The Northland Age
Game brings history to life
A board game designed to explore an important period of New Zealand history has gone into production.
Devised by Professional Teaching Fellow Ruth Lemon and learning designer Richard Durham from the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education and Social Work, Hohi 1816 is named after the small Bay of Islands settlement that was home to New Zealand’s first school.
Ms Lemon said she started thinking about creating the game after she saw her first-year Bachelor of Education students struggling with the version of history they’d been taught at school.
“I wanted an interesting way of teaching a revisionist and accurate history of early Ma¯ori and Pa¯keha¯ engagements in which Ma¯ori were the initiators of events,” she said.
A lecturer in the Faculty’s Te Puna Wa¯nanga, she developed the game in her spare time, drawing heavily on the historical scholarship of professors Alison Jones and Kuni Kaa Jenkins for accuracy. In 2014, Professor Jones wrote:
“Earlier than many of us realise, Ma¯ori and Pa¯keha¯ leaders were establishing strategic relationships, from 1793, and a number of rangatira Ma¯ori travelled to Australia in the earliest years of the 19th Century, both to explore European society and to reinforce political contacts.”
Development of the game to production stage had taken about a year.
“I developed the first draft in a Trivial Pursuit style, but then I realised the question and answer format didn’t really fit my learning objectives for the game, which was to get my students to think critically about the ideas and form their own questions,” Ms Lemon said.
That was where learning designer Richard Durham came in.
“Richard did a fantastic job of redesigning the game from my initial concept to be much more suited to what I wanted it to achieve,” she said.
The game became more story-based, encouraging exploration, collaboration and critical thinking. Specialist board game designers from Nectarine Ltd created a rich colour palette, graphic design and illustrations.
Exploring the period from 1793 to 1816, and focusing on pre-Treaty engagement between Ma¯ori and Pa¯keha¯, the game involves co-operating players who must balance trying to reach the story’s final objective in the shortest time, while collecting as much knowledge as they can along the way.
Play revolves around three tasks: travelling to historical locations, exploring them, and engaging with historical characters with a focus on te reo Ma¯ori.
“It’s a non-threatening way to initiate and sustain discussions about historical events between Ma¯ori and Pa¯keha¯. It also provides a practical way for students to transfer this knowledge into their teaching careers, and potentially other career paths as well,” she said.
Hohi 1816 also had relevance to many other undergraduate and postgraduate courses in history, drama, human geography and environmental science.
The game would be used in teacher trainee classrooms at the Faculty of Education and Social Work, with wider distribution in future.