GUEST BLOG POST – Celts and Sheep (Ovis aries) in AoE II (Age of Empires 2)

Age of Empires

This week’s blog post is on the Age of Empires blog. Click here to go there now.

We have a special sort of text to look at this week… a 21st century one!

This week’s entry, hosted on the Age of Empires blog looks at how accurately sheep are depicted in the computer game.

Species mentioned: Several but most interestingly sheep, (Ovis aries) which are the most frequently exploited animal in Age of Empires.

Source: Age of Empires II, one of the most influential RTS games of all time.

Date of Source: Age of Empires II is a 21st century game, but it’s based on the vague “middle ages”. For the Celts that’s c.550-1650.

Highlights: Although the developers of AoE II seem to have no idea what a medieval sheep looked like, they knew exactly what they were doing when they gave the medieval Celts a bonus with livestock. “Celts” ranging from the heroes of ‘Táin Bó Cúailnge’ to the ballads of the Borderers have specialised in being able to steal livestock from anywhere, no matter how isolated and well-guarded.

Why bother?

The revenue from the video game industry, from Farmville to World of Warcraft is now bigger than the movie industry in the US and the UK. Although the movie industry world-wide still dwarfs the video-game industry, the video game industry continues to grow, and may be the most profitable entertainment medium of the 21st century. Computer games are not yet as culturally important as movies but that may be only a matter of time too.

That means that what video games say about animals is really important. Games have a lot of competition and inspiration to draw on. Humans have created some of their most beautiful artwork and literature inspired by humans. Right now though, with the environment in crisis mode, it’s more important than ever that we get the message right.

You’ve probably heard of ‘Age of Empires’ which is Microsoft Games’ biggest franchise. Games in that series are RTSs (real time strategy games). They have you managing an economy with the aim of creating an army to defeat your opponent. The twist in the Age of Empires series is that the game isn’t set in space or in the Third World War. You play as a real historical civilisation.

Last week the Age of Empires blog put out a call for any papers about the units of Age of Empires. I think they were expecting people to talk about some of their carefully researched unit tactics, or whether their version of a Viking longship is reliable etc.

I submitted a blog post about sheep. (that’s the link)

Curious? In Age of Empires II, sheep can’t be stolen as long as any Celt is keeping an eye on them. What is this sinister link between Celts and sheep? Is it a racist slur or did Microsoft Games do their homework

Thanks to Thistles Bane for the inspiration, and for actually fighting a war on two fronts so I could stay in the base and count sheep.


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