Monday, 11 April 2022, 9:04 am
Press Release: Atawhai Creative
Monday 11th April 2022: The indigenous gaming phenomenon Katuku Island has been taking on gaming heavyweights recently collecting silver at the NYX Awards, New York City.
As Katuku Island’s website states “Kei te reri koe.. Are you ready”? the creative Dr Phyllis Callaghan (Ngāi Te Rākatō) certainly proved she is, with the hugely successful achievement of recently winning two silver awards at the NYX Awards, New York City. The awards were in the categories for best mobile game other and best mobile game innovation.
New York City is long considered a cornerstone of the gaming industry, therefore the acknowledgement received through these awards is incredibly impressive for Dr Callaghan and the Kakutu Island team.
In addition to the gaming accolades, Dr Callaghan was recently acknowledged for her leadership in business by being awarded Indigenous Community Support at the APEC BEST Business Awards. The APEC BEST Awards aim to contribute to the development of women entrepreneurs’ potential and provide participants with a chance to network and internationalise their businesses.
In particular this success has manifested in Dr Callaghan co-founding and co-chairing the Indigenous SIG for the International Gamers Development Association (IGDA).
Callaghan says her key role has been her involvement in the Indigenous education, gaming and research space. This role integrates with other amazing Indigenous women gamers from all over the world, all of who are doing incredible works internationally.
“What the APEC award and IGDA Board does is give indigenous gaming a global platform. I can see a global desire for authentic indigenous narrative’s to be told, especially in gaming, and having these international indigenous connections mean in the future, Katuku Island could potentially contain other indigenous stories.
“We also have a responsibility to map out a future for those coming in behind us, we need to grow capacity and capability and remove as many barriers as we can for indigenous story telling”.
These international acknowledgements and achievements clearly position Katuku Island on an international projection of supporting other indigenous cultures and communities globally.
Dr Callaghan says Katuku Island is a credit to her amazing team and the fact that they have not compromised on cultural integrity and authenticity, nor the drive to help Indigenous peoples become better at literacy; a by-product of Katuku Island.
“The amazing team of Māori artists, graphic designers, vocalists and score developers mean we are punching up there with some of the world’s best games, like Castaways and Dying Light 2.
“The innovation within the Katuku Island original story-line means we can keep producing series which a key to longevity in the gaming industry. With Katuku Island Two, ‘The Guardians’ in production, we are also looking to take elements of Katuku Island into the Metaverse. We are working with a large international company to achieve this, it’s a very exciting time for the small local team” says Dr Callaghan.
With new skins, more literacy and a bigger storyline The Guardians has the potential to gain further international traction and recognition for New Zealand and Indigenous global gaming.
With its release onto PC and MAC, it becomes more accessible to schooling populations. Katuku Island can now be leveraged as part of student’s English and Technology classes.
Dr Callaghan says the development team are committed to enhancing Te Reo Māori, working on software to allow players to name their own waka, maunga and tīpuna within the game itself.
“Māori do not have positive educational statistics. The research tells us that Māori do not do well in English, and the gap in the New Zealand schooling systems between Māori students and non-Māori students is widening. Poverty plays a huge part to these statistics. But gains are being made and the environment changing. Take for example grants for marae to have access to the internet. That’s a game changer for our tamariki (children).
“That’s why it was so important to me to ensure there were no barriers to access. Any child, or adult, can access this game for free. I see it as an indigenous resource that supports literacy development in a cultural environment and a platform that resonates with kids of all ages” says Dr Callaghan.
The game is also backed by 10 years of award-winning Masters and Doctoral research, which focusses on motivational cultural codes, like Toi, which enable success for Indigenous peoples. With over 50 years combined teaching experience and the research, it is well founded by both practical and academic discipline.
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