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Code my Crown: Changing the Game for Black Hair in Video Games

We’re thrilled to see a brand new initiative from Dove and the open source afro hair library create ‘Code my Crown’ – a guide to the creation and celebration of Black hair textures and protective styles in video games.

The video games community has the power to create alternative realities whilst letting players feel seen and represented, but often options for Black hair are slim, with just 7% of hairstyles in the 4 top games in August 2023 offering textured or protective styles. 

85% of Black gamers think video games poorly represent natural hair, as referenced in the video below, which adds to a lack of sense of belonging for many Black gamers in this space. We spoke to Atari, who discusses why the campaign is so important.

“On the day of the shoot, I was filmed getting my hair done by Nai’vasha, a celebrity hairstylist, while having a conversation with A.M. Darke, founder of the Open Source Afro Hair Library. We all talked about my experience in gaming, and the lack of accurate representation of Afro hair in video games. We looked at some examples in games that felt like our hair was just an afterthought, and we looked at some examples in games that felt our hair was done with as much effort as white characters in the same games.”

Atari goes on to explain the process of the shoot, “A.M. and Isaac, who was a Lead Developer on the campaign, made 3D modeled versions of myself, including my hairstyle! We weren’t allowed to see the process until it was done, and I really appreciated that because the surprise you see in the video from the 3 of us women is real!”

The campaign shows how it powerful it can be, and the impact it can have on gamers today. Atari agrees, saying that “This campaign is important to me because it brings awareness to a major representation problem we have in the gaming industry, but it also brings awareness to the solution! This is a free guide that devs can use to make their characters look like the people who play their games, and that is worth everything to me.”

The Dove guide offers instructions, personal insights, detailed references and full open-source code, created by people within the Black community, for anyone to use to create characters in the digital world.

We recently saw BAFTA host a masterclass talking about the spectrum of authentic Black hair and makeup representation in games, as well as in film and TV, which featured Safe In Our World Ambassador Jerreau discussing the need for more authentic representation.

Also featured on the panel was Patron of Safe In Our World Danielle Udogaranya, who is known for her incredible work in creating inclusive 3d modelled hair, clothes and accessories, working directly with The Sims on the addition of over 100 skintones and afro hair. She recently had her work shown in an exhibition in Italy.

A powerful article from Evan Narcisse, written back in February 2017, discusses the lack of diverse options within the character creation process, mentioning that “I can reproduce my thick lips or wide nose sometimes. A goatee? No problem. But when it comes to head hair—specifically locks that look like what grows from my scalp—I’m generally out of luck.” Narcisse then went on to be a design consultant for Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales.

We want to highlight these fantastic resources in the hopes of more inclusive hair options being implemented in games, providing free resources to game devs so they can truly level up Black hair.

Download the guide