I Spy 🗿
March 15, 2024 3:20 PM   Subscribe

moai.games is a list of 954 examples (and counting) of moai seen in video games, compiled by MeFi's Own game designer gingerbeardman. Why? "Moai are cool. And video games are cool. Oh, and lists are cool too." Read the NintendoLife interview for background on the project, get educated on the history of the grand sculptures (and real-life efforts to preserve them), or if you crave mo' moai, check out MoaiCulture.com's "Popular Culture" page for a comprehensive illustrated guide to 500+ moai in television, film, animation, comic books, literature, poetry, music, board games, magazines, advertising, and more.

Fun fact: the moai emoji (🗿), which has become memetic shorthand for a vaguely stoic or deadpan feeling, may look like the stone faces of Rapa Nui but is actually based on the famous moyai statue outside Tokyo's Shibuya Station, an homage gifted by the people of Nii-jima to commemorate their incorporation into the city. Long a popular meeting place, its iconic place in Japanese culture was reinforced when Rapa Nui donated an original moai to the coastal city of Minamisanriku as a token of resilience and strength following the 2011 earthquake, replacing their own moyai that had been lost in the ensuing tsunami. Interestingly, the word moyai is a word in some Japanese dialects meaning "working together" or a type of long-term social support group, which makes the homage particularly apt.
posted by Rhaomi (9 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Let’s get this out of the way: dumb dumb give me gum gum.

Okay, now I go read the links.
posted by ashbury at 4:24 PM on March 15

Rapa Nui donated an original moai to the coastal city of Minamisanriku as a token of resilience and strength following the 2011 earthquake

It sounds like they donated replicas, not original moai?
The original replica was made with stone from the mainland. The new one, made with stone from Easter Island, arrived last December and was displayed in Tokyo and Osaka.
posted by zamboni at 5:35 PM on March 15

Fantastic post!
posted by evilmomlady at 6:31 PM on March 15

I'm sure the Gradius series alone accounts for an easy dozen entries.
posted by JHarris at 7:08 PM on March 15 [5 favorites]

The whole Lego Bionicle world, despite being pretty well written (Greg Farshti?) --games, packaging copy, comics, at least two movies and a very old video game that I used to play with my kids -- was a very, very avid borrower of Polynesian cultural elements, including lots of straight-up language takings. I haven't followed too closely, but I gather that Lego has been fairly contrite and abandoned the project a while back. I've got mixed feelings about that sort of thing, not being a big religion fan in general. Colonialism bad, though - yes, obviously.
posted by wolfpants at 8:25 PM on March 15

Came for Space Harrier, which I think is actually the first encounter I had with any kind of visual representation of them as a nipper, left satisfied. There are so many!
posted by Jon Mitchell at 8:53 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]

People are wringing their hands about cultural appropriation over in the tiki bar thread while here... it's all celebration about these heads appearing in games for no reason other than they're an object?

I don't feel like I understand any of how people judge these things anymore.
posted by hippybear at 10:12 PM on March 15

hippybear, my understanding is that tiki plays a more active role in contemporary Polynesian faith traditions, whereas moai are more of a historical artifact along the lines of the Egyptian Sphinx, Greek and Roman temples, or Viking iconography. The ancestor worship surrounding them died out before first contact with Europeans, and most of the statues were toppled by earthquakes and internal clan wars, only to be excavated much later. Descendants of the original builders obviously value them (they draw visitors worldwide and are an iconic symbol of the island), but they don't worship or revere them in the way the original builders did; the vast majority of inhabitants today are Catholic.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:15 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]

As a Chilean, but not Rapa Nui, I think it's weird how widespread the use of the Moai is, but not really that offensive (to me). You'd have to ask an actual Rapa what they think, of course.
posted by signal at 2:21 PM on March 16

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