Virtual identity is becoming increasingly important for consumers. As recently uncovered by a Roblox study, 56% of gamers say that styling their online avatar is more important than styling themselves in the physical world. The same research found that many young gamers use avatars to express themselves and experiment with looks, which they later gain the confidence to try out in real life. However, for many gamers of color, building an avatar is more challenging than it should be. According to Dove, many Black people struggle with creating an avatar, and 85% feel that video games poorly represent textured hair, among other attributes. To tackle the issue head-on, Dove has created Code My Crown—a complete guide for coding textured hair and protective hairstyles in gaming.
Code My Crown was created alongside the Open Source Afro Hair Library (OSAHL), a community of artists creating visions of Blackness in digital media. Together, Dove and OSAHL enlisted a team of Black 3D artists, ranging from animators to programmers and academics, who developed 15 original hair sculptures that can lay the foundations for hundreds of virtual hair possibilities. Code My Crown is available for all and free to download from Dove’s website. The partnership between Dove and OSAHL flourished after studies found that 74% of game developers want to promote better representation of textured hair in video games.
“When Black hair is absent from the games we play or is consistently low-quality, it communicates that Black players and our culture are an afterthought, that our stories aren’t worth telling,” explains A.M. Darke, founder of the Open Source Afro Hair Library. “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?” In the real world, there is an incredible variety of Black hairstyles. But this is rarely reflected in the gaming world.”
The team that worked on Code My Crown deliberated with natural hair experts to identify the top textured and protective hairstyles currently missing or misrepresented in video games and got to work creating them. Each of the 15 developed sculpts are laid out in the guide with step-by-step instructions, 350° photo mapping, and a cultural insight into the style so that any developer can create the best version of each look. Code My Crown was created so that no game developer has to consistently use trial and error to achieve the look of textured hairstyles in the way that many on the artist team once had to do themselves.
“Out of hundreds of possible hairstyles to choose from in the video games I play most often, only a handful are textured hairstyles. It feels great to play an active role in a cause that I truly believe in,” adds Isaac Olander, Lead Code My Crown Developer, 3D Artist, and Character Modelling and Digital Sculpting Expert. “I am personally grateful to the many talented artists who 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.”
Code My Crown is just one of the several efforts Dove is involved in when it comes to the representation of textured and natural hair. In 2019, the brand co-founded the CROWN Coalition, which works towards creating a respectful and open world for natural hair. The CROWN Coalition is responsible for passing the CROWN Act, a legislation that protects explicitly against race-based hair discrimination in workplaces and K-12 public and charter schools. As consumer habits changed, Dove adapted accordingly, which led them to advocate for hair equality in virtual worlds.
“At Dove, we believe everyone 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,” says Leandro Barreto, Senior Vice President, Global Dove Masterbrand.
Code My Crown is the first step to overcoming the concerning lack of representation within virtual worlds. If businesses work to create industry-wide resources that educate others and help to increase diversity representation, many more consumers will begin to feel seen and more confident as a result.
“There is more to be done to ensure Black gamers 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,” concludes Barreto.
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