Late last year, Endorphina released Maori slot. The slot game features Māori men and women. It also uses iconic images such as bone carvings, pounamu, waka and the haka Ka Mate.
In February 2017, the Māori slot disappeared. The Czech game developer made this decision after receiving protests from Hāpai Te Hauora, the Māori public health agency. They took offense at how the game makers describe the images.
Here are the reasons Endorphina removed the Maori slot and what the company did to make up for their mistake.
“Bastardizing” New Zealand culture
The game describes the symbols simply. Some descriptions are a “canoe with Māori voyagers,” and “a golden symbol with a stuck-out tongue.” Māori public health agency Hāpai Te Hauora called out Endorphina for cultural appropriation.
Anthony Hawke, general manager of Hāpai Te Hauora said:
“They are trying to say they can introduce Māori culture through a game made by a company on the other side of the world.”
Violating intellectual property rights
Sovereignty over representations of cultural icons significant to Māori is enshrined in the Treaty of Waitangi. It remains in legislation in New Zealand. The game uses pounamu symbols and violates the intellectual property of Ngai Tahu. The game celebrates winning three free games with the Māori haka. This violates the intellectual property of Ngati Toa.
The game is not only insulting, it is also illegal.
Luring vulnerable people to online gambling
Lance Norman, Hāpai Te Hauora CEO says:
“Māori intellectual property has been used as comforting and familiar inducements, with the potential to lure vulnerable people to online gambling. Its use is particularly offensive to Māori.”
Introducing familiar Māori elements to slot games can lure in Māori to play. This is problematic because many Māori suffer from gambling problems. In 2015, Te Runanga o Kirikiriroa conducted a study in Māori problem gambling. Gambling had a significant effect on the cultural identity and financial stability of Māori families.
Hāpai Te Hauora lawyers sent a letter to Endorphina, explaining the violations. The letter also asked them to remove the game. Endorphina reacted quickly and removed the game. Erlene May Rodriguez, Endorphina director issues an official apology.
The Hāpai Te Hauora was pleased with the quick response to their letter. Lance Norman, CEO of Hāpai Te Hauora commended Endorphina for taking this positive action.
“We think this Czech Republic Company should be an international example of how a misunderstanding around cultural representation can have positive consequences. We celebrate this response because it shows our people that we can create meaningful change and enhance understanding of our culture when we stand together and make our voices heard.”