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Open source library gives Black hair in video games a much-needed makeover

By and large, Black characters in video games are stuck with poorly designed hair. When customizing an avatar, gamers can choose from a wide variety of styles for straight hair, but see Black hair relegated to basic afros, fades and cornrows.

Which is why A.M. Darke is building the industry's first free database of 3D modeled Black hairstyles. As Darke explains, "Functioning as both art practice and technological development, the Open Source Afro Hair Library seeks to address the lack of thoughtful representation of Blackness in games, virtual/augmented reality, and other 3D media."

The project called on 3D modellers to apply for a USD 1,500 stipend. Selected artists will create one character bust and nine unique hairstyles, with aesthetics and stylization prioritized over realism. The open source library is currently under development and set to launch on Juneteenth 2023.

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Nobody should have to sit down to play a game only to find that none of the characters resemble them, or that customization options don't include features they share. That lack of representation will only become more glaring as (social) life and entertainment grow increasingly embedded in virtual spheres. 

One solution is better hiring practices in the industry — a survey cited by the Black in Gaming Foundation found that just 2% of professionals working in the US gaming industry are African American

Another is for independent innovators like the Open Source Afro Hair Library to push for diversity. If your brand works with avatars of any kind, don't drop the ball! 

Related: Pinterest now lets users filter by hair texture, from protective to curly, and straight to coily — Snapchat rebuilds its camera to work for all skin tones