After years of being severely underrepresented and misrepresented in the gaming world, textured hair and protective styles are finally getting the care and attention that Black gamers deserve. Dove and Open Source Afro Hair Library recently joined forces to launch Code My Crown, the world’s first free instructional guide for coding textured hair and protective styles in video games. Created by Black 3D artists, Code My Crown provides step-by-step instructions and 360-degree photo mapping so that coders and developers can bring authentic depictions of twists, locs, fades, curls, and coils to the gaming world.
Despite all of the technological advances in the gaming industry, the depictions of texture hair and protective styles have continued to be limited, often highly stereotypical, and not representative of the breadth and beauty of its real-world counterpart. In fact, in a recent survey conducted by Dove, the brand found that 85% or Black gamers believe video games poorly represent textured hair.
“In the real world, there is an incredible variety of Black hairstyles. But this is rarely reflected in the gaming world,” explains A.M. Darke, Lead Code My Crown Contributor & Founder of the Open Source Afro Hair Library. “When Black hair is absent from the games we play or are consistently low quality, it communicates that Black players and our culture are an afterthought, that our stories aren’t worth telling. How else can we explain the ubiquity of matted cornrows, bald patches instead of parts, giant disco ‘fros, and the messy, unstyled locs? Why is a common fade or twist out rarely an option?”
Leveling Up Textured Hair Representation in Gaming
After learning that 74% of developers want to play a role in promoting better representation of textured hair in video games and learn how to code textured hair, Dove felt compelled to take action and work towards building a solution. Working in partnership with natural hair experts, Dove and Open Source Afro Hair Library identified the top textured and protective hairstyles currently missing or misrepresented ini video games. Together, they enlisted a team of Black 3D artists, animators, programmers, and academics—from around the world and across the Black diaspora—to develop 15 original hair sculpts that can lay the foundation for hundreds of virtual hair possibilities.
Each hair sculpt comes with step-by-step instructions, 360-degree photo mapping, and cultural insight so that any developer, anywhere can better model and represent textured hair and styles in the digital world. In the absence of formal reference materials for modeling textured hair and styles, many Code My Crown artists are self-taught and their work is the result of trial, effort, and personal innovation.
“Out of hundreds of possible hairstyles to choose from in the video games I play most often, only a handful are textured hairstyles,” notes Isaac Olander, Lead Code My Crown Developer, 3D Artist and Character Modelling & Digital Sculpting Expert. “It feels great to play an active role in a cause that I truly believe in. I am personally grateful to the many talented artists that have selflessly shared their knowledge before me. Their generosity has shaped my artistic journey and it feels incredibly rewarding to give back to our artistic community with this guide, by sharing my knowledge of 3D, as well as my personal experiences.”
Bringing CROWN Act’s Mission to the Virtual World
Since co-founding the CROWN Coalition, Dove has been working to Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair by supporting the passage of the CROWN Act since 2019. While the CROWN Act legislation specifically protects against race-based hair discrimination in workplaces and K-12 public and charter schools, Dove is proud to expand the wider CROWN mission by also advocating for real impact in the virtual world. In fact, Dove continues to educate and empower game developers to create more diverse, inclusive representation of girls and women in games as part of ongoing Dove Real Virtual Beauty initiatives.
“At Dove, we believe every single person should see their beauty represented in the world around them—this is no different for the virtual world. The importance of accurately and respectfully depicting textured hair in video games cannot be overstated, and we are proud to play a small part in taking action to set a new standard for diversity and representation in video games,” explains Leandro Barreto, Senior Vice President, Global Dove Masterbrand. “There is more to be done to ensure Black games see themselves in the games they play, but we can’t do it alone. We are calling on gaming developers and industry leaders to join us to help make virtual beauty a reality with Code My Crown.
To learn more about Dove’s mission to expand textured hair and protective styles in gaming as well as access the FREE Code My Crown guide, head over to Dove.com/CodeMyCrown.