SimP in review
Victoria Weatherall Dr Khyla Russell
Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin NZ
Dr Samuel Mann email@example.com
Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin NZ
Abstract 2.1 2006 Justification
The SimP project is a multiyear collaborative project SimP is a large scale initiative: M ori Game Design, or
that aimed to convey and strengthen M ori culture, tikaka M tauraka whenua, moana, t kata ki te rorohiko.
and knowledge using innovative and cutting edge The project aims to convey and strengthen M ori culture,
technology. In short, the project aimed to provide a tikaka and knowledge by initiating a process of
means of telling M ori stories in 3D game format. This participatory M ori digital media design using 3D game
paper provides a review of the project. technology.
This development will have benefits in terms of both The project recognises that M ori culture is a vital part of
technology and culture and the fusion of these two: Iwi what distinguishes New Zealand from the rest of the
digital content. The project has achieved this through world. It is intended that the project will assist in the
active engagement and participation. creation of 3D game-based M ori digital content so that
Keywords: M ori, computer education, culture, distinctly M ori voices, stories and cultural content can
indigenous, game based learning, participatory be encouraged and promoted.
development This development will have benefits in terms of both
technology and culture and the fusion of these two: Iwi
1 Introduction digital content. The project will achieve this through
This paper is an initial review of the recently completed active engagement and participation. It will:
SimP project. 1. Develop a process of participatory game development
SimP , first described by Mann and Russell et al. (2006) for M ori cultural content
was a collaborative partnership between the Otago 2. Development of SimP toolkit to enable 1 (above)
Polytechnic and K Papatipu R naka o te tai o Araiteuru.
The project aimed to convey and strengthen research 3. Develop structures for use of resultant GameP
aspects in regard to M ori culture, tikaka and knowledge 4. Develop a new subject area and capability: that of
using innovative and cutting edge technology. The training digital storytellers
funded project was completed in May 2009.
Note: SimP is shorthand for the whole project; GameP
The contribution of this paper is to provide an overview refers to the developed game for each individual r naka.
of the project from two perspectives – that at the start and
end of the project. Visual representations are used to There are three major justifications for this project.
provide structure for this analysis. 1. The risk of M ori knowledge being lost due to the
reduction of hap knowledge repositories.
2 2006 Intentions
2. The well publicised negative statistics of educational
The text here is summarised from previous papers (Mann outcomes for M ori.
and Russell 2006). Although edited for space, the
substance remains the same. 3. Consequent to (2), lack of skilled practitioners of
M ori digital content.
This dual need, of content and capability is recognised by
Iwi as both a limitation and an opportunity:
This quality assured paper appeared at the 22 n d “…communication technology is providing new avenues
Annual Conference of the National Advisory for our people to be enriched and contribute to our Kai
Committee on Computing Qualifications (NACCQ Tahutanga regardless of time and location.” (p17 Ng i
2009), Napier, New Zealand. Samuel Mann and Tahu Vision for 2025, and Vision for 2025). The
Michael Verhaart (Eds). Reproduction for academic, importance of M ori digital content is also key to the
not-for profit purposes permitted provided this text
Government’s Digital Strategy:
is included. www.naccq.ac.nz
M ori culture is a vital part of what distinguishes New
Zealand from the rest of the world. ICT can be used to
help create the conditions for the realisation of the
diverse forms of M ori potential. It is crucial for the
future of M ori and of New Zealand as a whole that
distinctively M ori voices are encouraged and promoted
It is important for New Zealanders from all walks of life
to be able to create and use their own digital content in
order to create value (social, cultural, and economic) for
themselves, their communities, and our nation. (p12)
M ori are both creators and consumers of content and
distinctively M ori content is particularly visible in the
areas of: broadcasting; the arts and creative industries;
as well as the education, health, and business sectors
including tourism. M ori digital content is important not
simply for its economic potential, but also as a vital
means of expressing M ori culture in today's society and
into the future, strengthening M ori society and identity,
telling M ori stories to other M ori, and communicating
with the wider world. Hence the importance of content
being created and maintained in the M ori language.
