Natasha Skult is an artist, a game industry professional, an academic and a hardcore nerd, who emphasises the importance of diversity in the games industry. She praises Turku for its open gaming community and the huge potential of talents graduating from the city’s three universities every year.
You moved from Serbia to Finland in 2008 with your Finnish husband, started PhD studies in arts at the University of Turku, and founded your own art studio. Why are you so passionate about arts?
Communicating through an image, especially with the new immersive technologies, is absolutely fascinating to me. I have always wanted to be an artist by profession. Before coming to Finland, I did my master’s degree at the University of Arts in Belgrade. I specialised in classical Roman painting techniques.
You have settled in Turku, learned Finnish and gained Finnish citizenship. How have you found integrating into Finland?
Turku made me the way I am now. I built my life here from scratch. I come from a metropolitan city, Belgrade, and first it was a shock to see how small Turku is. Things got easier once I found my people through the university studies and created my own hectic life here. I think Turku is cozy and the people are nice.
After several years of arts research and arts freelancing, why did you decide to work in the gaming industry?
Working alone has its plusses, but I realised that I needed people around me. The games industry is all about teamwork. I have been a hardcore gamer since childhood, so the shift from arts to games was smooth.
You founded the game development company MiTale in 2017 with a few colleagues from the industry. What is MiTale all about?
We want to break the boundaries of interactive storytelling, especially in the field of gamification and serious games. There has not been a big hit yet in this field. We want to experiment and question that.
You are one of the founders of the HIVE – Turku Game Hub, which was established in 2016. Who is the community for?
It is a non-profit organisation, a dedicated space for local game professionals to focus on their business potentials. Here we can discuss, co-create, and share all the good and the bad from our every-day knowhow. Turku Game Hub has been the longest-striving game business centre in Finland.
How would you describe the local gaming community?
It is small but strong, and it has been growing steadily for over a decade. In general, one of the biggest successes of the Finnish game industry has been the openness between the developers. If one struggles with any challenge, there is no question about asking for advice. This sort of feeling of belonging is important.
You also teach game arts and game design at the University of Turku. What is your contribution to the games industry through teaching?
I want to show the students that game development is not just about being a coder or an artist. A multidisciplinary approach is needed in creating a complete experience for the user. Very often game development is very technology-oriented, but you also need Humanists to engage the users emotionally.
You are active in International Game Developers Association (IGDA) and were recently elected as the chairperson of IGDA Finland. What do you wish to accomplish there?
Through volunteering at IGDA, I have gained not just a strong network, but also colleagues and friends for life. It enables me to give back to the community, empowering the next generation of developers.
What do you see in MiTale’s future?
We would like to scale up our business by growing with partnering companies and thus to support the local industry here. I think Turku has a lot to offer, not just for young teams but also more experienced ones. With its three universities, Turku has a lot of talents graduating every year.