EVE Fanfest Begins in Reykjavík Tomorrow

Over 1,000 EVE Online players are on their way to Iceland for EVE Fanfest, which takes place tomorrow and Saturday, May 6-7, in Reykjavík. The festival will include social events for players, presentations, and hangouts with the game’s developers. It’s been four years since the last fanfest was held.

“The city is starting to fill up with, well, some would call them nerds,” stated Eldar Ástþórsson somewhat cheekily in a RÚV interview earlier today. Eldar is the brand manager of CCP Games, the video game developer that created EVE Online, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) renowned for its scale and complexity. The game currently boasts over 1 million players per month.

Eldar says participants have come from all over the world. “[Fanfest] is a festival, conference, and national assembly, because these are players in the EVE universe, which is huge, that come here to have fun and meet others, but also to talk about economic, historical, and political issues in the EVE universe.”

EVE Online was first released in 2003, almost 20 years ago. “At CCP, we’re really proud that this game has lived for so long, and we’re also very proud of EVE Fanfest and the concept around it. We were one of the first companies to invite our customers, the people who play the game, to this sort of party. So we’re very proud of this festival and it’s always really fun to do,” Eldar stated.

Wr-App It Up! New Phone Game Encourages Safe Sex Practices

Iceland regularly has some of the highest rates of STI transmission in Europe and in response, the Directorate of Health has gotten creative with its newest public health campaign. Vísir reports that a new smartphone game, Smokkaleikurinn (‘The Condom Game’), is intended to increase Icelanders’ awareness about the dangers of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and improve their safe sex practices.

“Education has gone down and infections have gone up from year to year,” remarked Björn Thorvaldsson, CEO of Gamatic, which produced the game. “So we’re working to counteract this.”

The point of the game is to use condoms (branded with logos for Durex and the Icelandic pharmacy chain Apótekarinn) to catch sperm and viruses. In between sheathings, not-so-fun facts about STIs pop on the screen, as do encouragements for the player to use condoms.

Screenshot, Stöð 2
Screenshot, Stöð 2

Björn says the game even includes a cameo by “a very well-known Icelander” who will “swim onto screen” to talk about the importance of condom use in a fun way. Although Björn did not name the famous guest star, teasers showing a sperm with a high fade haircut and decked out in a sparkly red jacket point to the Icelander in question being none other than gay icon and beloved pop sensation Páll Óskar, who readers may remember from his headlining stints at Reykjavík Pride, among many others. This wouldn’t be the first time Páll has lent his gravitas to a campaign to promote safer sex practices. In 2013, Páll directed and narrated the short film “Fáðu já!” (‘Get a Yes!’) which spoke about the importance of affirmative consent in all sexual encounters. (Watch the video here, with English subtitles.)

Screenshot, Stöð 2

“Simply put, it’s not smart to not use contraception because it’s no joke to get, as an example, chlamydia, which can make women, in some cases, infertile,” concludes Björn. “Or syphilis, if it’s allowed to progress without treatment, can have really serious consequences.”

Smokkaleikurinn will launch next week and will be available in the Apple app store for iPhones and GooglePlay for Android. At time of writing, it is unclear if the game will be available outside of Iceland.

Oscar-Winner Hildur Guðnadóttir Composes for Video Game

Hildur Guðnadóttir Oscar

Composer and cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir is composing the music for the video game Battlefield 2042, RÚV reports. Hildur, who won both an Oscar and a Grammy for her score for the film Joker, is writing the soundtrack in collaboration with her husband, the English composer and sound artist Sam Slater. This is the first time she’s composed for a video game.

Battlefield 2042 is a massively multiplayer first-person shooter game and the seventeenth installment in Swedish developer Dice’s popular Battlefield series. It is published by Electronic Arts.

“We are thrilled to be writing our first video game score for Battlefield 2042 and teaming with Electronic Arts,” Hildur and Sam wrote in a prepared statement. “It was such a deeply creative experience to dive into this world and create a truly unique and disruptive musical environment for the game.”

