Like Zynga’s insufferably successful browser-based games, Ireland Town requires its players to collect coins, construct new buildings and deal with a bunch of randomly generated crises. Also like Zynga’s games, Ireland Town is sickeningly cutesy, eminently pointless and saddled with a ridiculously unimaginative name.
Unlike the “Ville” bunch, however, Ireland Town is unintentionally hilarious as it is so stuffed full of Irish stereotypes that I was highly disappointed not to see pipe smoking leprechauns springing across the screen trying to guide me through the user interface. The game’s trailer video says it better than I can describe.
Hope you like potato farming, running a pub and living it up on St. Patrick’s Day! I understand that the game trailer isn’t explicitly saying “The Irish folk are all about the potatoes and booze” but the casual observer can’t help but think that very thought.
The whole point of the game is so that Tourism Ireland to highlight the wildly diverse and appealing nature of Ireland as a tourist destination. Some bright spark in the Ireland Towndevelopment team must have thought that the best way to promote this concept was to set a course for stereotype-Ville and order full steam ahead.
Awful little games used to promote products and corporate services is the flavor of the month right now. There is some truly heinous stuff out there at the moment, including flash games that revolve around squirting plaque with a toothpaste gun, catching trash thrown from a house in a branded plastic trash bag and, I kid you not, controlling a tampon roller coaster. See the lampooning of these turgid little smears of gaming offal on Somethingawful.com.
Granted, with its social gaming element and in-game reward system, Ireland Town is a step up from some of the diabolical games that commercial brands use to peddle their wares, but it’s a small step.
Having considered the overly-cutesy crapfest that is Ireland Town from all angles, a part of me cannot help but wonder if this game is actually a stroke of genius in terms of being fit for its key purpose of promoting Ireland to tourists. While it appears to be an ill-conceived and irritating time-sink, by playing heavily on Irish stereotypes the game may appeal directly to people whose knowledge of Ireland is drawn entirely from the below decks scenes from the movie Titanic and a box of Lucky Charms.
Ireland Town doesn’t need to appeal to people living in Ireland, they’re already in the right place! It needs to appeal to people who have this view of Ireland as the cartoon cut-out epitome of cheerfulness, ruddy-faced good humor and endless dancing.
Don’t get me wrong, Ireland is a beautiful country and has a well-deserved reputation for cultivating a friendly and welcoming atmosphere in most places. However, Ireland Town is representative of Ireland in the same way that FrontierVille is representative of the disease and danger riddled misery that was life in the Old West. That is to say, not at all.
In short, Ireland Town is a tacky, throw-together knock-off of Zynga’s “Villes”, which do not represent the greatest of creative ideals in any case. However, given its kitsch value and the bizarre affinity that people have with distracting themselves from doing work, I anticipate it being a great success.
Again, I am shocked that the best name that the game’s developers could come up with was Ireland Town. If they really wanted to drive the stereotype message home, there were many obvious game titles that they could have taken inspiration from:
“That’s Just Grand” Theft Auto
Beers of War
Super Mary O’s Cart
Big O’Brian Academy
Super Smashed Bros
Field of SpudCraft
Dance. Dance… Revolution
Gin and Tonic the Hedgehog