My last Welsh-related paper looked at the signifying role of food in a selection of literary texts (which I must write up and publish). This one draws on the long history of colonial and postcolonial literary theory and applies it to something new in the field: the ways in which the Welsh, Scots and Irish have been represented in video games. The TL;DR version is that there's basically a mashed up version of all 'Celts' (the concept is a 19th-century confection) dragged out when modern, technologically advanced societies feel the need for a bit of spiritually-informed violence. Arthur, tartan and blue face-paint feature a lot. There's quite a bit of smiting, plenty of castles, grottoes and caves, and some impractical and frankly a-historical ladies' clothing. Not the kind of thing that will keep the midges off as you plod across the bog. For a little light relief, there's also Welsh-as-comic-sidekick, as seen in some Japanese games.
|Brennos - a Celtic Barbarian. All you have to do is wipe out his villages|
|Castles (1992): you play the oppressive Saxon invader|
|A typical Arthurian MMORPG|
|Dún Darach (1985)|
|A still from Grand Theft Auto V|
|Korean MMORPG Mabinogi. Not a scene I recognise from the Four Branches|
Basically, the Celts are usually The Past: too wild or effeminate to cope with modernity, with the possible exception of DJ Dai (who plays sheep noises and has a terminal illness. I'm suggesting that the Romantic and Victorian struggles over how to define Celtic identities have been carried over wholesale into video art.
Here are a few of the games I'll talk about.
Comic relief: Ni-no-kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Hot Warrior Maiden (though she does speak a formal approximation of modern Welsh): Civilization V:
Celtic spirituality as close to mental ill-health and self-help: Rhiannon: Curse of the Four Branches and Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
and finally an interesting comparison: the Shropshire-set Everybody's Gone To The Rapture, which looks forward rather than to the mythical past while addressing key questions about life, consciousness, progress, science and the future in a way that even the best Celtic-based games just won't do.
So that's my paper. After that it's over to Ireland for (hopefully) some rain, reading and relaxation before returning to find out how many and which of my excellent colleagues have been fired in pursuit – according to my VC in the local paper – a 'Renaissance' of artistic activity in the area. No, really. He actually said that closing courses (he didn't have the space to mention the redundancies) and diverting the cash to STEM and nursing courses would magically stimulate the arts. Mind you, I'm doodling some pretty graphic images of him right now while a friend has sent me a bespoke tie which beautifully encapsulates my feelings towards management, so perhaps he's right.
Try not to miss me too much.