The 10 most important Irish people in the world of video games

Ronan Jennings selects the 10 most important Irish people in the world of video games.

Brendan Greene

Let’s start with Ireland’s biggest success story in recent years – Brendan Greene, otherwise known as ‘Player Unknown’. Ballyshannon web designer Greene was living in Brazil, had split up with his girlfriend and was completely listless when he started building a mod for ARMA2, an online shooter. What Greene created became known as the ‘Battle Royale’ of online gaming, where a map constantly gets smaller until only one person is left standing. Such was the success of his creation that Greene was hired by a Korean development firm to create Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, one of the most popular – if not the most popular – online shooters of 2017. This makes Greene arguably the most successful Irish game developer ever.

Sean Murray

If this list is about influential Irish games personalities, then Corkman Sean Murray needs to be on it. Murray is the creator of No Man’s Sky, one of the most hyped (and subsequently vilified) games of the modern era. No Man’s Sky promised to be an open-world space exploration game with many features – unfortunately for Murray and the team, some of those promises didn’t make it into the final game. While No Man’s Sky won many fans and sold millions, it also created an extremely vocal backlash among both critics and players. Now a year since release, No Man’s Sky has received three major updates that have improved the game exponentially. Murray and his game will be in the headlines for years to come, making him Ireland’s highest profile developer ever.

Brenda Romero

This entry is the journalistic equivalent of the Konami code – it’s cheating a little. Romero is an American, but she and her equally famous developer husband John Romero have set up shop in the west of Ireland and are practically honourary Irish developers now. Brenda works for the University of Limerick, where she is program director of the MsC in Game Design and Development. This year alone she won a Bafta awards in recognition of her ‘creative contribution to the industry’ and Development Legend award at Develop Brighton.

Terry Cavanagh

As far as honest-to-goodness, born in the code developers go, Monaghan man Terry Cavanagh is probably the most talented developer on this list. Creator of minimalistic classics like VVVVV and Super Hexagon,
Cavanagh is on record as saying the smaller nature of those games allow the personality of the developer to really shine through. Cavanagh is the equivalent of talented filmmaker who chooses to shoot with a smartphone, yet still manages to turn out brilliant gaming experiences. His games have received numerous independent developer awards.

Steven Collins

While it has been a while since either Steven Collins or fellow Havok co-founder Hugh Reynolds have made headlines, they still deserve a place on this list. Collins is currently Adjunct Associate Professor of Computer Graphics in the Department of Computer Science in Trinity College, but his real influence on the Irish gaming landscape came with the founding of video game physics company Havok. Since Collins and Reynolds first founded the company, Havok has been acquired by Intel for E76m and then by Microsoft two years ago. Havok implements ‘physics’ into games (like character’ragdolling’) and in recent years alone it has been licenced in Zelda Breath of the Wild, Dark Souls III, Bloodborne and Civilization VI. Few developers in the world have had such a wide-ranging effect on the industry.

Paul Breslin

One of the board members of Games Ireland, Breslin is one of Ireland’s highest profile managing directors in the gaming industry. For his ‘day job’, Breslin heads up Riot Games Europe, makers of League of Legends, one the most successful and profitable games in the world. (To illustrate just how successful Riot Games are, in 2011 a majority stake in the company was acquired for $231m.) While Riot are a US company, they have European headquarters in Dublin and Breslin leads the team. Meanwhile, with Games Ireland he leads a not-for-profit organization that seeks to develop the games industry in Ireland.

Richard Barnwell

Another board member of Games Ireland, Barnwell is the founder of DIGIT games, a Dublin-based development company that claims to be Ireland’s biggest developer. Having received venture capital earlier this decade, DIGIT went on to create Kings of the Realm, a free-to-play mobile title that made the company profitable and ‘one of Ireland’s fastest growing companies’ in 2016. They are currently developing a sequel to their flagship title and another game based on a ‘phenomenal’ IP. They are also hiring, giving young Irish developers a chance to work in the
industry.

Eimear Noone

There are many parts to a video game, but one of the most important is often the music that accompanies it. Countless games have become iconic through their music alone, from Super Mario to Halo to Final Fantasy to Castlevania. Eimear Noone is an Irish woman who has taken some of those famous tracks ‘on tour’ all over the world, orchestrating over 490 video game music concerts around the globe, including at Dublin’s National Concert Hall. Noone’s love of classical music guided her to video game soundtracks, an industry where she has written iconic music for the likes of Overwatch and World of Warcraft.

Michael Finucane

Finucane was co-founder of GameStop Group Ireland, which continues to dominate the Irish retail scene in gaming. However, his place on this list is due to his involvement in the forthcoming PlayersXpo convention on October 28 and 29. Earlier this year, GamerCon may have blown its chance to become Ireland’s much-needed large-scale gaming convention, by mis-managing ticket sales and logistics. PlayersXpo looks to fill that void by running the same style of convention in the same venue (Dublin’s Convention Centre) but without the hiccups. If Finucane can pull it off, then he instantly becomes an even more vital player in the Irish gaming community.

Sean William McLoughlin
(Jack Septic Eye)

If the subject of this list is ‘influential’ figures in Irish gaming, then there is only one clear winner – Jack Septic Eye is an ‘influencer’ by job description. He is one of YouTube’s biggest gaming commentators and ranks 31st on the list of YouTube’s most subscribed commentators. As of this month, McLoughlin has over 16m subscribers and 7.7bn total video views. It’s easy to see why the 27-year-old Limerick native has risen to the top – he is loud, energetic and very Irish. Think Tommy Tiernan meets Irish children’s TV presenter. In June, it was announced that McLoughlin would be featured on a Disney XD program called Polaris: Player Select.


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