The Open Source Afro Hair Library is a brilliant and empowering project.
Feelgood Friday: The Artist-Professor Fixing Black Hair in Video Games
Character creation is a staple part of MMOs - and one facet that many (myself included) can spend hours of potential game-time on in order to achieve the ‘perfect look’. One that we’ll invariably end up hating within the first few hours anyway. But fine-tuning superficial aspects such as jawline, eye colour and cheekbone shape can feel like an integral part of the game, despite them rarely impacting the mechanics or narrative in any meaningful way.
However, when it comes to Black avatars, the distinct lack of options in one particular area is sure to cut down character creation time significantly: hairstyles. Short of the standard array of afro, cornrows or dreads, Black hair in games often falls woefully short on variety. And even those can find themselves butchered by bad textures and patterns.
Which is why Oakland-based artist and UC Santa Cruz assistant professor, A.M. Darke, has taken it upon herself to provide developers with an extensive library of Black hair assets. As reported by Vice, The Open Source Afro Hair Library is the industry’s first free database of 3D-modelled Black hairstyles, set to release on Juneteenth (19th June) 2023.
The library will provide game developers with a free collection of 3D assets that will significantly bolster options for Black hair beyond the stereotypical selection. And by sourcing the assets from Black artists - each providing a single character bust with at least nine unique hairstyles - Darke hopes to help make poorly-executed Black hairstyles in games a thing of the past.
The library will also function as a gallery to normalise Black inclusion. And, despite being a while away from launch, can be viewed in such fashion right now, with examples and backgrounds on all the contributing artists thus far.
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Credit for Hero Image: Malika Mutombo/Open Source Afro Hair Library