Battlefield 2042 comes out on October 22 on PC, PlayStation, and Xbox. The game score will be released on the same day on both vinyl and via leading streaming services.

Unemployed Icelanders Offered Training and Jobs as eSports Coaches

League of Legends eSports

Unemployed Icelanders will be able to access free training in eSports coaching, thanks to a new collaboration between the Social Affairs Ministry and the Icelandic eSports Association. Iceland’s government has invested ISK 10 million ($78,000/€64,000) in developing and implementing the coaching course specifically for locals who are currently between jobs. Participants will receive a six-month work contract upon completion of training. One goal of the project is to create permanent jobs in the growing eSports industry.

“I am very excited about this collaboration with the Icelandic eSports Association, where we are hitting two birds with one stone,” stated Ásmundur Einar Daðason, Minister of Social Affairs and Children. “Create exciting opportunities for unemployed individuals and at the same time strengthen eSports infrastructure. There is a lot of strength and growth in eSports in Iceland, but the industry is young and therefore the infrastructure in clubs is often lacking. There has also been a lack of individuals who have experience in training young people, and it is very important that we get individuals with skills and experience into [the eSports industry].”

Ólafur Hrafn Steinarsson, chairman of the Icelandic eSports Association, celebrated the initiative. “This project is extremely important for eSports in Iceland and a great recognition of the excellent work that has been done for eSports in recent years.”

Esports are a form of organised video game competitions, played both individually and in teams. The industry has been growing globally as well as within Iceland, which boasts over 20 eSports clubs that provide eSport activities and training for over 600 children. “This project enables us to be at the forefront of developments in this field globally,” Ólafur Hrafn stated of the initiative. “There are exciting times ahead in this new field.”

Iceland’s government put together a task force last December to write a policy concerning the eSports industry. The group is expected to finish their work at the end of this month.

Iceland’s Largest Electronic Store to Cease DVD Sales

ELKO, Iceland’s largest electronics retailer, will stop selling DVDs starting this fall, Fréttablaðið reports.

In a press release about the decision, marketing director Bragi Þór Antoníuson said the company had reached a crossroads, saying, “When ELKO opened its doors for its first customers in 1998, DVDs were among the first things you saw and ever since, they’ve been a big part of the store’s product offerings. But times change and today, it’s possible to access all that material through various streaming services.”

Since opening, ELKO has sold 1,985,000 DVDs and will sell close to 2 million by the time they discontinue DVD sales. The company is putting all its remaining DVDs on clearance, selling some for as little as ISK 95 ($0.76/€0.67). The company is creating a new eSports division in place of its DVD section, as competitive gaming is gaining popularity in Iceland; the Icelandic eSports Association was recently founded, for instance. The new eSports sections will include eSports merchandise as well as areas for gamers to gather and compete together.

ELKO’s decision to cease DVD sales comes in the wake of most of the country’s video rental shops closing their doors. Video rentals used to be ubiquitous around Iceland but have naturally become fewer and further between with the rise of online streaming service accessibility in Iceland. In 2015, for instance, the largest video store in the country, Laugarásvídeó shuttered after 30 years of operation.

Icelanders Average an Hour a Day on Video Games

Icelandic gamers spend an average of almost one hour a day on computer or online gaming, Vísir reports. A new Gallup poll found that 66%, or 2 out of 3 Icelanders are gamers, with 50% playing on phones, 25% playing on tablets, and 27% on gaming consoles.

41% of Icelanders were found to play video or online games at least once a week. Gamers spend an average of 54 minutes playing each day. On average, women play five hours a week, as compared to the seven hours that men average a week.

The survey found that 94% of children aged 6-12 play video games and 86% of teens aged 13-17. A surprising number of young children, or 65% of 3-5-year-olds and 14% of children aged 0-2, were also found to regularly play video games of some kind.

More than 700 respondents aged 18 or older took the survey, which was conducted online, during the first week of February.

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.”