Why Black Gaming Hairstyles Deserve a Standing Ovation

From Afros to Crowns: Why Black Gaming Hairstyles Deserve a Standing Ovation

If you’ve picked up a video game in the last few decades, you’ve likely had the option to customize your character at least once. We spend countless hours crafting our in-game avatars, meticulously choosing their armor, weapons, and even the shade of their virtual eyebrows. But when it comes to Black gaming hairstyles, something often falls short.

We’re stuck in a frustrating loop of afros and buzz cuts, with maybe a token set of cornrows thrown in for good measure. It’s like the hair stylists in these digital worlds forgot the entire spectrum of Black hairstyles exists, from the gravity-defying twists of Bantu knots to the intricate geometric patterns of woven braids.

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This isn’t just about aesthetics. Black gaming hairstyles are more than pixels on a screen. They’re cultural touchstones, expressions of identity, and even nods to ancestral traditions. 

Remember that feeling of seeing a character with box braids rocking a power suit in your favorite sci-fi RPG? It’s a subtle but impactful moment of recognition, a way to say, “Hey, I see you here in this virtual world.”

Although it wasn’t a video game, Sony’s Oscar-winning short titled Hair Love taught us to embrace Black Women’s hair. It may seem small, but these steps are required in the entertainment industry to create a more inclusive environment.

Now, I’m not saying developers are intentionally neglecting Black hair diversity. The truth is that accurately representing the vast array of textures, styles, and techniques involved in Black hair care can be a complex challenge. But that doesn’t mean it’s an unbeatable one.

Take Miles Morales: Spider-Man for example. Insomniac Games partnered with real-life stylists to create authentic hairstyles that flowed naturally with Miles’ movements. Suddenly, swinging through New York City felt even more immersive because Miles’ hair moved like it would on any Brooklyn kid.

Miles Morales hair in Spider-Man 2 via Loopbreak

This level of dedication is what we need across the gaming industry. Imagine customizing your character with Senegalese twists that sway with every head-bob as you dance in Fortnite or rocking a sleek fade with intricate designs etched in the shaved sides as you lead your squad to victory in Apex Legends

Aside from these popular shooters, we can see unique Black hairstyle options in RPGs and simulation games too! For example, Nioh 2 is surprisingly diverse in character creation. Players can choose from various black hairstyles, all rendered with impressive detail. On the more cutesy aesthetic, Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons makes a more subtle, yet impactful, statement by including features like natural buns as a hairstyle option. This seemingly small gesture acknowledges the diversity of human experiences and normalizes Black hairstyles within the game’s wholesome world.

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Fortnite continues to lead the charge, offering a range of options that break free from stereotypes. However, other developers are taking stock of their in-game representation and thinking about how they can broaden their scope of diversity. The possibilities are endless, and the impact could be profound.

Beyond Representation in Video Games 

It’s not just about seeing ourselves reflected in our virtual worlds. Having access to a wider range of Black gaming hairstyles can also spark creativity and inspire players to explore their own cultural heritage. Maybe that kid customizing their avatar with cornrows will learn about their family’s history of braiding, or the teenager choosing finger coils will be inspired to try the style themselves. 

These hairstyles are gateways to deeper conversations and richer understanding. In 2024, the world is divided across tons of issues ranging from innocent things like sports to more serious topics like religion. Knowledge is power, and discussing these points of contention can help people find common ground.

Gaming diversity has improved since the days of Pac-Man, but there’s still a ways to go. It’s estimated that there are currently over 3 billion people playing games worldwide. Imagine if just a small portion of our community would be able to have one meaningful interaction with an online stranger that changes their mind about something!

Developer Momo Pixel went as far as creating a game to showcase the real-life struggles of wearing our Black hair proudly. The concept was so interesting and relatable that she reached millions of viewers without spending a dollar on marketing. More people felt comfortable and confident to talk about their own challenges once the issue was brought to center stage.

We’ve established that representation matters, not just for feeling seen, but also for sparking cultural exploration and enriching our virtual experiences. Now, let’s crack open the treasure chest of Black hair magic and explore some specific styles that deserve a place in the spotlight.

