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Grabity: The Aotearoa-made video game that can help spread te reo Māori

There’ve been a few innovative initiatives to promote te reo Māori in Aotearoa lately using technology. There’s chatbots, TV shows, interactive sign language games, augmented reality (AR)-enabled colouring books, and more. Now, we can add a video game to that.

Award-winning local game designers Steve Salmond and Moritz Schlitter are helping to encourage more people to learn Te Reo with the launch of their new multiplayer brawler game Grabity. To do so, they’ve teamed up with Jack Potaka and Te Whainoa Te Wiata from the University of Auckland to make the te reo Māori version of the game available at the same time as the English version, which launched in late May.

Potaka says working on the project was a treat. “I am a bit of gamer too,” he says. “Te Whainoa and I have been working hard to make sure we capture the essence of the game, while also maintaining the integrity of te reo Māori in the process.”

Schlitter and Salmond formed independent game studio Team Ninja Thumbs in 2016, and have been working on Grabity for the past two years. Grabity won the 2016 Kiwi Gamer Starter award, was selected for the 2017 PAX Australia Indie Showcase, and was a finalist for the 2017 Play By Play and Chromacon festival awards.

Basically, Grabity is a fast-paced physics-based arena brawler, where players use gravity guns to turn nearby objects into projectiles or shields. “We both love classic couch multiplayer games and wanted to extend that same vibe to online play,” says Schlitter. “We’re striving to make sure that Grabity’s game modes are both fun and quick to learn, so groups of friends can easily play together.”

Easy to learn, but hard to master, is a core pillar of the Grabity design philosophy. “Essentially we made a game we love to play,” says Salmond, who describes himself as an avid gamer. “We concentrated on every detail, the way the controllers work, the way the characters move, the levels of difficulty, we made the best game we could make and the feedback from our testers young and old has been amazing.”

Salmond and Schlitter plan to offer Grabity – which retails for US$14.99 on Steam – on other platforms over the next year. Aside from te reo Māori and English, there are plans to also offer the game in German, French, Portuguese and simplified and traditional Chinese.

Check our Grabity here.

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