Culture Feature

I Gave Myself the Life I Deserve in "The Sims 4" Because Real Life Is Terrible

Constructing my pixelated alter-ego is the most productive thing I've done in four months.

Today, I'm introducing the world to my Sim alter-ego. She's really going places, unlike my actual self, who's hardly moved in months.

Although I've never identified with the title of "gamer," simulation video games have held a special place in my heart for almost as long as I can remember. Back when I was way too young to know what the word "WooHoo" euphemized, my older cousin showed me The Sims on his computer—the original, horrifically low-res version that came out in 2000—and very patiently taught me the basics of building a house in the world's most famous simulation game to date. Little did anyone know that I'd be hooked for life.

But The Sims didn't return to me until a few years later; in the meantime, I built theme parks in Roller Coaster Tycoon, trained labrador retrievers in Nintendogs, and pestered my friend's brother to let us play Mario Kart and Tony Hawk Pro Skater on his Nintendo 64. At some point, when my parents deemed me old enough, they bought me The Sims 2. I likely killed half my brain cells during my innumerable hours of playing it.

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Culture News

Kanye West's Presidential Run Is Great News for Donald Trump

"Better late than never" may not apply in this case...

On Saturday, in a strange celebration of Independence Day, rapper, producer, and sneaker mogul Kanye West announced his intention to run for president in 2020.

As in, this year. Right now.

The announcement quickly prompeted messages of support from Kanye's wife, prison reform advocate Kim Kardashian West, as well as from billionaire weirdo/Grimes baby daddy Elon Musk.

Of course, this news comes well past the filing deadline for independent candidates in several major states—which means that unless a political party randomly decides to nominate him, Kanye's name won't appear on those ballots. As deadlines in other states approach—with little apparent effort to gather the petition signatures required—Kanye is officially joining the long, proud history of vanity presidential campaigns. Unfortunately, that's a lot more dangerous than it sounds.

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Culture Feature

Why Are Black Hair Options Still So Limited in Video Games?

Why are the hair choices for black people still just an afro, cornrows, or dreads?

Black hair (not the hair color, but the color of the person) fascinates people with its complexity.

I've lived with black hair my entire life, so it's easy for me to understand the difference between 3a hair and 4b hair (it refers to the looseness of the curls), and also why people were so adamant about touching black hair before it was decided that it's kind of rude. If you haven't dealt with it, it's reasonable to not know as much. I have also played video games my entire life, so I know that video game developers have not had the easiest time adapting black hair into a virtual world.

History of Character Customizations

Creating a custom character has been a core feature in video games since forever, adapted from tabletop roleplaying games which gave players customization options before video games were even a thing. These features are so beloved because they give players the opportunity to make characters in their own images, and a large creation suite is oftentimes a deciding factor for whether or not a gamer buys a game. Recently, graphic upgrades have given character creation tools more depth than ever before. Video games have done well with skin tone inclusion, allowing players to choose any color imaginable, from the realistic to the fantastical, for their skin.

In contrast, the hair choices for black people are usually still just an afro, cornrows, or dreads.

Guild Wars 2 Guild Wars 2

Black Hair In Video Games

One of my favorite game series as a child was Smackdown vs Raw. The wrestling game was best known for its in-depth creation suite (although it's lost prestige with the release of last year's WWE2k20). But even in those games, where multiple black wrestlers were present, the hair options for players of color were severely limited.

While the hairstyles Smackdown vs Raw did include were accurate, they're just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what you can do with black hair. Even pretty normal hairstyles within the black community, like fades for men and straight or natural hair for women, are missing. The ones that are included are never designed extremely well, either; the afro sometimes resembles a huge styrofoam ball that's been painted black. No texture, no bounce, just a blob.

Why Black Hair Is Ignored or Appropriated

Getting the afro texture right should be the least that any video game studio can do, considering afros are worn by people all over the world and are synonymous with pro-black movements aiming to show that natural hair is normal. Sadly, European beauty standards have always been the standard, leaving other beauty ideals stigmatized or completely ignored. Light skin and straight hair are seen as beautiful and professional, while dark skin and curly hair are seen as the opposite. This results in discrimination, with non-Eurocentric styles being left out and misunderstood, oftentimes accepted only after they've been appropriated by white culture.

Black hair has been used as a form of expression in times when black people were discriminated against for their features. Even recently, a student in Texas was forced to cut his dreads in order for him to graduate high school. This happened after states adopted the CROWN Act, which makes hair discrimination illegal for schools and other employers. Meanwhile, people of other cultures are able to wear the hairstyle and it's "edgy," "chic," or "fashionable."

Recent movements have attempted to uplift black hair and help teach people that it's beautiful. Chris Rock released the documentary "Good Hair" in support of the movement. He was inspired after his daughter asked him why she doesn't have good hair. Hair is something that many black people have grown to love despite the persisting ideas that it's nappy or difficult to work with. Showing that in more mainstream media, and giving kids the options to really see themselves in the games they play, will dispel the negative ideas associated with black hair.

Good Hair - Trailer

We Need More Black Video Game Developers

The addition of black voices and ideas in video game development would also do some good in making sure black hair is represented accurately. Having someone who understands the culture goes a long way in making sure that the culture is represented. It's a simple concept, and studies show that it works. We often complain about forced representation, but with the advancement of recent technology, there's no excuse for black hair still not being done right.

Video games graphics have come far since the days of the original Playstation. Developers are able to create entire worlds with lifelike humans, buildings, and even animals. GTA V even recreated an entire portion of Los Angeles. With the next generation of consoles being released later this year, the way black hair is represented is something that needs to catch up with the times.