Afro Hair In Video Games Looks Terrible: These Black 3D Artists Are Here To Change That
The Open Source Afro Hair Library, set to launch on Juneteenth 2023, will be the gaming world’s first free database of 3D-modeled Black hairstyles.
Last year, Oakland-based artist and UC Santa Cruz assistant professor A.M. Darke started recruiting Black artists for the Open Source Afro Hair Library after she began to get frustrated with the lack of effort some artists put into ensuring Black characters had realistic Black hair.
For example, Monster Hunter World players didn’t see any Black hairstyles added to the game until the release of a paid expansion nearly two years after its initial release.
Instead – players who take it upon themselves to add new textures, assets, levels, and other modifications to games they love became the de facto way around this lack of representation.
But now the library, created by Darke, 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.
According to what she told Vice. Darke plans to create an anti-racist, anti-capitalist, and feminist approach to the portrayal of Black hair as well as a sense of unified ownership and investment in how the hairstyles are used.
“All of us can be caretakers, all of us can be stewards, all of us can look at the work and think about how to use it ethically and point out unethical practices,” said Darke, 36, who teaches Digital Arts, New Media, and Performance Play and Design. “I want to create a space that’s open for all Black folks to have this conversation about what we want this to be.”
Darke holds a B.A. in Design (’13) and an M.F.A. in Media Arts (’15), both from UCLA. Her work has been shown internationally and featured in a variety of publications, including Kill Screen, Vice, and NPR.