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 www.youtube.com


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.

Film Features

All the Plot Holes We Want Fixed in "A Quiet Place Part II"

The original A Quiet Place had a lot of plot holes.

Paramount Pictures

A Quiet Place Part II, the sequel to John Krasinki's 2017 hit horror/thriller A Quiet Place, is coming out later this month.

But while the original put audiences on edge with its pervasive use of silence, the movie ultimately fell victim to a number of plot holes that made it hard to stay fully immersed. Since the concept of A Quiet Place (monsters that hunt through sound, resulting in the protagonists' need to stay quiet at all times) has so much potential, here are the biggest issues we hope get fixed in the sequel.

The Monsters' Sense of Hearing

A Quiet Place Monster Paramount Pictures

One of the biggest plot holes in the film revolves around the strength of the monsters' hearing. We catch a glimpse of a newspaper clipping explaining that the monsters' blindness enhances their super-hearing, but how powerful is their hearing, really? If the monsters are able to hear a branch being broken from miles away, shouldn't they also be able to hear the heartbeats of all of the human characters? Wouldn't it be especially hard for them not to hear the heartbeat of the mother, Evelyn, as she literally gives birth? Maybe they're able to selectively control their hearing. That would be interesting to explore in A Quiet Place Part II.

The Baby

A quiet place baby Paramount pictures

Speaking of the newborn, the extreme irresponsibility of having a child in the middle of an apocalyptic event almost goes beyond any notion of sense. Sure, it's reasonable to want to relieve some stress during a time of crisis, but they had to know that there might be consequences. Also, there's no way the baby would survive until the sequel, considering how much they cry. Crying is a baby's defense mechanism, so babies are basically natural prey for sound-hunting monsters. Including the baby might be a nice way to amp up the emotional weight of the film, but it weighs the family down beyond any point of realism.

Beating the Beast

A quiet place cochlear Paramount Pictures

In the climax of the film, Emily uses her deaf daughter, Regan's cochlear implant to stun the monster, giving her the opportunity to kill it. But if disarming the monster is as simple as making high-frequency noises, this begs the question: Why was no one able to figure out that loud noises harmed the monsters before? Shouldn't this be common knowledge? It's safe to assume that there were scientists in their world at one point, so were they all just killed before they could come to the correct conclusion? Hopefully in the sequel, they'll have perfected the use of high frequency weapons in creative capacities.

The Waterfall

A quiet place waterfall Paramount Pictures

If the family knew the location of a waterfall that drowned out sound so well that it made human screams inaudible, why didn't they just live near it in the first place? Even if the monsters used it as their watering hole, which we have no reason to believe they did, the humans could still just stay out of their way or maybe even sneak up and kill them if given the chance. That makes a lot more practical sense than living in an open field where any sound would almost definitely echo. No reason was ever given as to why that area might be uninhabitable, so it's insane to think that they could've been totally safe and hydrated but for some reason decided against it.

A Quiet Place became a success due to its ability to build suspense based on the silence, but hopefully the sequel can include what worked in the original while ironing out some of the more glaring issues..

A Quiet Place Part II will be released March 20, 2020.
Universal Pictures

The Photograph, starring Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield, is the date movie of choice for this holiday.

The Photograph follows Stanfield's Michael and Rae's Mae as they cross paths and look into the past of Mae's deceased mother. The affection grows between them while they unlock the mysteries of Mae's mother's life. It's not often you see two black leads in a romantic comedy, especially one with such an intriguing plot. So considering it's also Black History Month, what better time to look back at some of the best films that celebrate black love?

Love & Basketball

Love and Basketball New Line Cinema

Starring Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps, Love & Basketball puts...well, basketball at the center of a love story. The plot tracks Monica and Quincy from the time when they're rowdy childhood friends all the way up until they're married with kids. The only thing they love more than the sport is each other, and their chemistry comes through on-screen. One of the great things about Love and Basketball is that it focuses on both characters' perspectives instead of just one, which is especially awesome considering black women rarely get the spotlight in mainstream media. It also introduced "I Want to Be Your Man" by Zapp to a new generation.

Poetic Justice

Poetic Justice Columbia Pictures

This film has become iconic because it features one of the greatest rappers and activists of all time––Tupac Shakur. Poetic Justice also came out at the height of Janet Jackson's popularity, so it's easy to understand why it's amassed such a cult following. The story sees Shakur and Jackson set out on a road trip of self-discovery with their friends in Southern California. The movie features poems written by the late Maya Angelou, performed by Jackson herself. Written and directed by John Singleton, Poetic Justice offers a softer, more romantic view into the lives of black people in the '90s, especially compared to Singleton's biggest classic, Boyz in the Hood. Kendrick Lamar even wrote a song about it!

The Best Man

The Best Man Universal Pictures

The Best Man stands out for putting some of the best African American actors of the late '90s on-screen together––Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, Monica Calhoun, and Regina Hall, to name a few. All in one movie, all black royalty. The movie was released in 1999 and received nine nominations at the 2000 NAACP Image Awards. The plot follows Digg's character, Harper, as he travels to New York for one of his college friend's wedding. Romance, comedy, and drama ensue once the college friends reunite. There's even a sequel, The Best Man Holiday, that was released in 2013 with all of the original cast returning.

