Indigital: creating game-changers
Two Waikato brothers are igniting the next generation of Indigenous digital innovators through combining mātauranga (Māori knowledge) with gaming technologies.
Kawana and Wiremu Wallace (Ngāti Uenuku, Ngāti Tuwharetoa, Ngāti Rangi, Tainui) from Rahui-Pōkeka (Huntly) have developed many bilingual digital games and software to help more communities learn te reo Māori (the Māori language).
The brothers, who co-founded MyReo Studios, have a dream of having bilingual games seen as mainstream in Aotearoa New Zealand - so they are also passing the rākau (baton) to the next generation of Māori digital innovators.
“When I was at university, I was the only Māori in my robotics engineering class,” Kawana says. “I wanted to change that.”
Wiremu [left] and Kawana [right] teaching tauira (students) at Te Wharekura O Rakaumangamanga.
So in 2018, Kawana and Wiremu joined forces with OMGTech! (the Pam Fergusson Trust) to design and run a digital technologies programme called Kaiwhanake Taupānga Māori (‘Māori game developers’). The year-long programme enables youth in Rahui-Pōkeke and Ngāruawāhia to explore gaming software, digital art and creative coding through a Māori lens.
At one session in Te Wharekura O Rakaumangamanga, tauira (students) used Construct 3 game development software to develop a Māori language learning game for toddlers, where an audio clip of a word played when a shape was tapped, or dragged and dropped onto another shape.
Karipori, 13, says “I have never learnt this before. It’s been really cool to learn how the games are made and to make it. I’m really enjoying it."
“It’s new and fun. I’ve really liked making all the different types of games,” adds TeRa, 13.
Tauira creating the home screen for the todder game.
Although the toddler game itself is very simple, it is created using commands that are based on computer coding language, which tauira can immediately apply to more complex games.
The rangatahi at Rakaumangamanga have already created a wide variety of games, such as those involving shooting enemy spacecraft, lining up the same symbols in a puzzle, and getting a kiwi to collect bugs while avoiding different dangers (similar to 90s video game Sonic the Hedgehog).
“I love playing games but I never thought about how they were made,” says Te Rapaki, 13. “I’m playing them differently now as I know how they move and how they were made.”
14-year-old Maarire adds, “It’s been really cool getting to experience all the technology that goes into making the games.”
Hermione, 13, points out that it’s not just coding or using game-making software. “I really liked learning how to create the digital art to put in the games.”
Tauira putting together the coding for the todder game.
Tumuaki (Principal) John Heremia says it's vitally important to connect tauira with digital technologies in a way that is culturally relevant.
“In the future, this is going to be the way in which we preserve our culture and stories,” he says. “Before, we had oral and written ways of preserving our mātauranga and our ancestors used mallets and chisels to preserve it."
“Digital technologies are the mallet and chisels of today. They are as much a part of us as any other tools we have used in the past.”
OMGTech! with Kawana and Wiremu are now rolling out Kaiwhanake Taupānga Māori to more kura (schools) and tauira across the Waikato and beyond for 2019.
About the project
Kaiwhanake Taupānga Māori is run by OMGTech! in partnership with MyReo Studios, with support from the Unlocking Curious Minds contestable fund. Find out more
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