How The Award-Winning Creator Of Cube And Tākaro Is Bringing Māori Culture To Video Games

Maru Nihoniho

Maru NihonihoCourtesy of Maru Nihoniho

Maru Nihoniho’s video games aim to change the world.

The 45-year-old game developer from New Zealand founded Metia Interactive in 2003, which has produced a series of games intended to aid depressed youth and introduce the rest of the world to the culture of the Māori, New Zealand’s indigenous Polynesian people.

The company employs six developers, made $300,000 in revenue last year, and has won international awards from some impressive places:

  • Cube, a puzzle game for PlayStation Portable, won a United Nations World Summit Awards Special Mention.
  • SPARX, a game designed to help young people – specifically Māori “rangatahi” — with depression, won the 2011 United Nations World Summit Awards and the 2013 UNESCO Netexplo Award in 2013.
  • Tākaro (which literally translates to “game” in Māori), published in 2017, aims to get more rangatahi and other youth into STEM, and likely contributed to Nihoniho’s win as Innovator of the Year in the 2017 MCV Pacific Women in Games Awards from Microsoft Xbox.
  • Her latest game, Guardian Maia, explores Māori culture through “Choose Your Own Adventure”-style text-based play. It’s been a passion project since before the 2007 launch of Cube.

Nihoniho dove into video games at age 11. The takeout food joint around the corner had arcade games, and she’d spend her spare change while eating fish and chips.

Metia Interactive

Guardian Maia, explores Māori culture through “Choose Your Own Adventure”-style text-based play.Metia Interactive

“I used to wonder how these games were made. I wSee more from the World’s Top 50 Women In Techas curious about how they worked,” she said. After a one-year multimedia course in 2003, she decided to found the company – the first in New Zealand to be run by a woman, she said.