How Stella Got Her Groove Back

How Stella Got Her Groove Back 20th Century Fox

In 1998, How Stella Got Her Groove Back took the world by storm. Featuring the incredibly suave Taye Diggs attempting to woo everyone's favorite voodoo queen, Angela Bassett, no one had seen its stars together before, but their chemistry was electric. The story follows Bassett as she takes a break from her career as a successful stockbroker and goes on a vacation to Jamaica. There she meets Diggs as a mysterious but handsome native, who just so happens to be 20 years her junior. But if anyone could be capable of pulling someone that young, it would be Angela Bassett. How Stella Got Her Groove Back is a fun, sexy romp set on a beautiful island.

What are some of your favorite movies to watch to get in the Valentine's Day spirit?

TV

Why "Queer as Folk" Deserves a Reboot

"Queer as Folk" changed the media landscape for LGBTQ+ representation.

Showtime

In the early 2000s, Queer as Folk captivated audiences with its honest portrayal of the lives of LGBTQ+ men and women living in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

It also drew a lot of controversy through its depictions of the many issues gay men faced at the time, including homophobia, recreational drug use, underage prostitution, and bug chasers (people who intentionally tried to contract HIV). Queer as Folk tackled topics usually considered too taboo for television, pushing boundaries and making way for the shows that came after. Considering the show's lasting impact on LGBTQ+ representation in media, alongside its 20th anniversary coming up in December, Queer as Folk is long overdue for a reboot.

Based on the British series of the same name, the American version of Queer as Folk set itself apart from the rest of television. One aspect that advanced the show's representations of LGBTQ+ people in the 2000s was the writers' willingness to develop the characters beyond their sexuality. After all, sexuality is just one element of a person's identity, and not even necessarily their defining one. Michael is a comic book nerd and slacker, Ben is a college professor, Brian is an advertising executive and dad, and Ted is a reliable accountant before becoming a drug addict due to mental health issues. None of them are reduced to stereotypes, despite falling across a spectrum of flamboyance.

As time went on, shows carried on Queer as Folk's torch, portraying LGBTQ+ characters as complex people. Captain Ray Holt from Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Alex Danvers from Supergirl, and Omar Little from The Wire have shown that you can do anything as an LGBTQ+ person (obviously).

Queer as Folk Showtime

The proverbial "Ross and Rachel" of Queer as Folk was the undeniably cute pairing of Brian and Justin, who met at a nightclub and hooked up after the first episode. Nowadays, it would be like meeting someone on Grindr one night and forming a five-year-long relationship with them. Justin's teenage adoration of the independent Brian was interesting to watch as he grew up into his own man. In fact, they were one of the only couples on TV at the time who could be considered normal and functioning.

Of course, there were always issues for the couples in Queer as Folk to work through, but the characters handled problems like sensible adults. Even when their issues were considered taboo, they were always presented and resolved in a serious, respectful manner. For instance, Michael and Ben struggled with how to be intimate after Ben's HIV diagnosis, so they took their time and resolved their issue with care and compassion. Eventually, they even got married. Couples like Brian and Justin and Michael and Ben laid the groundwork for popular LGBTQ+ ships like Ian and Mickey from Shameless, Patrick and Richie from Looking, and Kevin and Scotty from Brother & Sisters.

In its final season, Queer as Folk did its best to enact real-world change by showing how Proposition 14 affected the lives of the characters that viewers had come to know and love during its five-year run. Since then, TV shows have not shied away from applying a pro-LGBTQ+ lens to politics. Drag Race has shown RuPaul and contestants making light of the Trump administration. Milk (a movie about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California, won an Oscar). There's even The Politician, a Ryan Murphy show about a gay student who wants to eventually become President of the United States.

Queer is folk Showtime


That's not to say Queer as Folk was perfect. While there was an incredible amount of LGBTQ representation in the show, that was the only diversity present. The cast was almost entirely comprised of cis-white men, which definitely wouldn't go over well today. As a result, even though the show's subject matter was centered around a marginalized group, it alienated a large portion of the LGBTQ+ population by not including any people of color. Then again, that was pretty much the state of media in general during the early 2000s. Representation for gay white men was rare; but for LGBTQ+ people of color, it was nonexistent. We've made big strides in that sense, thanks to shows like Pose, Orange Is the New Black, Rupaul's Drag Race, and Sex Education.

As for the show's depiction of drug use and the club scene, it's clear from watching the first episode of Queer as Folk that things were a bit different in 2000. Everyone was just coming off the club scene of the '90s, so dance music, neon clothes, and coke were essentials for any party worth talking about. Unfortunately, this is where the idea that all gay men were rampant drug users came from. Going out to bars and clubs were how you met people, since Grindr and Tinder hadn't been invented yet. As homosexuality was still very much a "bad thing" to most of the world––remember gay marriage didn't even become legal in the United States until 2015–drugs and parties were a way to openly express your marginalized and stigmatized identity.

In late 2019,

The L Word, a show about the lives of LGBTQ+ women in Los Angeles, received a reboot. Queer Eye has also returned. It's finally time to revive Queer as Folk, too. As one of the most influential pieces of LGBTQ media–a show that helped shape the following decade of LGBTQ+ representation on television–it would be meaningful to see how the characters adapt to the downfall of wild nightlife and the rise of internet dating, as well as an overall shift towards greater acceptance of LGBTQ+ people in America. Queer as Folk showed the country that people in the LGBTQ+ community are equal to everyone else, and now that America has changed under the Trump administration, it would be great to see how Queer as Folk could adapt to give us a reminder.