How Respawn Worked To Get Māori Legend Mad Maggie Right

How Respawn Worked To Get Māori Legend Mad Maggie Right

The newest addition to the Apex Legends line-up with the arrival of Season 12 is Mad Maggie, and she is an absolute badass through and through.

A trailer showcasing Mad Maggie’s abilities was released on February 3rd, demonstrating her quick pace and specialty in close combat. Her passive and ultimate abilities are what she uses to move super fast and her Riot Drill can smash through cover and shields, which many have noted is a perfect and long-awaited counter to defensive giant Gibraltar.

She’s also Māori, which is a culture that is rarely seen or represented in video games in a way that is culturally accurate or respectful. Sure, we’ve had Polynesian characters in games, but generally, they’ve been a mish-mash of multiple different Polynesian cultures, which has made many Polynesian gamers feel as if their cultures are being merged for cheap representation.

The team behind Apex Legends have joined forces with the CEO of Māui Studios Vincent Egan, and voice actress Nicola Kawana who voices Mad Maggie and is Māori herself, to try and get her right and represent a Māori character in a way that accurately showcases Māori culture. So how have they done this, and why?

Mad Maggie
Image: Respawn

In a roundtable interview with lead writer Sam Gill, concept artist Brett Marting, Vincent Egan, and Nicola Kawana, Kotaku Australia learned of the work that went into creating Mad Maggie.

When discussing what went into the creation of Mad Maggie, Gill explains that while Apex Legends takes into account what communities have been represented in the game, the reason for Mad Maggie’s introduction into the series was ‘a very selfish one’. Gill is himself a Kiwi living in Vancouver, so incorporating a Kiwi character as an Aussie foil felt like bringing something of home into his work. That fans around the world will now know and understand traditional Kiwi phrases like ‘kia ora’ and ‘kia kaha’  in context means a lot to him.

The team also learned from the mistakes of past representations of Polynesian characters by taking a step back and allowing Māori voices to guide the conversation around who Mad Maggie is. Gill mentions that the first mistake they could’ve made was assuming that from his Kiwi background, they would be able to fully understand and properly represent a Māori character, which they avoided by engaging with people in the community. The guidance from and co-operation with Egan and Kawana allowed for Maggie’s character to be fully fleshed out and culturally accurate.

Egan explains that the co-operation also extended to present players of Apex Legends as well as others in the Māori community.

“Talking to people that play Apex Legends and having friends that have enjoyed the game, I was really keen to sit down and talk to each of those individuals and get their perspective on what would be some things that would be cool to include within that,” he explains. “We represent the culture in a lot of ways being young Māori, and with anything that comes to Māoridom we like to see what our community has to say on certain things.”

Marting also mentions that in designing the character visually, the team worked with artists at Māui Studios to get her look right in a way that fits her persona as well as her heritage, noting that the Māui Studios team designed the patch on the front of her costume.

Mad Maggie's Patch
Mad Maggie’s patch. (Image: Respawn)

Egan then goes on to explain just how important working on accurate representation is to not only the community but to the team at Māui Studios. “Just being able to see that there’s a character that we can relate to and we can really connect with, and seeing that that’s an opportunity that we can have on a global platform, those on the team were just throwing different ideas at me and there was a really organic feel to it. That was a really cool and fun process.”

In terms of Mad Maggie as a character, she is also canonically 55 years old, and the representation of older female playable characters is also something that we do not see very often. That being said, I’m not including mystical characters that look like they’re 12 but are actually 300 years old. Ana Amari in Overwatch was a big deal when she was introduced into the game as a playable character in 2016, with many noting the importance of showcasing older women in a way that highlights their strength and badassery. Kawana notes that women become ‘more interesting the older they get, and ‘more kick-arse as well’. “It’s really exciting to be involved with something that’s exploring not only ethnic diversity but the ages of women on screen”.

In the case of Mad Maggie, her age is relevant to her Māori background and Egan elaborates on this. “I know in a lot of cultural portrayals of Māori, there’s a lot of these big tough males and all of that sort of carry on,” Egan says, “But when you really dig down into the depths of it, it’s actually the women who are the leaders, it’s always the nannies and the aunties who are running the show. So I think it’s a nice nod to that concept as well.”

Discussing her portrayal of Mad Maggie, Kawana says she feels ‘honoured’ to be able to portray her and took inspiration from the women in her life. She mentions the ease as her ‘aunties were quite terrifying, way more terrifying than the tāne [men]’ in her family. She goes on to explain that it was the women that were always the most ‘ferocious’, and were the ones to stand up to men and not take shit from anyone.

Mad Maggie
Image: Respawn

While some may not care about the topic of representation in games, many feel more engaged when they can see representations of themselves in the media that they consume. The accuracy of the representation of cultures like Māori culture can give players a greater sense of immersion as well as allow people to gain a deeper understanding of the culture. When representation is done right, it can be beneficial in many ways.

In terms of looking for responses to the introduction of Mad Maggie into Apex Legends, I found that many were excited for her to be playable in-game. I also found that a lot of people were, um… Very horny for her. Which is fine. If I included all the tweets of “Mommy? Sorry. Mommy? Sorry. Mommy? Sorry.”, this would be a much longer article. It’s clear to see that people love older women that could realistically beat the shit out of them, I guess?

Mad Maggie is playable now in Apex Legends.

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