'Ignorant' Polish developers of Skyline Express board game sorry for Māori character

'Ignorant' Polish developers of Skyline Express board game sorry for Māori character
Photo credit: Facebook/Thistroy Games

A group of Polish board game developers have apologised after the imagery and name suggestions for a proposed Māori character prompted outrage online. 

Thistroy Games shared a post on their Facebook page promoting their board game Skyline Express, featuring an animated Māori character with face tattoos seemingly attempting to mimic tā moko. 

The post offered two options for the character's name - Kauri Tenadi and Koma Luna - and asked followers to come up with their own ideas. 

The post caught the attention of some New Zealand game developers, including Māori content producer Morgana Watson, who shared it on TikTok and dubbed it "ugly, culturally appropriated f**kery". 

'Ignorant' Polish developers of Skyline Express board game sorry for Māori character
Photo credit: Facebook/Thistroy Games

"Ignorant, 'designers' thinking they're doing something special but just repeating the same old crap on a different day," she captioned the video.

"Just stop bruh, you look stupid and this ain't it." 

The post angered Kiwi board game reviewing outlet 3 Minute Board Games, who tweeted: "F**k off with this shit right now." 

"This shit has me fuming. Absolutely shaking with rage," wrote Māori game creator and cultural consultant Liam. 

Meanwhile, another American game developer named Brenna Noonan shared a screenshot of a comment from one of the game's creators, Kamil Langie, seemingly admitting the team had not undertaken proper research or consulted any indigenous voices in creating the character. 

"Kauri Tenadi [is] taken from popular Maori names," the comment read. "Koma popped up somewhere searching for Maori names and Luna means 'leader' in Hawaiian. This 'research' took us a couple of minutes of googling so if we've made a mistake we're more than happy to correct it." 

Thistroy Games later removed the post and issued an apology, saying "any form of misrepresentation was unintentional" and the result of "vague knowledge of the culture presented". 

"Yesterday's post with an illustration of a Maori character sparked lots of comments pointing out how wrong and disrespectful this representation was. Our goal was exactly opposite to that. The game is about travelling and spending time with one another. From the very beginning, our main goal was to be as inclusive as possible," the statement read. 

"These characters called Personas are just a representation of the diverse cultures and identities among us. The post and its comments only show that we can learn a lot from each other and that even something that seems like a detail to one person can mean the world to someone else. 

"We understand that now and we would like to apologise to anyone who felt offended by this illustration." 

Not everyone was satisfied with the response, however. Whetu Paitai, founder of game design company Piki Studios, replied that he felt the apology missed the mark. 

"Take responsibility for the damage you caused, don't justify WHY you damaged something," he wrote on Facebook. 

"To be blunt: There is nothing for indigenous people to learn here, apart from being reminded, yet again, how much ignorance there still is in the world.

"When companies like yours attempt (for primarily commercial reasons) to use the identities of indigenous people and cultures with no connection to it, they are literally taking from a marginalised, vulnerable group to feather their own pockets.

"It is extremely despicable behaviour that has been overlooked for years in our board gaming industry. Do better. We are waiting for you to... sadly." 

Update - March 23, 2021: Since publishing this story, co-founder of Team Cardboard Michelle Arjona has contacted Newshub over their name being used in a screenshot. They wanted this statement added: "I'd like it to be clarified that I was speaking out against the lack of research in this case and my channel Team Cardboard is focused on diversity and inclusion in the board gaming hobby."