Game Designers Convene for Countryside “Isolation Jam”

Every year for the last five years, video game designer Jóhannes G. Þorsteinsson has opened his home in Vesturádalur in Northeast Iceland to designers from around the world for an “isolation jam,” where they spend a weekend enjoying each other’s company and the lack of distractions in the countryside while designing new games to try out with one another. This year’s jam, which was visited by the RÚVtelevision program Landinn saw designers from Iceland, Serbia, Romania, and The Netherlands gather over a weekend, at least two of whose games were directly inspired by their rural environment.

“It’s very nice when you can go to a place and be inspired by the landscape and say, ‘oh, I want to make a game about exactly this,” said participant Ivan Noraros from Serbia. “I would never think of making a sheep farming game, but then I came here. It’s great inspiration.”

“The idea is that you’re trying to defend your field of crops from your opponent and you’re trying to prevent them from growing their crops,” Hein-Peter van Braam from The Netherlands explained about his game-in-progress. “And you do that by shooting tiny sheep into their field which will grow up and then eat the other person’s crop. It’s just pure silliness, really, I’m not making a statement with this game, other than it’s fun to do something non-violent with a gun, I guess?”

Jóhannes was raised in the area, but lived for a while in Reykjavík and Sweden before moving back out to the country a few years ago. “When I came back, I was so lonely,” he explained. “I like being alone, but I was missing people who were into the same thing as me. Naturally, I have a lot of friends here, but it’s maybe difficult to talk about computer games with sheep farmers…So I became a bit isolated. So I came up with this plan to trick people to come to my place, to play with me.”

“It’s so similar to musicians “jamming” together,” Jóhannes continued. “…You get to try out ideas that you haven’t before, something new.” Sometimes, the experiments come to nothing, of course, but other times, they develop into bigger games.

Although, his “isolation jam” has been successful, Jóhannes is not looking to expand it into a larger event, however. “If I invited more people, in a bigger house, it wouldn’t be as cozy any more.”

Gay Men May Soon Be Able to Donate Blood, Within Limits

Gay men may soon be permitted to give blood in Iceland, albeit within restricted parameters, RÚVreports. According to information from the Ministry of Welfare, epidemiologists believe that it should be permissible for gay men to give blood, although there would still be significant restrictions in place, namely that gay blood donors will be required to have been abstinent for six months prior to donation.

Per the Ministry, risk assessment of other nations has shown that this arrangement—allowing gay men to donate blood after six months of abstinence—involves little to no risk of bloodborne infection. The ministry requested an epidemiological review of the issue this summer and the previous two Ministers of Health— Kristján Þór Júlíusson and Óttarr Proppé— both expressed an interest in reviewing the current blood donation restrictions. The current Minister, Svandís Svavarsdóttir, is currently reviewing the issue and taking into account the advice of medical professionals. She’s expected to make a decision on the issue soon.

Restrictions on blood donation based on sexual history and/or orientation vary throughout the world, but while many countries have lifted permanent bans on gay men donating blood, many still require that “men who have sex with men” defer blood donation for anywhere from three months to a fullyear.

Skaftfell Arts Center Appoints Scottish Director

The Skaftfell Center for Visual Art in Seydisfjörður, East Iceland has appointed Gavin Morrison as its new director, Austurfrétt reports. Scottish by birth, Gavin has been living and working in Southern France as a curator and writer, but also has history with the center, having served as its honorary director from 2015 – 2016 and curating several shows of Icelandic artists there in that time.

Skaftfell, a vibrant and much-respected organization that curates visual arts exhibitions, hosts educational programing, and runs an artist residency, is very much at the center of Seydisfjörður’s flourishing arts scene. It is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year and, per the statement made by the board regarding Gavin’s hiring, “…believes that it is important for Skaftfell to strengthen and expand its international relations.”

For his part, Gavin sounds excited to become a more permanent part of the Seydifjörður art scene himself. “I have long admired the various roles that Skaftfell plays within the life of Seyðisfjörður as a cultural, social and educational hub for the local community and visitors to the area,” he remarked. “Its engagement with the complexities of international culture in relation to the specifics of local conditions is a fascinating model. In the role of Director, I plan to continue this tradition and create a dynamic program that grows in international significance but remains rooted in the local context.”

In addition to his curatorial work in Iceland, Gavin has also collaborated with institutions in Sweden, the US, Japan, and Scotland. He is also currently at work on a novel.

Increased Antibiotic Use a Concern, Says Health Directorate

Antibiotic use among Icelanders increased by a little over 3% last year as compared to the year before, Kjarninn reports. The Directorate of Heath’s annual report on “Antibiotic Use and Antibiotic Receptivity in People and Animals in Iceland” did find, however, that Iceland’s use of antibiotics on animals is among the lowest in Europe.

The Directorate expressed a certain disappointment over the finding that Icelandic antibiotic use has gone up, particularly given that over the same time period, it’s gone down for people in other Nordic countries. It was found that antibiotic use has consistently been highest among patients aged 65 and older, followed by children aged five and under. Antibiotic use among the youngest patients did actually reduce between 2016 and 2017, and yet, when compared with previous years, antibiotic use among children was still on the rise during 2016. Antibiotic use among patients 65 and older has not experienced any such dips, but simply steadily increased over the years.

Antibiotic resistance is still relatively low in Iceland when compared to its neighboring countries. This has remained largely unchanged since 2016.

In April 2017, a working group under the supervision of the Health Minister submitted a report that outlined ten recommendations for fighting the spread of antibiotic resistance. These included recommendations on reducing the use of antibiotics among people, as well as monitoring antibiotic resistance in bacteria found in both foreign and domestic foodstuffs.

In 2018, efforts were made to increase awareness among doctors about the risks of over-prescribing antibiotics. The Directorate of Health hopes that this will lead to doctors reducing the amount of antibiotics prescribed to patients. Per the recommendation of the working group, foodstuffs also started to be monitored for antibiotic-resistant bacteria and research began on antibiotic resistance in general.

“Hopefully, all of these factors will prove useful in combating the spread of antibiotic resistance which is considered to be one of the most pressing health threats of our time,” concluded the Directorate of Health.