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Naughty Dog artist says devs ‘don’t have an excuse’ to ignore authentic Black hair in games
Del Walker previously worked on Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, designing Deadshot
A Naughty Dog character artist has said there’s “no excuse” for modern games not to feature authentic high-quality Black hairstyles.
Speaking as part of a short documentary produced by Kinda Funny and hosted by journalist Blessing Adeoye Jr, character artist Del Walker said, “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, who is currently a character artist at Naughty Dog, formerly worked at Rocksteady, including designing Deadshot for the upcoming Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League game.
The short explores the lack of Black hairstyles in modern video games, even in some of the largest games of recent years. Elden Ring, which won countless Game of the Year awards, is highlighted by the short as a game lacking meaningful Black hairstyles.
Walker goes on to talk about what challenges developers face when approaching Black hair and how changes in game development have changed the approach.
“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.
“With black hair specifically, you want to take [one of] two directions. 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?'”
The short also points out the regional differences in development and how that may effect the diversity of a development team, which would then impact thing such as character creation and in-game hairstyles.
Franchises such as Animal Crossing didn’t even feature the option to give your character darker skin tones in earlier games. As a contributor to the video points out, the only way to achieve darker skin was to leave your Nintendo DS handheld out for a period of time in order to give your character a tan.
The video concludes by asking Walker what he thinks the solution is for developers moving forward, and how developers can approach Black hair in games.
“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.”