessed an individual vomit bright green right in the heart of Dublin city. If that isn’t national pride, I don’t know what is.
Now over to ye! Who are the companies or individuals from your own homes that have inspired you? Have you moved or though about moving to pursue a career in games? I’d love to hear about it!