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Rotorua 01 July 2021: A first in digital gaming is about to go global.

The highly anticipated launch of indigenous gaming phenomenon Katuku Island is set for a 22 July launch and will be free to download on Amazon and Google Play.

Katuku Island is a player survival game with a unique indigenous overlay. Players must make their way to the only uncontaminated place in the world, Katuku Island. Along their journey, they create Māori warrior inspired avatars, design weapons, build tribes, and escape crumbling cities; while undertaking literacy and decision-making challenges.

The game is the upshot of a Māori academic’s master’s degree and doctoral research to close the gap for indigenous peoples and to learn how culture can create resilience.  

Dr Phyllis Callaghan (Ngāi Te Rākatō), is proud to “change the methodology to suit the narrative.”

“The virtual world of Katuku Island is aligned to a mātauranga Māori and indigenous framework, which shapes tribal avatars, backdrops, creatures, symbols, sound and music to optimise the gaming, cultural, motivational and educational components for the learner.  

“Katuku Island encompasses the fun of gaming, while promoting cultural elements to push the learner to excel in decision-making, indigeneity, inclusivity, mentorship and collaboration (tuakana/teina), imaginative play and creativity, while utilising their visual and spatial skills,” she says.

Dr. Callaghan has used ground-breaking research from her doctoral studies, which proved educational facilities who use cultural programmes that align naturally with its participants and include material used in their daily lives; negative experiences or trauma could be re-booted to become positive.  

“It has allowed an about-face of power and ascertained that students with minimal education can get a second chance at learning. They were able to master cultural talents, which came naturally to them, such as toi (art) or whakairo (carving). These codes had often lain dormant throughout their mainstream education and were overshadowed by negative codes they’d endured at school, such as racism,” she says.

“Katuku Island has a real-time assessment tool to identify areas the player shows mastery and resilience in, so they can turn negative experiences into positives and be encouraged to advance further. The tool also measures ‘culture’ from a tech platform, which showcases how culture can increase resilience when used in gaming.”

All artists and graphic designers who have worked on the design of the characters and visuals for Katuku Island, hail from award winning whakairo programme run out of Tūranga Tane (Gisborne Boys High School) and developed by Dr Callaghan’s late husband, Craig Callaghan.

The programme was run from a small boat shed on school grounds, and was so successful, that at its height, over 600 students were learning whakairo every day.

Ex-student and now successful Kai Whakairo, Eru Brown, shares his experience on where it all began and coming full circle, while supporting Dr Callaghan on Katuku Island.

“I’ll always remember how Sir (Craig Callaghan) would repeat the same whakatauki – ‘Ahakoa he iti he pounamu’. He’d follow-up with, ‘despite this shed being small boys, it’s of huge value in so many ways. Look after it, it will look after you.’

“That shed sheltered a lot of lost young men and kept us safe, so it’s a huge honour and privilege to be part of a project like Katuku Island. However, it’s also bittersweet, knowing Sir isn’t here to see it finally become a reality after all the years of planning with Miss.

“I guess the only way for the boys and Miss to honour his legacy is to continue with the mahi he left us to complete. Ultimately, that’s what he would’ve wanted. ‘Mahia te mahi’ (Get the work done), as he’d always say.”  

Katuku Island is aimed at indigenous peoples across the globe, from six-year-olds onwards, with the player able to access instant feedback throughout the game. The launch on 22 July will be livestreamed on the Katuku Island Facebook page.

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