2.2 2006 Model
This project brings together two components: the stories
and the computing. By uniquely combining these
aspects, a combination of benefits are made available that
could not be accomplished by other means:
• Increase recognition, value and access to history and
narratives of local r naka
• Give local r naka a unique narrative tool (one that Figure 1: W naka process of participatory game
appeals particularly to younger generations). design.
• Provide a virtual meeting place for wh nau spread
nationally and internationally in which they can interact Objective 1: The development and testing of a
in their own landscape. participatory approach to game development. (Figure 1
• The project will involve generations of M ori in top middle)
gathering information and stories, encourage the It brings together people from within the Papatipu
preservation and creation of local M ori stories, increase R naka who will jointly learn about their own place and
the attractiveness of history to younger audiences and stories, and convert this knowledge to digital form.
make M ori culture, mita (dialect) and tikaka accessible
throughout the world. Objective 2. Develop a software tool for creating specific
M ori virtual environments: the “SimP toolkit” ~ he
Figure 1 provides an overview of the SimP process. A kohinga o ng mea rauemi. (Figure 1 top left)
key component of the project will be a series of marae-
based w naka. Each w naka will be kaupapa M ori and Objective 3. Develop and test tools for the use of games
participants will be immersed in tikaka M ori. in teaching M ori concepts.
Participants will learn about the traditions, environment, This encompasses specific research on the effectiveness
people and history of that place from local R naka elders of digital game based learning in a M ori context – use of
who are experts in M ori oral history and local the GameP (Figure 1 middle).
knowledge. Using the “SimP Toolkit”, participants will
work alongside the R naka members and supervisors to Objective 4. Develop techniques and practices for the
create a “GameP ” (a virtual environment representing a further use of GameP (Figure 1 lower).
place). Based on the knowledge of R naka members,
The resulting games will provide an interactive learning
participants will define the landscape, environment, and
environment for use within each Papatipu R naka. It is
features of cultural significance, such as food gathering expected that this will enhance their m tauranga M ori,
enable individuals to connect and have respect for their
landscape and historical stories. Each game will be the
intellectual property of each Papatipu R naka and
provide an indigenous tool for future development in version of the story, it is quite acceptable for you to tell
education and M ori business. We believe that this another version.
integrated model - using a resource that is interactive,
The software and equipment participants were educated
online and multiplayer - will provide measurable benefits
in was Adobe Premier Pro, Adobe Photoshop, Torque
for individuals, whanau, hap and Iwi.
engine gaming software, digital equipment handicams,
Objective 5: Develop a new specialist area in education: still cameras and data management of such equipment.
M ori digital content However we found that for most people the prior skill
level and time needed to master the Torque software was
We are developing a programme aimed at capacity
too great for the time we had to work with them, also
building within indigenous people. By combining cultural
participants wanted to see quick results so we ended up
knowledge with skills required for developing digital
having to hire a computer programmer to help R naka
game based learning resources, we hope to initiate a
complete the work that required use of the Torque
pathway to encourage careers in this area. This will
provide career opportunities in education, information
technology and business (Figure 1 right). Objective 2. Develop a software tool for creating
specific M ori virtual environments: the “SimP toolkit”
Objective 6. Develop a process of adoption of this
(Figure 2 left)
initiative beyond the collaborating partners
The “SimP toolkit” was created. This includes a suite of
This collaboration is not just between a single group of
software packages and game templates. At the end of the
stakeholders, but involves complex structures of
project, however, the “toolkit” is more about a process of
knowledge ownership. An important part of this initiative
engagement. The SimP toolkit has been much more
is the development of processes maintaining the integrity
about process – partnerships of ideas and capabilities –
of specialist knowledge and tikanga (Figure 1 lower).
than about the technology. The R naka all decided to
work individually and nominated representatives to lead
3 Review their respective projects. This aligned with the scope that
The SimP project was funded in 2006 by the Digital the R naka members would define what information was
Strategy through the Department of Internal Affairs. The important to them and how their resources would be
project was completed in May 2009. produced. All R naka representatives communicated
with their members to keep them informed on the project
Figure 2 provides an overview of the process from a 2009 and had the ambition of producing resources that would
perspective. be beneficial for all members.
