COMMENT:

Nei rā te mihi nui ki a koutou katoa. Ki ngā tini mate o te wā, okioki atu rā ki Tūpaengarau, ki te urunga tē taka, ki te moenga tē whakaarahia. Ki te hunga ora e tū tonu nei kia hāpai ake ai i tō tātou reo rangatira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.

The fight to revitalise te reo Māori is ongoing and is fought on many fronts. It is fought in traditional Māori spaces like the marae, where initiatives aim to build language capability and capacity among whānau and hapū.

It is fought in classrooms around the country, using education as a tool to build a critical mass of speakers. It is fought in the homes of parents raising Māori-speaking children and through resources like children's books and cartoons. However, one space that is still crying out for the language is popular culture and new media. For me, this means gaming.

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I like to promote the use of te reo Māori in gaming because it is a space that connects so many people, Māori and non-Māori, and it spans the generations. In many ways it is easily accessible and, more importantly, it is a space that many people want to be a part of and interact with. Not to mention, gaming is a medium that connects with te reo Māori-speaking youth, a seriously under-served community in terms of resources and support Māori language use.

Dean Mahuta: Gaming represents language that continues to change and develop.
Dean Mahuta: Gaming represents language that continues to change and develop.

Gaming represents language that continues to change and develop, which means if te reo Māori is used in this space, it too can develop, thrive, and keep up with a changing environment. Gaming also provides a community that reinforces the language that is used when socialising, for example the language of friendship and humour, right through to the coining of new colloquialisms.

Over the years, one or two events have promoted te reo Māori through the medium of gaming. These events need to expand and continue. In 2018, Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, through the Mahuru Māori campaign, where people commit to speaking only in te reo Māori for an entire month, organised a Fortnite tournament, inviting Māori-speaking gamers to compete and enter into skirmishes, using only te reo Māori. Words like "kahupapa" for a player's armour, and "pū huna" for a sniper rifle were promoted. This event gave gamers a chance to hear the language in action; particularly entertaining was the sass thrown around between players.

A push for te reo Māori in game development itself is needed too. In the popular sandbox game Minecraft, Whetu Paitai of Piki Studios, using the Minecraft Education Edition, created the first immersive Minecraft world that not only teaches te reo Māori, but allows players to learn aspects of Māori history and culture in a fun and engaging way. Finally, te reo Māori content creation centred around gaming is another necessary tool for supporting the normalisation of te reo Māori. Live-streaming a game on platforms like Twitch, video content on YouTube in the form of game reviews, and even podcasts are important avenues for te reo Māori to be heard by gamers.

The use of te reo Māori in the gaming space adds to the normalisation of the language outside of traditional spaces. Further to this, it makes a tremendous difference to the profile of te reo Māori and, in turn, its perceived value.

Dr Dean Mahuta hails from Waikato iwi. He is a senior researcher in the Te Ipukarea Research Institute at AUT. He works primarily in the revitalisation of te reo Māori, the Māori language, and one of his key research areas focuses on the normalisation of te reo Māori in new media and popular culture.

Colour me in

Parewai Pahewa Johnson, a pupil at Te Kura Kaupapa ō Te Kōtuku, has drawn this illustration depicting te reo Māori at the heart of everything. Click here to open a larger format that can be downloaded.