Naughty Dog character artist Del Walker, who formerly worked at Rocksteady and whose credits include designing Deadshot for the upcoming Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, believes that it’s time the representation of Black characters in video games, particularly their hairstyles, catches up with the technology at video game developers’ disposal.
“The advantage now is you don’t have an excuse, because the tech can support what you need,” Walker said in an episode of Kinda Funny Games. “Now it’s just about having the knowledge and using the resources of Black people to ask ‘is this right?’”
The episode delves into the glaring paucity of Black hairstyles in modern video games, even ones with universal accolades and Game of the Year Awards such as Elden Ring. Walker then examines the impediments which developers face when implementing Black hairstyles in video games, how improvements in video game technology have modified their approach and possible solutions to ameliorating the implementation of Black hairstyles in video games in the future.
“It starts off with a class, a lesson first, which is usually the thing that takes the most amount of time. Just introducing people to the idea that there are different hair textures.”
Walker continued, stating that the Xbox 360 era “didn’t have enough [power] to really fill out on black hair,” but that there’s “no excuse” with the current generation’s tech.
“With black hair specifically, you want to take [one of] two directions,” Walker continued. “You either want to simplify as much as possible or want to take the other route where we’re actually going into fine detail by placing loads of polygons, the problem you had with the Xbox 360 era is you didn’t have enough [power] to really fill out on black hair, and you didn’t want to go to simple.
“The advantage now is you don’t have an excuse, because the tech can support what you need. Now it’s just about having the knowledge and using the resources of Black people to ask ‘is this right?’”
Walker also highlighted another insanely popular and current game, Animal Crossing, which didn’t even offer players the option to create characters with a darker skin tone in earlier installments of the game. The only way players could exhibit a darker skin tone was to leave their Nintendo DS handheld out to “give their character a tan.”
As for how to better approach Black hair in video games in the future, Walker said, “Going to someone that knows a lot more than you. Going to someone who knows about not only being Black but knows Black hair and saying ‘can you just show us lots of things that you think are cool’ and work from there, rather than doing something half baked.”
What do you think of Naughty Dog artist Del Walker’s thoughts on Black hair in video games? Does Black hair in video games need a much better approach, as Walker pointed out? Let us know in the comments.