Dove Releases Free Guide for Coding Black Hairstyles to Boost Representation in Video Games

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Unilever’s personal care brand Dove has partnered with Open Source Afro Hair Library to launch the world’s first free and complete guide for coding textured hair and protective styles in video games.

Named “Code My Crown,” the 226-page coding guide was created for developers to “code more diverse, true-to-life depictions of Black hairstyles in 3D” to improve representation within the virtual realm, according to a press release published by PR Newswire.

For this project, Black 3D artists, animators, programmers, academics and hairstylists teamed up to create 15 original hair sculpts that “can lay the foundation for hundreds of virtual hair possibilities.”

The hairstyles include bantu knots, twists, a braided bob, an afro with a fade, and cornrows, among others.

“Out of hundreds of possible hairstyles to choose from in the video games I play most often, only a handful are textured hairstyles,” said Isaac Olander, lead “Code My Crown” developer, 3D artist, and character modelling and digital sculpting expert. “It feels great to play an active role in a cause that I truly believe in.”

Dove said its research showed that 85% of Black gamers believe textured hair is not adequately represented in video games. Furthermore, 91% of Black gamers are excited to see characters who accurately represent their experiences.

“Dove’s mission is to make a positive experience of beauty universally accessible to everyone,” said Lauren Baker, senior brand manager of engagement and social impact. “While gaming can provide a rich and positive influence…the portrayal of women and people of color in video games isn’t always so positive.” 

Despite the increasing number of Black people, especially Black women, in the gaming community, Black hairstyles remain underrepresented in video games, which are often marred by stereotypes. 

In 2021, for example, Black gamers called out the shooter-RPG hybrid game “Outriders” for having only four Black hairstyles among its 24 options, with all four falling under the tropes of minifros and dreads. 

A.M. Darke, lead guide contributor and founder of the Open Source Afro Hair Library, expressed disappointment over the diversity of Black hair not being accurately reflected in video games.

“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,” Darke said, according to the press release. “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?”

The “Code My Crown” guide is available to download for free on Dove’s official website.

The initiative aligns with Dove’s ongoing support for the C.R.O.W.N. Coalition, an organization co-founded by the brand in 2019.

The coalition’s primary focus is promoting anti-hair discrimination legislation known as The C.R.O.W.N. Act, short for Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, which prohibits discrimination based a person’s texture or style of hair.

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