Member Profile: Maru Nihoniho

Posted Monday 27 Mar 2023

Member Profile: Maru Nihoniho

Maru Nihoniho (Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau a Apanui, Ngāi Tahu, MNZM), is the founder and Managing Director of Metia Interactive, an award-winning Auckland studio which specialises in designing and creating game art assets. 

Maru and her team at Metia created the company's flagship video game Guardian Maia which draws on the mythology of Māori culture.

Guardian Maia has just received funding from the NZFC's Interactive Development Fund which supports concept development of original, narrative-focused, interactive and games content delivered on any platform. 

How and why did you get into the gaming industry?

I love playing games. I spent just as much time playing spacies or arcade games as I did at school back in my high school years. Little did I know at that time that playing, designing and developing games would be my career path in the future. I got into the games industry as I wanted to design and develop games that were centred in Te Ao Māori. When I played games, I always thought it would be awesome if there was a Māori character to play. So in all the years of playing and not seeing Māori representation I decided to make that game.  

What kind of things could you be doing day-to-day in your current role?

I am a trained 3D artist but my main role is a games producer/designer.  I work with ideas and break down every phase of development from pre-production to full production. I organise 3rd parties and ensure they are scheduled to deliver what we need externally of the development, for example, music, sound effects, motion capture or testing. I make sure the team works to schedule and take care of the budgeting required to make these games. My favourite part of my day-to-day mahi is story development.

What strengths do you need to do your role?

Be creative, almost anything is possible in game worlds. If you can imagine an interactive world there are so many tools out there to bring that world to life. Be an agile and fast learner, be prepared for change as it happens often in the tech world. 

You can do formal training in game development but it's not necessary if you have the drive to take the time to learn online there are alot of free resources that help. Never stop learning, I'm learning new stuff everyday.

What are the things you love about it?

One of my favourite parts of my role is story development. I enjoy brainstorming, thinking about branching logic and game design scenarios.The best part is seeing a design come to life in the digital world.  You can spend months or weeks working on a game before you start to see it visualised. Then comes the interactivity when you see your characters moving and the world comes to life.

What advice would you give to other women who want to enter the industry?

Creative tech is challenging and fun and whatever you pursue in tech make sure it’s what you want to do.  Follow the path that keeps you inspired and motivated. Find people that are doing what it is you want to do and ask them questions, ask them for advice.

What advice do you wish you’d been given/ or wish you’d taken and why?

'If it's really what you want to do then just do it. No one can stop you, only you can do that'. It took a while for me to move ahead as I was unsure and not that confident but once I took that advice in I was on a roll.  I'm a naturally shy person and I had to break through that barrier and once I did it all worked out just fine. You won't get it if you don't ask or try, don't be afraid to fail, it's just a learning thing and you get better.