Microsoft launched Minecraft: Education Edition a few years back, for teachers to utilize the well-renowned title as an educational tool. It has received a variety of updates over time, even being introduced to iPads last year. In June, the Redmond firm teamed up with WWF to offer an interactive science curriculum for the game.
Now, Minecraft: Education Edition's New Zealand team has unveiled a brand new world for learners, focusing on the indigenous Māori culture in the country. Coromandel-based Piki Studios, the driving force behind the creation of the first official world for the title based in New Zealand, has now also become an official member of the Minecraft Partner Program.
Anne Taylor, Education Lead for Microsoft New Zealand, commented on the thinking behind this move, noting:
"This week is Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori [Māori Language Week], but if we want our indigenous language to remain a living, and thriving, part of our society it’s crucial that teaching and learning is carried throughout the year. That’s why Microsoft is investing in resources that inspire students to explore te ao Māori while having fun and challenging their imaginations – this is how we create a culture of lifelong learning."
Whetu Paitai, Game Designer at Piki Studios, managed to fashion a Māori culture-based world in a period of five weeks. Labeled Ngā Motu (The Islands), the area features extinct Moa birds, along with native Kiwis, flocking around wooden fences in pā (villages). There's also going to be harbors showcasing ancient canoe-like watercrafts known as waka hourua, and brave voyagers will soon be able to visit legendary water monster, taniwha, as well.
Students will be able to build wahrenui (communal houses), and also learn vocabulary from the ancient Māori language, te reo, through friendly guides and exercises. Furthermore, typical Minecraft swords will be replaced by the Māori weapon Patu. Paitai commented on the team's efforts in the following way:
"We’re believers in learning being organic, being able to explore all the elements, because nothing in our lives exists in isolation. Our mission is for everyone to be able to play these games and see more than just what a waka is – they’ll be able to see how it fits into that whole world."
The game designer was supported by two professional translators, Hemi Kelly and Piripi Walker, to ensure that the Māori cultural IP was maintained. Moreover, the language guides were modeled on Paiti's own children and their friends, to ensure that they are easily understandable for young learners.
The new world can be downloaded by anyone having a Minecraft: Education Edition license. To do so, you can check it out here at the Minecraft Education website, or learn more about Minecraft: Education Edition in New Zealand here.
Update: Microsoft has clarified that the new world is available to all those who have a Minecraft: Education Edition license. The information in the article has been updated to reflect this.