Sometimes the reach of video games surprises me. The fact that you could pretty much take any small cultural or sporting phenomenon and there is probably a game based on it somewhere in the world is pretty amazing. So I really shouldn’t have been surprised when I was casually browsing in a nearby second hand game store when I stumbled upon a Gaelic Football game for the PS2. Upon further research I was, again, surprised to find that there isn’t just one Gaelic football game in the wild, but also a sequel, both developed by the now defunct Australian-based developer IR Gurus and both released for the PS2.
If you aren’t sure what Gaelic Football (unsurprisingly) it is a game that has it’s origins in Ireland, and alongside Rugby Union, is one of the most popular sports on the Irish island. It is played on a rectangular pitch similar to that of a Rugby with goals at either end that are basically a combination between goal posts used in rugby straddling a conventional soccer net. However unlike Rugby and most other possession based football codes, gaelic football is played with a round ball, with the objective of the game being to either punch or kick the ball over the cross bar, or kicking the ball into the net. It is a relatively physical sport, with full contact tackling allowed. And with that I have written more about Gaelic Football than I have ever spoken, written or signed combined to date. Before this, I didn’t really know how Gaelic Football worked either.
Interestingly enough, IR Gurus were also the developers of the official video games of the Australian Football League (AFL) licence from 2003 to 2007, another niche sport thats popularity is almost entirely confined to a single country. Conveniently, AFL has a relatively large amount in common with Gaelic Football, so much so that a hybrid of the two games called ‘International Rules Football’ is played between the two nations, comprising of one national team each made up of the best players from both countries’ respective leagues. You can’t make this stuff up.
Also conveniently given that the games play similarly in the real world, it wouldn’t have been too much effort to develop an AFL game and Gaelic Football game in tandem. The wonders of economic efficiency.
And for the record I am not even a fan of either code of football, let alone an expert. But in my humble uneducated opinion, Electronic Arts’ AFL 99 for the PS1 was an awesomely fun bad game.