When she started playing games as a young girl, Maru Nihoniho never thought she would end up starting her own game-development business. In fact, Maru didn’t take a straight path to the gaming industry at all, instead finding her way there after 14 years working in hospitality, and a nagging belief she could make the games she spent her weekends playing.
“I really did enjoy technical drawing, computers and science at school, I was hands-on and so curious,” she says. “Everything I enjoyed back then makes perfect sense now that I’m making games.”
Starting from scratch
With no experience in any area of gaming (except as a player), Maru started by taking herself off to the world’s biggest gaming conferences in San Francisco and Los Angeles to learn game development on the go. “And I needed to find a publisher to pitch my idea to,” she says.
In 2003 Maru started her own game-development company, Metia Interactive. Her next trip overseas resulted in signing with a publisher for her first game, Cube – a 3D mobile puzzle game.
“Now I make games for kids like me who need a different style of learning,” Maru says. This includes SPARX, an award-winning desktop game designed to help young people learn skills to cope with depression and anxiety; and Tākaro (which literally translates to ‘game’ in Māori), which teaches coding concepts.
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“I’ve turned making games into something more meaningful, where I can put educational themes or learning objectives through the games I develop now,” says Maru. “That’s my purpose within this business.”
As the managing director of Metia Interactive, Maru remains hands-on with game design and development, before overseeing the programming and final production. Maru is also bringing Māori culture to her tech, with the launch of the mobile game Guardian Maia, drawing on the mythology of Māori culture – a project she envisaged before even stepping foot on her gaming journey. – Jo Khan
Maru’s study and career pathway:
>> Founder and Managing Director, Metia Interactive
>> First game Cube published
>> Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to the gaming industry and mental health
>> Masters of Technological Futures, Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand
This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Code 2019.
Author: STEM Contributor
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