FNE Film Meets Games: Q&A With Georgian Game Designer and Writer Nanuka Sepashvili

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    Nanuka Sepashvili Nanuka Sepashvili photo by Salome Maisuradze

    TBILISI: FNE spoke to Nanuka Sepashvili, Georgian game designer and animation writer, about her experience and activities in the gaming and film industry.

    FNE: When did you get into the gaming industry and start working as a game designer? You worked for several years for gaming companies - Rikkir (Canada) and Bonsters (Georgia) - as a game designer.

    Nanuka Sepashvili: I had my first professional experience in the gaming industry in 2014, when the industry was taking its first steps. Before that I operated in the theatre, wrote plays that were staged in various theatres. Then I received an offer to work on video games as a video game writer. I started writing stories for the games and realised that I was engaged with games, after which I started learning game design directly in practice, after which I continued to work as both a video game writer and a game designer.

    The Bonsters turned out to be successful in the Georgian Game Jam. With the game Under The Void, we came in first place in the best game story in Game Jam and second place in the best game category. After that, we were invited to the Show Case at the Casual Connect in Amsterdam in 2015. This is a notable festival of games that brings together lots of events. Here you have the opportunity to communicate with big companies and hold meetings with a mass audience.

    At that time I started collaborating with the Canadian company Rikkir. In addition to games, we were developing an app that took care of improving people’s mental health, which was a big responsibility. In partnership with the company we participated in the Appodeal Indie Game Blast Off Contest in America, where about 150 games participated and we won with Upo: Alien Rescue. The game is about aliens that are scattered in peculiar galaxies. Then there was the Casual Connect video game festival in Los Angeles, where we became part of the showcase, as a result of winning the Appodeal competition.

    FNE: Apart from the mentioned games, which of your projects do you single out?

    Nanuka Sepashvili: I also created Cheswood Knights. In the game, instead of figures, you have characters who fight against the zombie state of opponents. The visuals were different, and the most fascinating thing was that you didn't have to wait for the opponent to do something else, chess has become much faster and more entertaining.

    FNE: What is the situation in Georgia in terms of teaching game design in Georgia?

    Nanuka Sepashvili: You cannot study game design at university in the way it is disciplined abroad. We merely have a few courses in programming, and you have to learn game design directly during the process of producing the game. It will be good if companies set up their own labs where young people will be able to come and work. We need to reveal to the state the potential for investing in the industry. In addition to the state, private money is equally important.

    FNE: What can you tell us about the platform - Georgian Game Industry - of which you are a co-founder?

    Nanuka Sepashvili: The goal of the platform, which was created in 2018, is to increase the network of developers and strengthen networking. I co-founded the platform with game designer Luka Kvirikashvili, who worked for the well-known Dutch company Guerilla Games. When the industry is not dynamic in Georgia, it is even more critical for people involved in this industry to get in touch. We introduce Georgian games to meetings where guests can test or bring games. We include speakers who work for leading companies, and we also conduct panel discussions. The event provides a chance to create employment opportunities for indie developers as a result of networking.

    In the future we are going to expand the platform, host workshops at the international level and more.

    FNE: You work as a screenwriter on animation projects.

    Nanuka Sepashvili: I worked for the children's animated series Atinati as a co-writer. In addition to being a screenwriter, I was the voice actor of the leading character. The animation is about a little alien boy and the action takes place in one Georgian family. We started working on the project in 2021 and are currently in the post-production phase. After that I worked on Jose, a favourite animation for all Georgian children. My current series will be out in 1-2 months. The responsibility is that this is a successful and established animation, and you should proceed carefully and not ruin it. Currently, I have started writing my own animated film script.

    I am currently taking an experimental film production course. The course involves the simultaneous study of the craft of directing, cinematography, lighting or acting in practice. In the process of doing, you learn, you recognise development from scene to scene, and so on. Presently we start shooting 5-10 minute short films.

    FNE: What can you tell us about the current state of the animation industry in Georgia?

    Nanuka Sepashvili: There are many talented people in animation in Georgia, who participate in many international festivals with their own projects. Unfortunately, there is no systemic support and the only source of funding is the Georgian National Film Center. Georgian authors have to obtain funding through coproductions with other countries. We also have a problem with the distribution of animated films. It would be capital for these films to be shown on television, for which they need to show interest. In this regard more communication is required between these two sectors as well as between the cinemas. We have the opportunity to watch these films only at Georgian animation festivals, such as the International Film Festival Nikozi and the Tbilisi International Animation Festival.

    FNE: How do you see the development of the relationship between the film and gaming industries?

    Nanuka Sepashvili: The gaming industry is not as close to any industry as the film industry. Today, these two industries are similar, and this has caused an increase in the quality of games. If storytelling was not such an effective component in the gaming industry before, today the situation is completely different and there are games that you watch like films, take part in them and choose what the hero decides to do, and so on. Recall Black Mirror TV series; they made a film Bandersnatch based on the principle of the game. The story suddenly pauses, and the viewer has 15 seconds to decide what the protagonist will perform, after which the story unfolds according to your decision, which connects these two industries.

    Before we aggravate the financial problem, we need to explore ideological connections, this will be facilitated by networking meetings to bring the representatives of these two industries together. When there is a connection, the ideas will emerge, the money for it would then start. A project can equally be produced with the aim of making a film that will have game elements. It would be fascinating to have such a project and funding, because there are film professionals in the country who also paint for games and work in cinema, as well as sound designers and others.

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