Gaming has become a way in which to discover a whole host of possibilities, but how much of Welsh culture, or indeed Wales itself, have we been shown?
Video games have reached a peak. We are in an era in which playing a game has gone beyond simple mechanics and into the realms of immersion. Forget simple polygon structures, block colours or sandbox cities. I’m talking about games that allow you to wander, explore, immerse yourself entirely within the new realm, or indeed, a forgotten one. Want to parkour around Renaissance Florence? No problem. Perhaps you’d relish in hunting through Azeroth on your epic mount? Absolutely. What about flying endlessly through the vortex of space, being chased by abominations? Why not.
When consumers think of an RPG, typically Japanese based games spring to mind. These made their emergence in the early 1980s and have altered the way in which we as gamers experience narrative within a game. Classics such as Final Fantasy, Pokemon and Shadow Hearts have led the way in terms of cultural storytelling.
Most famously, the Studio Ghibli JRPG, Ni No Kuni (on the PS3), springs to mind. In this highly colourful and engaging game, you follow the young Oliver as he journeys to other realms to rescue his mother from the clutches of evil. During this fascinating adventure, he is aided by a character named ‘Mr Drippy.’ This persona has an indisputable Swansea/ Valleys brogue and even uses colloquialisms to express himself. If you play this game (and I suggest you do) you can witness such gems as “Tidy, I’m free!” and “curse lifted is it?” Undeniably, this was an excellent moment for the title. You should play the newest title to see more of the character.
JRPGs aside, more ‘celtic’ based narratives are now being produced based on local myths, legends and even historical figures. You may find links to your Welsh heritage in Fable, The Witcher or even Dragon Age as they all draw their storylines from similar canon to Welsh folklore. In the classic franchise Dark Souls, a player can acquire Llewelyn/ Gwynevere armour that is a clear link to historical myths surrounding King Arthur and the Celts.
In these ‘medieval fantasy’ games, the setting may appear to be semi-feudal, and perhaps not identifiable as outrightly Welsh. However, they do incorporate a range of language that may sound familiar. In the highly popular game The Witcher, some people may not recognise the use of the words such as ‘gwyn’ or ‘bleidd’. The ‘Elder speech’ in the game has been directly lifted from the Welsh language, not to mention the Welsh accents and characters you encounter. Returning to Dark Souls we are introduced to Domnhall of Zena (a typical merchant character) who greets players with a kind hearted and welcoming “shwmae.”
If you thought that Welsh representation ends with the simple “hello” of a character, you are far from right. After Ubisoft’s release of Assassin’s Creed 3, feedback was related to a lack of immersion due to the protagonist being less relatable than others. In response to this, Ubisoft created Edward Kenway in their 2013 release of Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. Kenway is a West Indies pirate, whose entire backstory is influenced by Wales and, more specifically, Swansea. On top of this, Kenway is voiced by voice actor Matt Ryan, who also hails from Swansea. During the game Kenway is proud to be Welsh, and engages in altercations when mistaken for an Englishman. Brilliant! If that wasn’t enough for you, a player can witness a range of Welsh accents within the game; you can even partake in a Welsh brawl if you so please!
In terms of brief mentions of our beloved country, you may find it amusing that in Grand Theft Auto V, Chakra Attack Station’s host (Ray De Angelo Harris) recalls a trip and ‘accidentally’ depicts stereotypical Wales. He mentions Welsh rarebit, male voice choirs and the fact that most people’s surnames are Jones or Davies which highlights the game’s satirical nature and Wales’ reputation. In Resistance: Fall of Man, you get the opportunity to play as a survivor of an attack. During the gameplay you fall back to an army base in Cardiff. The game also includes the Welsh coastline, which allows the British forces to regroup and form other alliances. In this game, Wales plays a key role in moving the plot and action forwards.
It doesn’t end there, with the inclusion of a wider range of Welsh designers in the games industry, with Welsh folklore and myth being utilised. Wales is most certainly featuring more prominently in video games as time goes on.
by Leah Slowinski