Saudi Female Game Designer Wins First Student BAFTA For NFTS Games

On 27 July Eros Xavier’s Love Solutions took home the game award at the 2023 Yugo BAFTA Student Awards. Made at the National Film and Television School by a talented team of students, led by creator Rafif Kalantan, the win marks multiple huge milestones both for Rafif and the NFTS.

Celebrating the graduation of its 10th cohort earlier this year, the National Film and Television School Games Design and Development MA is thrilled to mark this anniversary with such an achievement.

We decided to sit down with Rafif and find out more about the development process of the game, collaboration and what it means to her to have won such a prestigious award so few months after graduating!

How did you come up with the concept for Eros Xavier’s Love Solutions?

Surprisingly, my inspiration was a writing prompt I saw on Instagram! I came across this writing prompt that was something along the lines of "What if there were match-breakers as opposites to matchmakers?" and I thought that would make a fun game, especially if the match-breaker is a Cupid who doesn't believe in love!

What were some of the challenges you faced when developing the game?

One of the biggest challenges was balancing the gameplay design properly, as we needed the player to place items around the environment in a way that seemed chaotic enough to cause the partners in the game to fight, but not too chaotic that it would be out of character for who we were trying to pin the action on. It was also a challenge producing the project, as it was a bigger team with more departments than I’d ever produced at the time.

still from game showing kitchen with smoking toaster from burning toast

What was your favourite part of the process?

My favourite part was coming up with weird ways to annoy the partner characters and hearing everyone's suggestions! I even saw people trying things during testing which inspired some of the solutions we have in the demo!

However, my absolute favourite part was seeing how much people enjoyed the game's demo during EGX in 2022 where the game was showcased for the first time. It truly inspired me to continue working on the game!

Who else was critical to the team throughout the process?

Our art director, Maryam Alzaabi, did a wonderful job with making sure the visuals of the game, as well as our socials and our booth at EGX, all had prominent aesthetics. She also helped with managing the other art collaborators and created many of the visuals you see throughout the game and on our socials.

still from game showing characters outside house

Our screenwriter, Amy White, helped a lot when it came to the direction of the narrative, and the script she wrote delivered so perfectly well what I wanted the game to feel like. We also had a great time working with our composer Harris Grant-Forster and our sound designer Itzel Gonzalez Estrada, both of which did an amazing job that we barely had revisions for the most part! We also worked with two marketing students: Benedicte Larrere and Dania Abudawood. Finally, our beautiful trailer was created by the incredible editor Donya Majidi-Maguire!

We also worked with a number of collaborators that were essential for the game including Nasr Bin Safwan, who did character design and avatars and some in-game portraits of the couples, Madiha Taha, who animated the cutscenes, and of course, the wonderful voice actor who player Eros Xavier, Paul-William Mawhinney.

What made you want to get games design and development training and what advice would you give to something thinking of doing the same?

I've been interested in making games since my undergraduate degree but at the time, my options were pretty limited in Saudi. I tried applying to studios abroad but I didn’t have enough experience, so I worked in an entertainment studio for 3 years to gain experience but also started looking into master's programs that could help me get the right experience I needed. A while later I found out about a scholarship program by NEOM at the National Film and Television School, and when I read about the Games Design MA, I realised it would meet a lot of what I was looking for, so I applied and ended up getting that scholarship!

If you're trying to find your way into the industry or if you don't know what role you'd like to work in I definitely think it’s useful. The course helps you make good connections and exposes you to different industry events and groups. The MA introduces you to the variety of roles in the games industry and helps you understand what they mean, which will lead you to figure out exactly which role would work best for you! 

What did it mean to you to win a BAFTA Student Award?

This win means a lot to me, because I am the first one in my immediate family to study and live abroad, so it’s very validating of all the efforts I've put in during my time here.

still from game showing interacting with radio

It also means a lot because this is the first time a Saudi student or non-European director has won a BAFTA and the first female director to win in this category! Not to mention it’s the first Student BAFTA win for the NFTS Games MA, and the first time a submission from a British school has won in this category.

Honestly, every time I think about it I feel speechless and left in disbelief! It means a lot to me to have represented my school, my country, and my region so proudly and at such prestigious awards.

'EXLS' writer Amy White accepting award on behalf of creator Rafif Kalantan
'EXLS' writer Amy White accepting award on behalf of creator Rafif Kalantan
What’s next for you?

I am currently considering speaking with different studios to develop Eros Xavier's Love Solutions with! I'm hoping this award will be proof of my potential for a full-time role in the United Kingdom, and I'm also looking forward to working with both British and Saudi studios on their games, and have already worked a couple of contracts with such studios!

Alan Thorn, Head of NFTS games said of the win, “I am hugely proud of Rafif and the team behind EXLS. The award stands as testament to the unique, creative and high-quality work that comes out of the NFTS Games Design and Development MA. I’m looking forward to seeing what Rafif continues on to achieve and what the course can develop into in its next decade of running at the School.”

To find out more about the course that helped Rafif find her feet in the games industry at


If you would like to get in touch with any NFTS alumni who worked behind the scenes on this award-winning game please contact

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