A Saudi student has won an award for game design at the prestigious 2023 Yugo Bafta Student Awards.
Rafif Kalantan, a Master's programme student at the National Film and Television School in the UK, won the award for her puzzle game Eros Xavier's Love Solutions. She's the first female and non-European to win the award in the gaming category.
The annual Yugo Bafta Student Awards – instituted by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, or the Baftas – celebrate the works of talented students from around the world. This year, the organisation said it received a record-breaking 754 submissions from 30 countries, spanning narrative film, animation, documentary and video games.
A total of 15 finalists were chosen from 79 previously announced shortlisted projects. All directors on the shortlist are then given the opportunity to apply for and join Bafta's New Talent programme, which includes year-round access to online events.
This year's winners were announced at an event in Los Angeles on Thursday.
“I am honoured to have been selected as the winner of such a globally renowned award, especially being the first female director and first non-European to win this category,” Kalantan said. “This wonderful achievement also showcases the capabilities of the developers from the kingdom and the Middle East as a whole, and how the game industry in the region has a lot of potential.”
Eros Xavier’s Love Solutions is the culmination of an intensive two-year Master’s programme that aims to provide students with the skills and creative knowledge to design and build games, from inception to delivery. In the narrative-driven puzzle-like game, Eros Xavier, a retired cupid who is cynical about love, decides to open a private business for hire as a “match-breaker”.
Kalantan's programme is the result of a partnership between the UK's NFTS and Saudi Arabia's Neom Media Industries – an initiative that's part of the multibillion-dollar mega-city. Last week, 18 Saudi students headed to London to join workshops at the NFTS campus led by filmmaker Shakil Mohammed.
More than 300 Saudi graduates have benefited from Neom's initiatives, with 180-plus embedded in productions or industry internships, and 30 securing full-time roles.
“This remarkable accomplishment is a testament to Rafif's exceptional talents and marks a momentous beginning for her journey, and I'm sure she will achieve great things in the gaming world,” said Wayne Borg, managing director of media industries, entertainment and culture at Neom.