This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
"Do you know what Iceland's three biggest exports are?" the Viking with a fistful of forfeit-shot glasses asks me. I definitely don't know, but I also don't want to drink any more Brennivín, an Icelandic schnapps which means "burning wine." And it does burn. Fucking loads.
I have to take a shot for every export I can't name, and I learn the hard way that "jumpers" and "those hats with like big tusks on them" aren't correct answers. One I do get right, though, is " EVE Online."
EVE is that game you sometimes hear about in the news when a giant spaceship battle results in players losing actual people money's worth of stuff. It's made by Icelandic Vikings, CCP Games, in Reykjavík, and it's a game I've become obsessed with. One of the reasons for this obsession is the EVE Fanfest. Every year, for an entire weekend, players of the game from all over the world descend upon the Icelandic capital and take over the city.
One of the main events at the Fanfest is the Dev Pub Crawl, where players and developers are whacked into teams together and trawl some of the best local boozers. It's talked about at the festival with the same kind of revelry that some dicks have for Glastonbury's Shangri-La. For the players it's a chance to get together with teammates and enemies alike, forget about space warfare and get fucked up. The team thing put me off at first, conjuring images of university sports squads drinking shots of Corky's out of each others' assholes. But that kind of shit doesn't go down on EVE's crawl.
Related: Watch our documentary about Icelandic strongmen
On the night I joined them (March 20), the players gather in the main hall of the festival and are assigned a team with a handful of the studio's devs. The whole thing's headed-up by a local girl who takes charge of the entire group, handing out beer tokens and leading the way. The devs are introduced and descend the stairs to their chosen theme tunes. My team, Five-0, come out to KRS One's "Sound of da Police," which is funny as they look like the only contact they'd ever have with the police would be to report their nicked iPhones. We're all handed a fistful of beer tokens, a couple of cans of Gull (basically Icelandic Budweiser) and a shot glass. One of the Vikings pours me my first Brennivín. We toast the start of the crawl and I immediately hate the stupid jerk-drink as well as the stupid jerk-country that invented it.
On the way to the first pub, I meet some players who came from South Africa and Manchester. They all "fly" together in the game with the same faction, and ask me who I fly with. I answer "Ryanair" and the guy from Manchester loses his shit. I'll go on to repeat that joke again seven times that night before I annoy myself and retire it forever. One girl admits that she was thinking about not coming out because she'd heard some crazy stuff about the Fanfest crawl: "Last year, every team had its own flag but there were too many fights so they had to get rid of the flags."
Our team is made up of around 30 people, and we completely fill the first pub. We're all undeniably massive dorks, and I catch one American tourist smirk at the first of us through the door and say something to his friends. That same dude isn't smiling about three minutes later when there's a crowd of drunken space Vikings crowded round his table, downing pints. By the time we leave about an hour later, the American tourists have also gone, and I pray to the intergalactic gods that they're in the next pub.
I never get to know for sure, though, because I follow some Vikings I think I recognize into the next bar, order myself a beer and slowly become aware that I don't actually know anyone. I'm not even pissed, but I've managed to lose my entire team. I feel like I've let Team Five-0 down, but quickly text a dev friend to come get me. She finds me outside a shop which lets you have a photo taken looking like a proper old Viking. If it had been open, then after this bit of text you'd be able to see that photo. Instead here's my team:
We get more Icelandic beer in the second pub, and as the devs pose for photos with the players I move off to interrupt an intense-looking conversation. The guys stop talking as soon as they see me:
"Who do you fly with?"
Two of the guys laugh, but behind them I catch the eye of the Manc lad from earlier and he gives me a disappointed look I'm not comfortable with. As soon as the new group are satisfied I'm not from a rival fleet they continue their conversation. It's so in-depth that I struggle to keep up, until one of them yells "shots!" and the Brennivín makes a return. Our leader signals that we're off to the next pub, which I'm told is our penultimate call prior to reaching our final destination. I don't bother to question how three pubs somehow constitutes a crawl, because everyone is nice and the booze is free. I've been drinking with way worse people for the sake of free alcohol than Icelanders who mis-categorize a night-out.
By the time we leave for the third pub, the streets are rammed full of fellow crawlers in various pissed-up states. I walk with one bearded guy from Ontario who's been to the last three Fanfests and proudly shows me his collection of lanyards. "I never went on a pub crawl at college, and didn't know what to expect," he tells me.
I feel a bit sad for my new friend, and invent a situation in my head where he was bullied at uni by the posh dicks from The Social Network. This probably isn't too far from the truth though, and possibly the reason he says the pub crawl is the highlight of his year.
The Vikings I meet in the final pub have almost run out of schnapps, and it shows. "Have you tried Brennivín?" they ask while they fill their shot glasses with the final remnants of the filth-liquid. Deep down, I really want to be a Viking, so I gingerly hand over my glass.
"Vikings loved Irish women," I'm told. "You're probably related to me!"
I don't think so for several reasons, so answer: "I'm Welsh, mate," and start to walk off.
"Well, I'm sure we'd love Welsh women, too," is the reply. "What are they like?"
I don't know how to begin to answer this question, but it doesn't matter because we're hurried off to the last stop of the evening, an old theater that CCP have rented for the night. The place is absolutely rammed full of drunken sci-fi Vikings and I love every single one of them because they don't give a shit. Hundreds of girls and dudes (okay, mostly dudes) who back home might get the piss ripped out of them for loving an intricate space game that demands entire lifetimes of play to get anywhere worthwhile. Here though, as the EVE Online theme tune, "Harden the Fuck Up," plays for the third time that night, they crowd the stage, exchange sweaty hugs and throw some nerd-shapes.
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