Moving Through Strangeness: Using Virtual Reality as an Interactive Immersive Environment to Inhabit Pūrākau from te ao Māori

Beren, Verradia Lee Ngapire
Bennett, Gregory
Paul, Nova
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Master of Design
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Auckland University of Technology

The phrase “Putting the Noble Savage to bed,”1 came from Timothy Russell’s talk at Play-by-Play 2021 and inspired me to embrace my Māoritanga and te ao Māori in the development of interactive immersive environments. To “put the noble savage to bed” is to change the way Māori characters (and other Polynesian identities) are represented in games. While it is not the sole focus of this research, it was a driving force in beginning it. This study attempts to determine the effectiveness of virtual reality (VR) as a medium of storytelling and visualizing pūrākau (stories/myths/legends). Shifting the traditional story from an oral tradition to an immersive and interactive narrative experience, it considers how evocative the game’s perspectives are and what that does to the player experience. The research focuses on environmental storytelling and wayfinding to see its influence on and navigation through a VR space. The pūrākau used here is the story of Hatupatu and Kurungaituku. This pūrākau centres around the meeting and conflict of Hatupatu, an ancestor of mine who hailed from Te Arawa, and Kurungaituku, a half-bird half-woman ogress. To do this, the Iterative Design Process (IDP) merges with Pūrākau (as a methodology), combining the two, we playtest fundamental elements, and thus, resulting in an artefact.

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