Objective 1: Participatory approach to game While the project was explicitly funded on the promise of
development (Figure 2 top). game-based narratives, the Team spent a very great deal
The objective of bringing people from within the of time engaged in wider knowledge – and wider
Papatipu R naka who will jointly learn about their own applications of digital technology. For, example, one
place and stories, and convert this knowledge to digital R naka has had a long held special role as archivists for
form has been achieved. All R naka engaged in the the Iwi. They saw the potential for SimP to help with
process of developing digital M ori content through a this role. Before the Team could sensibly talk game
series of w naka. environments, they spent time helping the R naka with
editing and sustaining existing media.
The linear flow of the SimP development represented in
Figure 1 has been very much more organic in practice. Integral to the process was developing an Intellectual
Policy that ensured the R naka owned the rights to all
The recreation of the landscapes (the first stage on the their knowledge and narratives including the complete
original process) had a fundamental impact on the GameP .
R naka. Without exception, the engagement at that stage
was sufficient that further development (of the game Objective 3. Use of GameP in teaching M ori concepts
environment) was unnecessary. No groups developed (Figure 2 middle).
characters with scripted behaviour, in all; the landscape is The uniqueness and process of the project saw the
the foundation of the story. The R naka have had some R naka produce specifically tailored resources. In the
extremely interesting debates about digital representation original funding application the GameP were described
of images. For landscapes the debates are sometimes using deliberately ambiguous terms. This was to allow
pragmatic – how to represent an area one group insists each R naka to tell their own stories. However, we did
was always grassland whereas other families remember expect the project to focus on the original GameP and
playing in the forest that once stood there. For people that these would be “games”. We anticipated these
and stories, we need to recognise that there is rarely an GameP to be developed as robust products (along the
objective truth. As the stories become older, the lines of a packaged game). We also thought further
representation of a single image in a digital setting benefits would come from the use of the GameP in
becomes problematic – just what did this ancestor look marae-based teaching etc. None of the GameP would be
like? In part this was avoided by not having direct considered “games” yet these benefits did occur with
characters, but also by recognising that this is “our” most of the R naka actively using their GameP for
What we did not expect was the form of the GameP to in w naka, and in the learnings of the SimP team itself
vary so much. Resources were produced such as complex (Figure 2 right).
narratives that use the game environment as “film sets” To ensure access to information specific to the creation
and virtual landscapes combining the game environment and production of resources a w naka was held for all
with other digital media – primarily audio and video. R naka members. As expected (based on prior research)
While the stories are hosted in the game environment, this the attendees were teenagers and very enthusiastic about
was used as a platform for further engagement such as the information technology. Parents and supporters viewed
recording and production of documentary style interviews this w naka as an opportunity for the rakatahi to learn and
that share stories of the past and present. None of the develop skills that can ensure the continuation and further
five R naka GameP could be considered “games” development of such resources. Some of the R naka are
although all have made extensive use of the 3D gaming actively using SimP to connect with their youth. Other
environment. These resources give access to the training and w naka that were held also provided
matauraka that they convey as well as the knowledge opportunities for participants to develop their ecapability.
used to create them. They also provide a means of access
for members regardless of their location in the world. The partnership has evolved significantly. The most
important change was a realisation that to achieve the
Objective 4. Develop techniques and practices for the use outcomes the SimP team had to be indistinguishably
of GameP both Otago Polytechnic and Iwi. The most successful
In addition to surprise at the form of the GameP , we also capacity building has been of this evolving team. We see
did not expect the R naka to move so quickly to using the this as a very positive outcome. The project has taken far
skills learnt through the SimP developments to develop more partnership negotiation than we ever imagined.
further applications (Figure 2 lower). This has been constant and evolving. We believe that this
model of engagement could be the model for further
The measures of success can be viewed not only by the partnership.
