World-building game Minecraft and classroom version, Minecraft: Education Edition, have inspired millions of children the world over. Now young learners will get to explore the traditional world of Māori in block form, with the brand-new Ngā Motu (The Islands), commissioned for students to experience and build on life in a Māori pā and learn more about Māori language and culture.
“This week is Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori, but if we want our indigenous language to remain a living, and thriving, part of our society it’s crucial that teaching and learning is carried throughout the year. That’s why Microsoft is investing in resources that inspire students to explore te ao Māori while having fun and challenging their imaginations – this is how we create a culture of lifelong learning,” said Anne Taylor, Education Lead for Microsoft New Zealand.
Educators across New Zealand are already using Minecraft to transform learning, from learning programming with Hour of Code to designing sustainable villages and even reconstructing Gallipoli in-game. While Microsoft has previously released te reo Māori editions of existing resources, such as last year’s Voyage Aquatic and Hero’s Journey, this is the first time an official world has been created in Minecraft: Education Edition especially for Aotearoa. Game designer Whetu Paitai, of Coromandel-based Piki Studios, was given just five weeks to imagine a fun but educational teaching resource that reflected Māori language, culture and heritage.
The result was Ngā Motu, a truly immersive Minecraft world where mobs of moa and kiwi flock around the palisades of a traditional pā with a waka hourua floating in the harbour. Students can build their own wharenui and learn words in te reo Māori from friendly guides modelled on Paitai’s own children and their friends, or via in-game exercises. The game’s resource packs swap typical Minecraft swords for more appropriate patu and soon intrepid voyagers will be able to visit the taniwha living off the coast as the game grows.
“We’re believers in learning being organic, being able to explore all the elements, because nothing in our lives exists in isolation. Our mission is for everyone to be able to play these games and see more than just what a waka is – they’ll be able to see how it fits into that whole world,” Paitai said.
Paitai was supported by two professional translators, Hemi Kelly and Piripi Walker, to translate the instructions and language pack for the game. There were even some new words for some of the in-game Minecraft items.
“It was important to make sure te ao Māori was respected as its own being, the mana and cultural IP of each artefact upheld and maintained throughout the process,” Paitai said.
Soon Ngā Motu will reach an audience beyond New Zealand, as Piki Studios is now an official member of the Minecraft Partner Program, enabling it to add to the resources available in the global Minecraft Marketplace. For now, Minecraft: Education Edition will be available to classrooms in New Zealand, as part of Microsoft’s Schools Agreement that provides resources such as Minecraft: Education Edition to every State and State-Integrated school.
“Ngā Motu is a truly amazing resource for Kiwi students and teachers and we know they’re going to absolutely love exploring and building on this world,” said Taylor.
“The creativity and attention to detail with which Whetu has approached this project just blew us away. What he’s created goes way beyond what we could ever have expected.”