TBILISI: FNE spoke with Georgian game designer and animation writer Nanuka Sepashvili about her experience and activities in the video game and film industry.
FNE: When did you enter the video game industry and start working as a game designer? You worked several years for game 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 theater, I wrote plays that were staged in various theaters. Then I got an offer to work on video games as a video game writer. I started writing stories for games and realized that I was engaged in games, after which I started learning game design directly in practice, after which I continued to work both as a video game writer and game designer.
The Bonsters proved to be a hit in the Georgian Game Jam. With the game under vacuum, 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 Show Case at Casual Connect in Amsterdam in 2015. is a remarkable game festival that brings together many events. Here you have the opportunity to communicate with large 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 dealt with 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 approximately 150 games participated and we won with Upo: Alien rescue. The game is about aliens scattered in particular galaxies. Then there was the Casual Connect video game festival in Los Angeles, where we were part of the showcase, after winning the Appodeal competition.
FNE: Apart from the games mentioned, which of your projects do you stand out from?
Nanuka Sepashvili: I also created Cheswood Knights. In the game, instead of characters, you have characters who fight against the zombie state of the opponents. The visuals were different, and the most fascinating thing was that you didn’t have to wait for the opponent to do anything else, chess became much faster and more entertaining.
FNE: What is the situation in Georgia in terms of teaching game design in Georgia?
Nanuka Sepashvili: You can’t study game design at university the same way you study abroad. We only have a few programming courses and you have to learn game design directly during the game production process. It would be nice if companies set up their own labs where young people can come and work. We must reveal to the state the potential for investment 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 co-founder?
Nanuka Sepashvili: The objective 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 famous Dutch company Guerilla Games. When the industry isn’t vibrant in Georgia, it’s even more critical that people involved in that industry get in touch. We present Georgian games at meetings where guests can test or bring games. We include speakers who work for leading companies and we also organize panel discussions. The event offers a chance to create job opportunities for freelance developers through networking.
In the future, we will expand the platform, hold workshops internationally and more.
FNE: You work as a screenwriter on animation projects.
Nanuka Sepashvili: I worked for the children’s animated series Atinati as co-author. In addition to being a screenwriter, I was the voice actor for the main character. The animation is about a little alien boy, and the action takes place in a 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 favorite animation of all Georgian children. My current series will be released in 1-2 months. The liability is that it is a successful and established animation, and you must proceed with caution and not spoil 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 trades of directing, cinematography, lighting or acting in practice. By doing, you learn, you recognize the development from scene to scene, and so on. Currently, we are starting to shoot short films of 5 to 10 minutes.
FNE: What can you tell us about the current state of the animation industry in Georgia?
Nanuka Sepashvili: There are many talented people in the field of 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 must obtain funding through co-productions with other countries. We also have a problem with the distribution of animated films. It would be essential that these films be broadcast on television, for which they must show interest. In this respect, more communication is needed between these two sectors as well as between cinemas. We only have the opportunity to see these films at Georgian animation festivals, such as the Nikozi International Film Festival and the Tbilisi International Animation Festival.
FNE: How do you see the evolution of the relationship between the film and game industries?
Nanuka Sepashvili: The game industry is not as close to an industry as the film industry. Today, these two industries are similar, which has led to 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 movies, participate in them and choose what the hero decides to do, etc Recall black mirror TV series; they made a movie Bandersnatch based on the principle of the game. The story suddenly ends and the viewer has 15 seconds to decide what the protagonist is going to play, after which the story unfolds according to your decision, which connects these two industries.
Before aggravating the financial problem, it is necessary to explore the ideological connections, this will be facilitated by networking meetings to bring together the representatives of these two industries. When there is a connection, the ideas will emerge, the money for it would then start. A project can also be done with the aim of making a film that will have game elements. It would be fascinating to have such a project and such funding, because there are film professionals in the country who also paint for the games and work in the cinema, as well as sound designers and others.