physical outcomes and ongoing use and production of
further resources, but by the actual process of Objective 6. Develop a process of adoption of this
engagement and dialogical exchange itself. The best initiative beyond the collaborating partners
thing to come from the SimP project is the initiatives This collaboration is not just between a single group of
beyond the original GameP . This demonstrates a very stakeholders, but involves complex structures of
successful community adoption of digital media. These knowledge ownership. An important part of this initiative
initiatives have included both game environment form is the development of processes maintaining the integrity
and video form of GameP , but put to quite unexpected of specialist knowledge and tikanga. (Figure 2 lower
The subject matter has extended beyond the traditional Otago Polytechnic has also developed a proposal to use
stories to include contemporary narratives: the story of GameP to connect M ori living overseas back to their
Puketaraki’s new carvings, and Moeraki’s expedition to R naka that they are currently seeking funding to
Te Papa. develop further. This project will use virtual realities of
The relationship between SimP and landscape was people and places of t puna acting and interacting in
further explored by the t kou r naka who used it in these virtually created spaces. Kai Tahu people far from
visioning wetland restoration to reform mahika kai. home can access these histories and te reo of their places;
of ancestors and their deeds; of how to give this new
One of the final phases of the project is the ‘handing over knowledge to their children, many of whom have never
of both raw data and finished products’ before we set foot on these landscapes.
evaluate and write conclusion papers. There has been
surprise shown nationally and internationally (Russell and R naka are currently in discussion with the Ministry of
Mann 2007) that we were leaving the stories with the Agriculture and Fisheries and local R naka about using
respective Papatipu R naka. The assumption is that a the GameP format to create an interpretative resource for
project such as ours results in a contribution to a central Mahika Kai.
archive. We have taken a very different approach: we Further collaboration between Otago Polytechnic and the
have helped the R naka retell their stories to themselves. eW nanga Centre for Creative Teaching and Learning Te
In their new form they are still knowledge transmitted Whare W nanga o Awanui rangi is also in the pipeline.
and retained within each R naka.
Objective 5: Develop a new specialist area in education: 3.1 Conclusions
M ori digital content “SimP ” aims to integrate participatory digital
We had intended developing a specialist programme of interactive storytelling with M ori culture, tikaka and
learning aimed at capacity building within indigenous knowledge. The SimP project uses gaming software to
people. A Iwi Digital Practice Diploma programme was create various ‘GameP ’, which are virtual environments
developed and approved but did not run. based on actual places. These environments incorporate
the knowledge of R naka members, recreating sites of
We believe, however, that a new subject area is emerging. cultural significance and historical environmental features
This is apparent in the involvement of R naka members that have since changed with the passing of time. The
outcomes of this project were the completion of GameP knowledge e.g. telling migration histories, recording
and narrative films incorporating digital content with Te their oral histories, describing cultural, traditional and
R naka o t kou, Kati Huirapa ki Puketeraki, Te botanical education; kai M ori and karakia and tikaka and
Runanga o Moeraki, Hokonui R naka and Ng ti Awa. for memorial purposes. This has required the project team
Topics included migration stories, the virtual recreation to be adaptable and resourceful to adapt the original idea
of a wetlands restoration project and local oral histories. to fit the needs of the communities. This has been
essential for the project’s success. The team have also
Looking back, SimP is quite different to how the team
needed to adapt their approach to work not just with
first conceived it. Despite these differences, or perhaps
R naka but also with different whanau groups within the
because of them, the project has met their expectations.
One of the main lessons learned from this project is the
need to abandon a linear flow to accommodate a process The future usefulness and sustainability of the SimP
that is very much more organic. process is assured through the new projects both the
Polytechnic and R naka are currently pursuing.
