Maru Nihoniho MNZM shares her inspiring journey as the first Māori female game developer in the world at Kea Inspire 2017.
Maru is currently the CEO of Metia Interactive and completing her Master’s Degree in Technology with Tech Futures Lab.
Maru didn't so well at school but always loved gaming and saw the world differently. After dropping out at 15 and 13 years in hospitality she had an epiphany one day to chase her dreams. She enrolled in a course and when she graduated, learnt, read and researched as much as she could about gaming. She was determined to do something with her passion.
This led Maru to a gaming conference in the US, maxing out her credit card she went. Returning with learnings and ideas, she coded and developed a game with next to no resources. She then maxed out her mother’s credit card and went back the following year. She pitched her game a hundred times to no bites, at the very end of the final day she was ready to give up, when someone gave her a business card and said they were interested. She didn't believe them and came back to NZ feeling like she’d wasted her time and money.
In 2007, a well-known company by the name of Playstation, offered her a contract for her game CUBE. The contract offered her no financial gain but instead a stepping stone of exposure into the industry. She signed it, developed the game and sold 10s of thousands of copies around the world but financially she was exactly where she started.
Her interview with 95bFM dubbed her the world’s first female Maori game developer, which led to The University of Auckland requesting her to work with researchers and academics on developing a game to help young people navigate depression. 4 years later the game was launched in 13 languages in 20 countries around the world. For this Maru received two awards from the United Nations World Summit in 2009 and 2011 and one from UNESCO netexplo in 2013. She was made a member of the NZ Order of Merit, (MNZM) in June 2016 for her services to gaming and mental health, and in 2017 was the winner of the Innovator Award at the Women in Games awards presented by MCV Pacific and Xbox. Her work was also published in the British Medical Journal.