You are currently viewing A Conversation with Solo Developer Dan McGrath

A Conversation with Solo Developer Dan McGrath

Despite being a country known for its rich culture and folklore, Ireland very rarely finds the most gruesome elements of its mythology depicted in video games. If you grew up in Ireland, particularly in the sparse, open countryside far from any urban towns, your friends, relatives and loved ones would most likely have told you stories of the many morbid creatures and spirits that roamed the plains of Ireland. Everything from The Morrigan to the famous Banshee would have kept you up late at night as a kid. For Dan McGrath, a part-time indie game developer in Cork, Ireland, it’s these stories along with his love for more conventional popular horror that will shape his game development journey.

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McGrath may or may not be your typical perception of an indie developer. He works full time, lives in a small apartment in Cork City, and creates games in Unity using his long-obsolete laptop. Drawing on the borderline primitive graphics that came to be associated with the original PlayStation, he creates short, narrative-driven games in this style both as an aesthetic choice and out of system necessities. McGrath’s daily life is jam-packed with a day job ending at 6 p.m. as he dives into his game development passions from late night to early morning hours.

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When I sat down with McGrath, I couldn’t wait to find out exactly where this fusion of Irish folklore and conventional horror came from. Growing up loving the works of John Carpenter, The Thing became an inspiration for McGrath’s work, his influence being particularly prevalent in some of his most popular titles Harmful and Harmful and The Second Tape. Along with this, McGrath also cites inspiration from HP Lovecraft’s work Hereditary and The Conjuring 2. He describes it all as a “very selective form of influence”, and when you combine it with the horror stories of folklore Irish, it only becomes more selective.


Although McGrath may not be a household name among many gaming fans, even those with intimate knowledge of the indie gaming scene, earlier this year his work was featured in the Indie Horror Titles Collection of Dread XP, Dread X Collection: The Hunt. Alongside established indie names such as Dusk creator David Szymanski and Golden Light developer Mr. Pink, McGrath was able to showcase his unique style and inspirations to a wider audience while learning from those in the industry. who had managed to create a full-time career out of passion. McGrath’s entry to the collection, The House of Unrest, drew on some beloved inspirations like The Exorcist while acknowledging his own love for Irish media by including an unlocked achievement after completing his entry titled “A down with that kind of thing”, a reference to the popular Irish sitcom Father Ted.


Our Lady of Sorrow, McGrath’s most recent project, is the clearest example of his Irish influences. Set in the actual location of Kilcrea Friary in County Cork and drawing inspiration from mythological tales and spirits of Ireland such as the Banshee, it wants to explore what it describes as ‘untapped, depressing and frightening potential’ of the scariest elements of Irish folklore. There’s no real horror story attached to the Kilcrea Friary and while McGrath notes that his own depictions of Irish mythology don’t have to be completely faithful to the source material, he also didn’t want his work “bastardise valid history”. from this place [Kilcrea Friary].” Instead, its stories and games are a representation of an alternate reality that taps into the essence of Irish folklore but also clings to more conventional horror.


Despite McGrath’s work taking on a level of creative freedom and freedom, as someone who grew up in Ireland with a basic understanding of Irish folklore, I couldn’t help but share that love of mysticism and weirdness. we were talking about. Irish media has always adapted to larger inspirations, primarily from the United States, but McGrath’s work takes that inspiration and uses it as a model to open up the world of Irish culture and horror to a wider audience.

Our Lady of Sorrow has enjoyed unprecedented success since its release, earning just over 1000 downloads in less than a week on itch.io. With the exception of stereotypical depictions of pixies and fairies in the wider fantasy culture, McGrath thinks Irish culture is rarely addressed in both mainstream media and the indie horror genre, but it’s something something he hopes to change. If McGrath’s games are any indication, the future of Irish indie horror looks bright.


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