FNE Film Meets Games: Q&A with Ricardas Jascemskas, Project Manager of Lithuanian Game Developers Association

    Ricardas Jascemskas Ricardas Jascemskas source: Private archive

    VILNIUS: FNE spoke to Ricardas Jascemskas, project manager of the Lithuanian Game Developers Association (LGDA), about their current activities, as well as the state of the Lithuanian game development industry.

    Central and Eastern Europe is one of the most important locations for global games developers and studios, and artists in the region are increasingly working for both film and games. FNE looks at how these two sectors of the entertainment industry are converging and why this trend is important for the future development of both.

    FNE: When was the Lithuanian Game Developers Association founded and what have been your main missions and strategic projects so far?

    Ricardas Jascemskas: We are soon celebrating the 10 years anniversary of the Lithuanian Game Developers Association (LGDA). Formally it was founded in 2013 and our first projects started from early 2014. Initial drive was simply to gather like-minded game developers into an official organisation. Also, the organising of Global Game Jam in Lithuania was formalised in this way, as earlier it was an informal group of people taking care of this event.

    Our main activities mostly cover community events such as meetups, local game awards, Global Game Jam, workshops and industry visits to educational institutions. We also collaborate with various other organisations and join their events, for example the Lithuanian Animation Association and the animation and games festival BLON (visit our port city Klaipeda in September!).

    More widely, I think we as an association did a lot of work in helping the games industry and game development as a career to become more visible publicly. And especially recognised nationally within the cultural and creative industries field. It might sound trivial now, but it was not the case 10 years ago.

    FNE: What is the current situation in the Lithuanian gaming industry and what distinguishes it from the industry of other countries? 

    Ricardas Jascemskas: The biggest change in recent years was a huge jump in industry employees number. Back in 2019 we counted around 700 people working in the Lithuanian games industry. Now we have more than 2,500. Mostly, it was due to events in Belarus, when after the 2020 illegitimate elections many companies, mostly IT related, left the country and relocated to Lithuania. Among them were several large game developers, such as Wargaming, Melsoft, Belka Games, and others. Our local studios also had several successful years, so the expansion continued in several directions. For example, Nordcurrent acquired two studios in Ukraine.

    FNE: Video games and films are fast approaching each other and colliding. How is that reflected in Lithuania? Are there any initiatives being launched that bring these two sectors together?

    Ricardas Jascemskas: In our industry reports and in our association, we have several companies who work both in games and film industry. There is an organisation called Baltic Film & Creative Tech Cluster dedicated to uniting the studios and experts who work in these connected fields. Also, special funding programmes which focus on bringing more technology driven solutions into film industry. From the other side, gamedev studios often work together with directors, scriptwriters, composers and other specific talents from the film industry. 

    FNE: Which Lithuanian games would you single out that have had an international success?

    Ricardas Jascemskas: Lithuanian gamedev industry saw the largest growth in the mobile segment and the largest studios are focusing on this market. We had such global mobile hits as Cooking Fever from Nordcurrent, Johnny Trigger from Estoty, also successful kids games companies TutoTOONS and Pepi Play. During recent years, more PC and console developers have been emerging and finding their success in various niches. The biggest example is the game Human Fall Flat, which till now has sold more than 40 million copies on various platforms.

    FNE: Are there any films and animations from Lithuania that are being turned into games or games that are being turned into films, animations or TV series?

    Ricardas Jascemskas: There is one bigger brand coming from animation to games, but it’s in early stages and not announced publicly yet. But in general, this exchange of mediums is only starting and we haven't had any prominent examples yet.

    FNE: How much is the turnover and how much is the percentage of expected growth in the region? Are there any companies working on both games and film, who are they and what are they doing?

    Ricardas Jascemskas: We have last financial reports from 2021, where the Lithuanian games industry reached 225 million EUR. The numbers for 2022 are just coming in, but they look very optimistic despite the complicated situation around us. It’s hard to predict what will happen in upcoming years, everything will depend on the external situation and the games industry will feel the impact of whatever is happening with the economy. But I think we as an industry still have a lot of potential and hopefully will develop in a similar way Nordic countries did a decade or so ago.

    From the studios working in both games and film (and, important to mention, VR), the first ones coming to mind are Gluk Media, OKTA, OAK9 Entertainment, Iron Cat, Animatrix, Uraga, and several others. Mostly services companies, focusing on different aspects of production, such as 3D, animation, VFX, XR technologies and more.

    FNE: What can you tell us about your event GameDev CG Meetup – Summer 2023, which takes place on 8 June 2023?

    Ricardas Jascemskas: This is one of the examples of how we as an association try to involve a larger creative community. Usually we invite guests to share their experience not only from the games industry, but also from film, animation and other related fields. For example, this time we’ll host art director Giedre Kaveckaite from UK animation production studio KELEBEK, who has worked with Disney, Nickelodeon and Universal brands. Earlier guests included concept artist Vilius Petrauskas, who worked with our last year’s sci-fi film Vesper and famous games such as God of War Ragnarök.

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

    Ricardas Jascemskas: I’m a big fan personally of transmedia projects involving games, such as the recent striking experience of HBO’s The Last of Us (now trying to finish the second game). I tend to play story driven games, watch films and series with engaging storylines. So for me it’s amazing when a good story gets a chance to expand from its original medium. I hope we’ll have more interrelated experiences in the future and of course that some of these projects will be created in Lithuania.