The Virtual Celt

From Planet 232

by Aidan Byrne

Aidan Byrne argues that video games from the era of the ZX Spectrum to the twenty-first century indie studio are a powerful medium for reinforcing representations of Celticity worldwide that the Victorians would recognise. Here the ‘Welsh’ or ‘Irish’ character exudes barbarity or ethereal mysticism, is backward and irrational; and should ultimately face conquest…

The first thing a new society must do in the strategy game Civilization (1991-present) is kill all the Barbarians, led by the kilted, face-painted, cudgel-wielding Brennos. You cannot play as Brennos: he and his kind must be ‘utterly extirpated’ before civilisation can begin. As such, poor Brennos stands for the Celt throughout video game history: a marginalised figure existing purely for the entertainment of players with decidedly different priorities.

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