A farm in Northern Iceland is the site of an unusual game residency, and you’re invited to come visit.
In the Vesturárdalur valley in northern Iceland, 2 hours north of Reykjavik, there is a farm. It’s called Kollafoss, and it is the home of sound designer, musician, game developer and farm worker Jóhannes Gunnar Þorsteinsson and his girlfriend, Arnfríður Hanna Hreinsdóttir. And, starting this September, they are inviting you to live with them, if only for a short period of time.
The two Icelanders are starting a game residency in Kollafoss, modelled on an existing Icelandic model, where artists live in old farms and spare houses around Icelandic nature. But Kollafoss stands out from these artistic residencies for at least two reasons, Jóhannes explains:
“First of all, it is designed with game developers in mind. Second of all, it’s slightly more personal as the owner – me – is also a resident game developer. So what we are technically doing is simply looking for gamedev flatmates to rent the house with us for short periods,” he says.
Jóhannes Gunnar Þorsteinsson grew up in the Vesturárdalur valley and has been using Kollafoss for different projects, such as recordings and the Isolation Game Jam, which is hosted on the farm. And the idea of making Kollafoss into a residency for game developers actually started after the 2015 version of the Game Jam, he explains:
“We decided to do this experiment based on the extremely positive feedback from Isolation Game Jam attendants for the last two years. They pretty much insisted that we would take the Isolation Game Jam concept further and allow more people to experience this area,” he says.
By inviting game developers to stay at Kollafoss, Jóhannes Gunnar Þorsteinsson hopes to give them an experience like nothing else. And that word, nothing, is actually a very important word in the Kollafoss concept, he says:
“It’s a bit odd to say it, but in a way, the experience we are offering up here is nothing. A whole lot of nothing. If you walk out of the house, and start walking south you will have 100-200 kilometers of wasteland, lakes, swamps, mountains, volcanos, lava fields and glaciers in front of you.”
“You might bump into an occasional old mountain road, but other than that, you would be mostly free from seeing any sign of human civilization at all,” he says.
Aside from making Kollafoss into a unique experience for game developers, Jóhannes Gunnar Þorsteinsson hopes that the game residency can help increase the diversity in the Vesturárdalur valley. At the moment, the area is dominated by agriculture and fishing and has become very isolated, he says:
“Isolation is good, but yet everything is good in moderation. The end goal, the boss fight for the far future, is to use this as the first step in creating a small game company in the area. Which is in itself related to the idea of increasing the diversity in the area,” he says.
On the Kollafoss website, you can see a list of prices and other practical information and sign up for a residency. The first spots are available from September 2015.