Black hairstlyes from The Sims 4 via Allure

Crown Jewels of Black Hairstyles

Step into the realm of regal elegance, where hairstyles transcend mere aesthetics and become expressions of cultural pride and personal power. These are the crown jewels of Black hair, styles steeped in tradition and radiating an undeniable mystique. It’s a tapestry woven with history, creativity, and endless possibilities. Step into the light, adorn your avatar with these Black hairstyles, and let your digital self radiate the majesty and meaning that lies within:

  • Bantu Knots: These regal spirals, often decorated with beads or jewels, are like tiny galaxies nestled atop the head. It weaves intricate constellations into your character’s hair, each knot a shimmering star in their personal mythos. 
  • Locs: From cascading dreadlocks that whisper ancient tales to tightly coiled braids radiating power, locs offer a spectrum of possibilities. Picture your avatar with locs that whip in the wind as they sprint across a fantasy landscape.
  • Twists and Braids: The versatility of twists and braids is truly mind-blowing. One on end, you have chunky box braids that frame the face neatly. In another version, you have fierce warrior’s braids that instill fear in your enemies. For a more complex look, stylize intricate cornrow patterns that map shapes across the scalp. The options are only dictated by one’s own creativity! Channel your inner goddess with cascading waterfall braids, or rock a sleek braided mohawk for a futuristic street fighter aesthetic.
    2k Black hairstyles via Reddit
  • Fades and Shaved Designs: Don’t underestimate the power of a sharp fade. The clean lines and intricate designs etched into shaved sides can add a touch of urban swagger or futuristic cool to any character. Of course, it’s critical to have sharp enough visuals in the game where you can see the different levels of the fade. 
  • Natural Textures: Let’s celebrate the beauty of unmanipulated Black hair! From kinky coils to soft waves, natural textures deserve a place in the digital world. Give your character a playful afro that bounces with every step, honoring a natural look. 

There you have it, a treasure trove of options just waiting to crown your digital self. Remember, these hairstyles are threads woven into the fabric of Black history and identity. With every intricate knot, cascading braid, and playful curl, you’re telling a story, celebrating your heritage, and pushing the boundaries of virtual representation. 

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Don’t be afraid to experiment, to embrace the endless opportunities, and to let your character’s digital mane roar with the majesty and meaning that lies within. Let your virtual self shine brightest on the gaming landscape!

Time to Slay the Monotonous Killmonger Mane

Killmonger’s dreadlocks. You know them – the sharp, beaded braids framing his face, a symbol of his rebellion and rage. While undeniably striking, in games this hairstyle has become a tired trope, a shorthand for “fierce Black character.” This overused archetype undermines the vast spectrum of Black identities and hairstyles expressed through hair. It’s time for developers to move beyond the Killmonger monolith and embrace the full crown of Black hair magic.

Instead of relying on tired clichés, imagine avatars sporting the playful bounce of kinky coils, the regal elegance of Bantu knots, or the intricate artistry of cornrow patterns. Let players tell their stories through vibrant box braids, flowing locs, or sleek fades etched with personal designs. Don’t confine Black characters to the Killmonger box!

Killmonger hairstyle from Twitter via @Delilah_HD

Technical Hurdles and Breaking Barriers

Of course, representing Black gaming hairstyles authentically comes with its share of technical challenges. Hair physics, textures, and animations all need to be carefully considered to avoid falling into the trap of stereotypical, clunky, or inaccurate hairstyles. However, these challenges are manageable!

Games like The Sims 4 and NBA 2K have made strides in offering a wider range of Black hairstyles, proving that it can be done successfully. We need more developers to invest in research, consult with hair stylists and cultural experts, and embrace the hurdles of accurately representing the full spectrum of Black hair.

It’s also tough not to mention the potential economic boon. Beyond the social and cultural benefits, increasing the diversity of Black gaming hairstyles can also be economically advantageous. A wider range of options caters to a larger audience, fostering inclusivity and attracting new players who might not have felt represented before. It’s a win-win for gamers and developers alike.

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The Power is in our Hands

Ultimately, the power to push for better representation lies in our hands. We, as gamers, can raise our voices, demand diverse character creation options, and celebrate the beauty and cultural significance of Black gaming hairstyles. Share your desired styles on social media, engage with developers, and support games championing inclusivity. Together, we can create virtual worlds that genuinely reflect the richness and diversity of our own.

Additionally, developers, we’re urging you to step up your game. Invest in resources, consult with stylists and cultural experts, and push the boundaries of what’s possible. 

Together, we can make gaming worlds that truly reflect the beauty and richness of Black culture, one pixelated strand at a time.

Remember, every twist, braid, and curl has the power to tell a story, connect us to our heritage, and create a more vibrant and inclusive gaming experience for everyone. Let’s keep the conversation going, celebrate Black hair magic in all its glory, and push the boundaries of what’s possible in the digital realm.

What Black hairstyles do you want to see in video games? Join the conversation in the comments section!

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Two Average Gamers // Blerds out about: Video Games & Tech

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