Maori is the name of pokies game released by Endorphina, the brand gaming software that is based out of the Czech Republic and over the past few years has established a reputation for putting out high quality casino games to its clients. The company’s pokies are available through a variety of clients and even has expanded its scope as the software supports Bitcoin transactions.
‘Maori’ was released in the gaming market in late December 2016 and includes pokies reels depicting Maori men and women, waka, pounamu, stylised bone carvings and a rendition of the haka Ka Mate stylized bone carvings, which were quickly noted as cultural appropriation by Hapai Te Hauora, a public health agency.
At the time of release of the game Endorphina had announced that it “celebrates the cultural heritage of Maori people living in New Zealand, a visually mastered pokies that features full 3-D modeled characters in HD that allows great immersion into the game and the culture of the people.”
The Maori pokies game was officially introduced as the celebration of the cultural heritage of New Zealand. The remarkable culture, traditions and symbols were shaped over hundreds of years in complete isolation and we intended to pay tribute to it. After months of research and weeks of finalizing the finest details, the project resulted in a visually attractive and culturally on-point game that soon gained a lot of attention.
What made Endorphina to withdraw the pokies game?
It was the unauthorized use of cultural icons such as the pounamu constituted a breach of intellectual property rights of the Ngai Tahu, a Maori tribe. The game also featured Ka Mate, a haka – or traditional dance — belonging to the Ngati Toa. Maori public health advocacy organisation Hapai Te Hauora slammed the game for cultural appropriation.
On 2 February, Hapai Te Hauora posted a press release detailing Endorphina’s unauthorized use of cultural symbols. Hapai Te Hauora chief executive Lance Norman said the association drawn between Maori symbols and gambling is an “insult” as Maori suffer disproportionate harm from problem gambling in New Zealand.
According to him Maori intellectual property has been used as comforting and familiar inducements, with the potential to lure vulnerable people to online gambling. It’s use is particularly offensive to Maori.
Maori and Pacific adults are five to eight times more likely to become problem gamblers than other New Zealanders, a study published in 2016 found. The Ministry of Health followed 3000 randomly selected people over a two-year period and recorded how many of them developed clinical gambling problems.
Lead researcher, AUT University Professor Max Abbott had said the over-representation of Maori and Pacific problem gamblers in the study was due to their increased exposure to electronic gaming machines and lower standard of living.
A similar study into Maori problem gambling by Te Runanga o Kirikiriroa in 2015 found gambling had significant effects on the cohesion, cultural identity and financial stability of Maori families.
Electronic gaming machines, in particular, were identified as having an isolating effect on Maori from families and the community. The use of Maori cultural icons was not only insulting, but also illegal, Norman said.
Sovereignty over representations of cultural icons significant to Maori was enshrined in the Treaty of Waitangi, and remains in legislation in New Zealand.
Norman said Endorphina’s “abhorrent and unsanctioned misuse” of Maori culture in this way is not only a breach of New Zealand laws but is likely to breach similar laws in other jurisdictions.
Hapai Te Hauora called for Endorphina to apologise to all Maori, and to offer a specific apology to Ngati Toa Rangatira and Ngai Tahu, whose relationship with Ka Mate and pounamu respectively are protected by New Zealand law. Endorphina’s other culturally-themed pokies games include Voodoo, Viking, and Geisha.
Endorphina latest Press Release
According to Endorphina latest press release the game was available at online casinos and it was warmly welcomed worldwide and received very positive response from players. Despite globalization and their successes and achievements in certain areas, there are still many countries where people haven’t yet heard about Maori. Through the pokies game they wanted and managed to change that and raise awareness about this outstanding culture and its people.
Unfortunately, the game was not received well by everyone. Some New Zealanders and the authorities of certain tribes were distressed by the theme of the game and the fact that their culture and symbols were depicted in such detail in an international online game without prior notice. Hapai Te Hauora, the Maori public health agency, demanded the withdrawal of the Maori pokies from the game portfolio, as well as their official apology.
Press statement by Endorphina said that their main intention with the Maori game and with any other culture-oriented game is always to broaden the cultural knowledge, open-mindedness and understanding among people. The games are made to entertain people, and they want to give them an option to go on a journey to different worlds and realities without the need of leaving their homes. Also, it tries to convey the experience of exploring and discovering new countries to a wide audience worldwide, as not everyone is lucky enough to be given the privilege to travel and see the world themselves.
Creating a culture-related game, the software gamer do not intend to specifically target people that are related to this culture. They want to attract foreign players and give them an exclusive insight to different cultures — those that exist nowadays as well as those that don’t — like their Urartu pokies. This game was appreciated worldwide, and the positive feedback also came from Armenia and local players. When they receive positive feedback from the country the game was designed after, it is the most valuable recognition they can ask for as developers.
Edgar Mkrtchyan, Casino Manager at BetConstruct, stated, “Players in Armenia were truly delighted when we started offering Endorphina’s pokies Urartu to our partner V bet. So far, it has been the top-performing Endorphina pokies available in this market. It is exciting that Endorphina has created a game about the Armenian culture and the Kingdom of Urartu with a 3,000-year history. With this, they gained in favor with local players.”
Endorphina’s team is wholeheartedly sorry for this unfortunate situation, and their official apology has already been sent to Maori authorities. It was never their intention to insult the Maori or to cause any kind of cultural misinterpretation.
After the negative feedback, the game was withdrawn from their game portfolio, and necessary changes in the design are being made to remove all elements that could evoke any connection to Maori people and their culture. Even the Robert Novak, Head of Development at Endorphina it’s truly regrettable that the game couldn’t have stayed in its original design, as it was one of their most detailed and elaborate games.