Games, like maps, often forget to include New Zealand too

New Zealand pinned to a map so it won't get lost.
New Zealand pinned to a map so it won't get lost. Photo credit: Getty

It's not just map-makers that frequently leave out New Zealand - game designers seem to have a blind spot where Aotearoa should be too.

A section of web forum Reddit devoted to geographically-challenged maps missing the Land of the Long White Cloud has more than 62,000 members.

And US comedian John Oliver highlighted the phenomenon this week, his TV show Last Week Tonight providing its social media followers with a cut-out New Zealand to stick on "any map that needs it". 

Wellington gamer Jarrod Carmichael, who runs popular YouTube channel 3 Minute Board Games, says New Zealand gets the short stick from game designers too.

He's shared some of the most egregious examples on his Twitter account - for example Twilight Struggle, a critically acclaimed game about the 20th century ideological struggle between the US and the Soviet Union.

"Looks like we skipped the Cold War," he noted.

We're also missing from History of the World, Holiday! and Venus Needs Men.

But it's not all bad. We're absent from the maps for disease-spreading game Pandemic and the satirical War on Terror too.

"Avoiding the War on terror sounds ideal," he joked.

Jarrod says he first noticed New Zealand was left out of games while playing Risk while at high school.

"It's always been something that bugs me a little," he told Newshub. "Some games also have NZ depicted weirdly. Like the '80s version of Axis and Allies has the North and South Island merged into one land mass. That was weird."

He says gameplay reasons are usually behind our absence, rather than ignorance.

"I think that they just zoom in a little and exclude the Pacific in general, as it's a big ocean. I think we are collateral damage of people wanting to show as much land mass as possible when the planet is mostly ocean.

"And I can understand plenty of games not wanting NZ as a playable area, as it would be a little remote. Take the Pandemic map - there are only 48 areas on the board, so I can see why we didn't get included."

Sphere of Influence - like Risk, but better apparently - includes New Zealand.
Sphere of Influence - like Risk, but better apparently - includes New Zealand. Photo credit: Supplied

Some board games avoid excluding New Zealand by actually being about New Zealand.

"Conquest of Paradise is a great but complex game about the Pacific migration, and you can play Kupe and discover New Zealand.

"And Moa is a game where iwi of New Zealand native birds defend their home from colonial forces represented by rats, stoats and weasels. That one was designed by legendary English designer Martin Wallace as a result of him living by the Zealandia bird sanctuary for a number of years."

Jarrod says there's a better version of Risk out there called Spheres of Influence which does include New Zealand.

"Risk is a dated design - it's the Pong of board games. Like computer games, board games have been developing and innovating a lot. Newer games have had years of development to get better."

Kupe leads the Māori in Civilization VI. Photo credit: 2K Games

Speaking of computer games, the just-released Gathering Storm expansion to Civilization VI - which could be described as a board game on steroids - has the Māori
as a playable faction. But the long-awaited computer adaptation of Twilight Struggle failed to rectify its mistake, leaving us out despite our enthusiastic embrace of capitalism in the dying days of the Cold War.

Jarrod says New Zealand has some of the best board game designers in the world.

"Architects of the West Kingdom was designed here and is one of the biggest hits of last year, along with Endeavour, which was also designed by Kiwis."

Tourism NZ recently started a campaign to get New Zealand on maps, starring Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and comedian Rhys Darby.