I absolutely lost my cool upon discovering the character Hana in Destruction AllStars.
It may be small-island thinking, but I’m always so proud when I see Aotearoa presented in media. Especially so, if the medium is video games. So as I booted up Destruction AllStars when it went live for the PS5, and scrolled through its characters, you bet I was gonna lose it at Hana.
I’ll admit that at first I thought “Wait…is that Hana…OR HANA” (IYKYK). Then I saw the character bio. Then they spoke. And then the commentators said “Hana”, in the way only Te Reo can be said. And then I knew, that this character I was playing as, was Maori. I had truly packed it in by this point. My serotonin was through the roof. And the tweet reflected this.
So I had to reach out to some of the people who made this wahine toa come to life; The people who gave breath to Hana. And this is about when Acushla-Tara Kupe had discovered my tweet.
She lets out a lofty “KIA ORA!” as we descend into my admiration of Hana. Noting the sense of love and appreciation for the character and culture, I wondered if she picked up on this when she read for the role. “I did a little on the character, and her back story made me feel for her and I thought that would translate, which it has!”. I have to agree, as Hana feels wholly Maori and Kiwi as she travels the map. “I knew I was stoked to be playing a Maori character in the gaming world, but I don’t think I fully realized that the way it made me feel seen and represented was exactly what it would be doing for so many others. Watching the world react to this wahine toa is pretty exciting!”
It’s hard not to agree with the sentiment. The presentation of Hana felt flawless to me. This mix of sensibilities from rural New Zealand, and where we as a people could head in future, is exciting. I asked Acushla if this was the same for her. “Absolutely! She just feels really human you know? The writing team did such a good job at ensuring she was a fully formed character with an interesting and deep history, and her own motivations. Only thing I would’ve changed, is I wish I could’ve snuck more reo in there, haha!”
At this stage, I had to declare that I KNEW I had heard Hana say “e hoa” in-game! “That you did! And that’s actually a great representation of why this character is more than a caricature”. Caricature through cultural appropriation has been an on-going conversation in video games for some time. This in turn, makes Hana feel even more real, as the person represented the culture, rather than our oft lifted taonga. “The voice director on this is Kirsty Gillmore, who’s an absolute boss! She’s a New Zealander too. So in the booth she let me play around with a lot of little improvs including ‘e hoa’, knowing where it felt right for both the character AND culture.
That’s why it feels organic. Because it was.”
Capturing he tangata, instead of appropriating it, pays off in respect earned. And yes, touching on marketing, respect usually does pay off. But respect is easier said than done, yet Lucid Games is up to the the task. “A massive ups to Lucid Games for creating such a wonderful group of characters!” says Kupe. “The cast is so incredibly diverse, and wonderfully individual”.
And maybe because of how unique this cast is, it makes me think about how much fun it seems like Hana has in game. “I wish we’d recorded the booth!”. It’s great to see this fun reflected in how they captured Kupe’s voice for Hana. “There was a lot of laughing and ridiculousness that went on during the recording of Hana. At the end of each session, I felt like I’d done a workout!
She was an absolute joy to bring to life!”
The intersection for Hana and Kupe potentially meets there, as Acushla was an absolute joy to converse with. If you’d like to support her, then keep your eyes open! She has a TV show coming, and the upcoming video game As Dusk Falls. You can also see more of her at her website, and on Twitter!
And remember to check out Destruction AllStars, free now for PlayStation Plus subscribers, on the PlayStation Store!
Apologies for lack of macrons on the reo. My site breaks the characters 🙁 And thank you again to Acushla-Tara Kupe for their time and words!