Óli Gneisti Sóleyjarson is a pretty ordinary guy. When he was made redundant at his work, he set out to make his dream come true. His ambition wasn’t to become popular or cool, start a successful musical career or open a shiny new craft beer bar—no, Óli wanted to create his own board game, and that’s just what he did.
Meeting over a cup of coffee at a downtown café, we discussed his idea and process. Óli doesn’t come off like most people. He’s soft-spoken but enthusiastic; not aggressive but committed; and slightly disorganisec, but absolutely dedicated to seeing his idea come to fruition.
Initially he set out to translate popular party game Cards Against Humanity (CAH) into Icelandic, but he kept running into grammatical difficulties. He decided to reshape the concept to fit Icelandic. He bounced from one idea to another, at one point taking inspiration from talk radio Útvarp Saga (where players would take turns being the radio host and callers), but the idea he settled on was much simpler: #Kommentakerfið (“The Comment Section”).
Iceland online comment sections are renowned for being replete with non-sequiturs, terrible spelling, nonsensical rants, xenophobia, racism, sexism, idiotic, narrow-minded and dogmatic comments, and on rare occasions all of the above in one. None of this is news to anyone, but when turned into a CAH-like game, the results are absolutely hilarious.
#Kommentakerfið sees the players take turns being editors, playing out black cards that have actual online headlines, with the others responding to said headlines with actual comments printed on white cards.
Óli lent me a copy of the game and I played numerous rounds with friends, and the results were always the same—shock and awe at people having actually written what they wrote, disbelief that grammar can be employed in such terrible fashion and a general loss of faith in humanity at the opinions expressed.
Headlines about faulty privatisation were often met with comments expressing sentiments like “Go Iceland!” or “Our boys!”, whereas celebrity gossip was decried as being because of feminists, have connections to Hittler (sic), or ‘not important’ because the poor and disabled are suffering.
While CAH often sees questions and answers that are horribly funny because they’re honest, #Kommentakerfið gives players the same feeling with news stories and comments that are actually real—it succeeds as a meta game that raises questions about the human condition and online behaviour from the safe vantage point of humour.
The game is currently being crowdfunded on Karolina Fund, Iceland’s answer to Kickstarter. At present the game has already blasted through its initial goal of €5,000, so at this point those interested are just guaranteeing that they get the game at a reasonable price. Óli doesn’t shy away from telling me how much preparation went into putting it on the site; he examined in great detail how other gaming-related products had fared, what had worked and what hadn’t, how to present the idea, and how to set a realistic target. Being an old lefty, he says it was important to him that the cards would be printed on quality eco-friendly paper that had a low carbon footprint. Says he: “I know I can get it made really cheaply in China, but given their labour and environmental laws I would’t know how humanely it would be done, or if they’d use any toxic materials.”
He proudly says that he’s got a few other game ideas brewing in his mind, many of which are far more complicated than #Kommentakerfið. “This game isn’t maybe the one I imagined I’d make at first, but it’s funny, and that counts for something,” he says. “But if this one works out, I might make those happen as well.”
Interested parties can try the game out at Nexus Afþreying or Spilavinir if you understand Icelandic. If you don’t, well, you can probably make a home brewed version with comments from the Grapevine’s Facebook comment sections.
#Kommentakerfið’s Karolina crowdfunding runs until September 21—check it out here!