One of the biggest gripes for African/Black gamers is the continued lack of options when it comes to hair in gaming. So when I hear that Oakland-based artist and UC Santa Cruz assistant professor A.M. Darke decided to take matters into her own hands and create an open-source afro hair library, I was happy to hear it!

According to ViceNews, she started recruiting Black artists for the Open Source Afro Hair Library, the industry’s first free database of 3D-modeled Black hairstyles. The library, slated to launch on Juneteenth 2023, will function as a source for usable 3D assets for gaming, animation, and other ventures as well as an online gallery to inspire and normalize Black inclusion.

In the article, she talked about the difficulty in finding references for Black hair, and when she did find a workaround, most of it was offensive, to say the least. Anyways, I support initiatives like the one from assistant professor A.M. Darke. The more active we have to bridge the gap the better it will be to create a more refined and excess amount of options in future video games.

Yes, I am aware that Black hair can be even more difficult considering the curls and the unique textures of Black hair and how it interacts with characters, environments, and other geometry. But it’s not impossible to overcome. It’s just a matter of importance and how much time and resources you are willing to allocate to the project.

“Artists have forever been working within the limitations of the available technology and pushing them to the limits, to meet their creative aesthetic goals,” Darke said. “And so the problem there is that it’s a lack of imagination, an impoverished view of blackness. So if you can’t imagine blackness, then you’re not going to make it.”

“These days a lot of Black and brown people do work on these teams,” Harris said. “When making hair like ours gets pushed to the side or treated like a side project or something that gets worked on if there’s time, it sends a message to us and to their own team members that not only are you less than, you’re not even going to be considered if we have to spend too much time on you.”

Oakland-based artist and UC Santa Cruz assistant professor A.M. Darke

I wish the team all the best in the endeavor to create a more diverse option of hairstyles for both men and women!

The Open Source Afro Hair Library is slated to launch on June 19th, 2023 also known as Juneteenth in America, a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the emancipation of African-American slaves!

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