A round-up of today's other stories in brief
Taking on Cu Chulainn at his own game
TALL, BROAD, bald and bearded, Owen Harris, lead game designer for BitSmith Games, could be one of the characters from Kú. The company’s new videogame takes inspiration from Celtic folklore, with a dash of steampunk, and is currently in the final stages of development, in Dublin’s Digit Games incubator. Here, Harris discusses the game’s Irish roots
Why the Táin and why the Cú Chulainn myth? I’ve always been interested in Ireland’s ancient history. There’s so much there that hasn’t been exposed. People like Tolkien dipped heavily into our past for inspiration. Greek mythology is everywhere – I don’t know how many harpies I’ve killed in videogames. But I’ve never killed a púca, or fought a fomorian. And these are interesting archetypes, so the chance to show that people in a game is exciting. When we showed it overseas, people had inklings of these cool stories and given the chance to be exposed to it, they jump at it.
Do you think audiences are more open to something they’re only vaguely familiar with? The biggest surprise with international audiences was with the Irish language. You can play it completely in Irish. Very few people in this country seem interested in that, but Americans, Germans and Scandinavians are as interested in seeing the language . . . as much as our mythology. I think there is a cynicism about Irish culture [here] and I can understand that. But we’re talking about going back to these old, primal stories that are part of what built our people’s psyche. And I think if Irish people were exposed to it in a modern way, they would be much more interested than they currently are.
Is that why you’ve introduced that steampunk element? We started building it over a year ago at the height of all the stories about economic doom, so I guess we pulled in what was going on at that moment. I think it fits quite well – the idea of Ireland returning to this tribal time. Obviously it’s a fantastical story, but it’s something that people can relate to.
Is there a fear of alienating Táin purists? Some people will be upset that we didn’t do a more direct translation. My response to that would be that these stories grow out of an oral tradition where it was constantly changing. It was only relatively recently that these things were written down. I believe that we are following in that oral, storytelling tradition. It’s not just about the person telling the story; it’s also about the listeners. It’s not just about the people making the game; it’s also about those playing the game. We’re inspired by the Táin; we’re not trying to re-tell it.
How Foras na Gaeilge involved? They’ve been a tremendous support. They looked over what we were doing and they’re helping us make sure the Irish translation is to the highest standard. There’s a huge amount of people learning Irish in the US. We want to make sure that if it’s being used as a tool, that it is correct.
What about the game’s look? Our artist Basil [Lim] spent a lot of time in pre-production going to museums, looking at the Book of Kells, our native plants, trying to bring all of that influence and create this style that looks somewhere between Mad Max and Cú Chulainn. It’s probably the thing we’re proudest of in the whole game – blending Celtic and futuristic style.
Kú will be available for iPad in November, with versions for PC and Mac to follow
Art classes with an edge
WHAT DO you get when you cross a night class with night life? Art Clash is the creation of artist Áine Macken, a course of art classes that dispenses with a stuffy or intimidating setting and aims to give its attendees a hands-on, fun and social experience with some of the country’s most exciting artists.
Every week, a guest teacher is selected to teach skills from their own bank of expertise. The second round of classes, which began at the start of this month, featured Colm Mac Athlaoich teaching illustration and brush, pen and portrait techniques. Other artists involved in the project include Will St Leger, Fanci Schmancy, who taught clothing customisation, video-installation artist Ciara Scanlan, illustrator and designer Gaetan Billault, art therapist Gerry Lee, stencil and street artist ADW, and more. Upcoming tutors include photographers Aoife de Búrca and Aoife Giles, and art and craft-er Mick Minogue.
Macken began Art Clash after she “noticed a trend in that my friends would confess on blurry nights out about their desire to be a bit more creative. They’d often speak about how they enjoyed making things in school, but felt intimidated by actually pursuing it.”
Macken realised that by combining a relaxed bring-your-own-beer setting with an expert teacher and willing participants, she had something of a potential success on her hands.
The classes have taken place in venues all over the city, from gay bars to disused convents, hairdressers to galleries. “It’s really nice to see talented people explain to you how they do what they do, especially over a few pints surrounded by lovely people,” Macken says. “People get really engaged and serious about making things, but the environment allows them to approach it casually and in a lighthearted and playful fashion, and to actually enjoy the experience of making something rather than focusing on that something being perfect.”
This Friday, make-up artist Ruth Hirsch leads a Halloween-themed Art Clash class on how to perfect the most impressive, intricate and frightening special-effects make up. Tickets (priced at €15) can be booked at artclash.net.