Open Source Hair Library (OSHL) and Dove have teamed to release the Code My Crown guide on creating Black hairstyles for video games.
The free resource provides references and source code developers can use to make accurate-looking Black hair. Studios have received criticism for their portrayal of Black hairstyles for years, particularly games that heavily tout character customization as a feature, such as the Mass Effect games or Starfield.
How hair works is a larger issue the industry is still trying to crack. As the number of Black characters in games has grown, their hair has only recently improved in current titles like Street Fighter 6 and the Spider-Man games. And for Black players, said hair is one of the first things that gets highlighted (or derided) first and foremost.
OSHL founder A.M. Darke noted how games have yet to reflect the "incredible variety" of Black hairstyles seen in real life, and how earlier games had "low quality" Black hair, if they had it at all. For Darke, Code My Crown was both a way to help the industry improve and take it to task for its previous handling of Black hair.
"How else can we explain the ubiquity of matted Cornrows, bald patches instead of parts, giant disco 'Fros, and the messy, Unstyled Locs?" she said. "Why is a common Fade or Twist Out rarely an option? It communicates that Black players and our culture are an afterthought, that our stories aren't worth telling."
"For all the technological advances in the gaming industry, the depiction of textured hair and protective styles continues to be limited...and not representative of the breadth and beauty of its real-world counterpart," reads the press release. "85 percent of Black gamers believe video games poorly represent textured hair."
74 percent of developers want to promote and learn how to code better textured hair in games, according to Dove and the OSHL. The guide was made by a team of Black animators, programmers, and consultants, which largely pulls from the most prominent textures and textured hairstyles missing in games.
Those 15 sculpts for each displayed hairstyle features step-by-step instructions, along with 360 degree photo mapping and insight into its cultural significance.
Code My Crown's guide can be downloaded here for free.