At the start of the project the team proposed a process of
participatory development for each R naka. For each It is evident that there is a need to develop and offer
group they saw a process of helping the community different models of teaching and learning. Models that
identify important stories and then converting these vary in content, specifically iwi digital content, and
stories to a game-based environment. Of primary structure. A flexible structure and delivery that will be
importance to the original project was the “SimP beneficial for community users. eg: w naka, marae based
toolkit”. However the SimP toolkit has ended up being teaching, flexible hours, units etc.
much more about process – partnerships of ideas and
capabilities – than about the technology. In addition the 3.2 Acknowledgements
development of each GameP has been quite different to This collaborative project is developed as a result of the
what we expected. None of the five R naka GameP Memorandum of Understanding between Otago
could be considered “games”. All though have made Polytechnic and these R naka. This MOU is instantiated
extensive use of the 3D gaming environment. in the position of the Kaitohutohu and the K miti
It was hoped that the resultant GameP would be used in K wanataka. The SimP team has immensely enjoyed
engaging and educating the community. The original goal working with the following individual R naka, and the
for “Sustained interactivity” would be the use of these committee of the combined R naka of Arai te Uru.
GameP with R naka’s work with schools and possibly x Te R nanga o t kou
in tourism ventures etc. The intended target for the x K ti Huirapa ki R nanga ki Puketeraki
project “teenagers dis-engaged from both their culture x Te Runanga o Moeraki
and education” proved hard to hit. However the team had x Hokonui R naka Incorporated Society
most success with people in with young families (widely We would also especially like to acknowledge Kelly
recognised as crucial for cultural development), the very Davis from one of the key partners Te Matauranga
young, and the more mature. Some of the R naka, Putaiao Trust who died suddenly as the project got
though, are actively using SimP to connect with their underway. Kelly was a key figure in the project and is
youth. However the use of SimP as recruitment tool for sadly missed.
students into computing did not occur. While the Team
believe there is still a role for the “M ori digital education Te R nanga o Nag i Tahu head office has also been very
specialist” it is difficult to see a predictable career path helpful in the SimP project. We are grateful for the
into this. assistance of (then CEO) Tahu Potiki and especially the
GIS expertise of Jeremy King.
The project has taken far more partnership negotiation
than the team ever imagined. This has been constant and We have also enjoyed working with Ng ti Awa,
evolving and is a model of engagement for further facilitated through Te Whare W nanga o Awanui rangi.
partnership. The most important change was a realisation The SimP team has evolved over time. The authors are
that to achieve the outcomes the SimP team had to be
grateful for the support of Paul Admiraal, Jenny Aimers,
indistinguishably both Otago Polytechnic and Iwi. The
Leigh Blackall, Amber Bridgeman, Justine Camp,
most successful capacity building has been of this Sunshine Connelly, Mark Crook, Rachel Dibble, Dougie
evolving team. The team sees this as a very positive
Ditford, Evelyn Davis, Gwyn John, Marlene McDonald,
Karen Love, Alistair Regan, Thomi Richards Lesley
Because of the partnership approach SimP has evolved Smith, Dana Te Kanawa, Andy Williamson, Jeanette
dramatically since its conception. R naka determined that Wikiaira, Vicky Wilson and members of the K miti
the landscapes should become a major focus; the K wanataka.
participants were so excited by the process of re-
imagining and re-building the landscapes that the notion 4 References
of the game format became less important. What is
happening now is that they are using these elaborate 3D
Mann, S., K. Russell, et al. (2006). M ori Game Design.
environments as film sets, as a way to tell narrative
19th Annual Conference of the National
stories. Each group has decided on a different approach
Advisory Committee on Computing
using their GameP to record a range of traditional
Qualifications, Wellington, New Zealand,
NACCQ in cooperation with ACM SIGCSE.
Ministry of Economic Development (2005). The Digital
Strategy: Creating Our Digital Future.
Retrieved March 1, 2006 from
Ng i_Tahu (2003). Ng i Tahu 2025. Christchurch
Russell, K. (2008) Two Cultures: Balances, Choices and
Effects Between Traditional and Mainstream
Education, Oxford Round Table, Oxford,
England. Copy of the full paper online here
Russell, K. & Mann, S. (2007) Worlds Colliding:
participatory storytelling and indigenous culture
in building interactive games. ICHM
Conference, Toronto, Canada. 24 - 26 October.