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Dove creates coding guide to boost hair representation in gaming

The 'Code My Crown' project was developed by the Unilever brand, Edelman UK and the Open Source Afro Hair Library

By creative salon

Beauty brand Dove and the Open Source Afro Hair Library have launched 'Code my Crown' – the world's first complete and free guide for coding textured hair and protective styles in video games. Created by Black artists and Edelman UK, 'Code my Crown' is an instructional guide for coders and developers to code more diverse, true-to-life, depictions of Black hairstyles in 3D to ensure more representation in the virtual world of gaming. It is free for anyone to download at Dove.com/CodemyCrown.

Millions of Black gamers play for fun, a sense of community, and self-expression – yet, for all the technological advances in the gaming industry, the depiction of textured hair and protective styles continues to be limited, often highly stereotypical, and not representative of the breadth and beauty of its real-world counterpart. 85 per cent of Black gamers believe video games poorly represent textured hair.

A.M. Darke, lead 'Code my Crown' contributor and founder of the Open Source Afro Hair Library, said: "In the real world, there is an incredible variety of Black hairstyles. But this is rarely reflected in the gaming world. 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?"

In response to learning that 74 per cent 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 is taking action toward a solution. In partnership with natural hair experts, Dove and Open Source Afro Hair Library identified the top textured and protective hairstyles currently missing or misrepresented in video games.

Together, Dove and Open Source Afro Hair Library 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 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 a result of trial, effort, and personal innovation.

Isaac Olander, lead 'Code my Crown' developer, 3D artist and character modelling and digital sculpting expert, added: "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. 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."

As a co-founder of 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. 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.

Leandro Barreto, senior vice president, Global Dove Masterbrand, commented: "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. 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."


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