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A young man with an afro hairstyle holds a blank sign with two different emotions

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The Open Source Afro Hair Library, which will debut on Juneteenth 2023, will serve as a rich free database filled with a diverse mix of Black hairstyles for video games, Vice reported.

The initiative is spearheaded by UC Santa Cruz assistant professor A.M. Darke, who wants to normalize Black inclusion within the game industry. Darke said she felt compelled to create the “open-source platform dedicated to Black hair” after she failed to find Black hairstyles on popular 3D asset websites. Instead, Darke was shocked to see a number of offensive-looking caricatures of Black men and women from hyper-sexualized Black female tropes to “Jim Crow era mammies and the minstrels,” the 36-year-old said.

“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,” Darke, who teaches Digital Arts, New Media, and Performance Play and Design explained. “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 has set out to recruit a team of all Black 3D artists to create the free database that will be filled with usable 3D assets for gaming and animation in addition to an online gallery to help bring positive Black representation to the video game world.

The Oakland-based artist argues that Black hairstyles in games like WWE 2K and the Elder Scrolls have been drastically limited or poorly designed. Other games offer a limited number of styles for Black gamers that don’t extend past cornrows, afros, and dreads. Designing more inclusive hair types can be rather difficult considering the unique textures and curls of Black hair, but Darke believes it isn’t impossible.

“With every problem, chances are there’s already some Black people who are thinking about this, who are working on this, know how to do it, and just we have not asked them,” she added. “My thoughts were, ‘We know how to do this, but may not have the time, the material and communal support to author on our own visions.’”

Since launching the project, Darke has been able to grant the first round of selected 3D artists $1,500 stipends for their designs. So far, six artists have been selected to create one character bust showcasing “nine unique hairstyles,” and they have complete creative control.

Check out a sneak peek of what you can expect to see in the Open Source Afro Hair Library here.

 

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