A.M. Darke, Open Source Afro Hair Library

January 07, 2021

By GamesIndustry Staff, From "GI 100 | Game Changers -- Part Ten" 

"I remember being in a painting course when a professor told us we have 30 seconds to capture a viewer's interest before they decided to stay with the work or move on. Painting takes a long damn time. My work always felt like it required so much from me, literal blood, sweat, tears, heartache, and more. I wanted to create work where the amount of time an audience engaged with it was at least equal to the amount of time I spent crafting it."


A.M. Darke

A.M. Darke created his first "real game" (as she puts it) in 2012, though he's been designing games since at least 2006. Her most recent game, Ye or Nay? -- a polemical take on Guess Who? where all the characters are Black and half of them are Kanye West -- was recently nominated at IndieCade for awards in both the tabletop and impact categories.

"It's meant to examine the language we use to describe Black men, dealing with representation again, but the more interesting aspect is the culturally subjective commentary. Each character gets hot take assessment of what they have given or taken from The Culture (Black culture). The game centers Blackness succumbing to self-fetishization or uncritical glorification."

Darke describes himself as an artist and game designer focused on polemical work, saying that all of her work has focused on systemic oppression in some way -- often from a personal and subjective perspective.

"My games are sometimes perceived as 'empathy games,' a term I find harmful and reductive, which is why a lot of my recent work aims to go beyond facile representation," he says.

She is also the creator of the Open Source Afro Hair Library, which he made "to provide material support to Black creators to author their own depictions of Blackness, as well as rethink the way we display and commodify Black bodies in virtual space."

Darke says that she is fortunate enough to be a professor at an R1 university, which means he has time and financial support for her creative and research practices while also earning a salary. This enables him to pay collaborators such as Nick Yonge, Tajae Keith, Seren Sensei (programmer, illustrator, co-writer, Ye or Nay?), H.D. Harris, and Estevan Carlos Benson (3D artist and web designer/developer for Open Source Afro Hair Library) for their time.

"My work always felt like it required so much from me, literal blood, sweat, tears, heartache, and more"

A.M. Darke

And she also gets to work with student residents at The Other Lab, an intersectional feminist lab for experimental games, XR, and new media. It was through this program that he met Annabel Maokhamphiou, who was the first to assist with the Open Source Afro Hair Library.

"I am always looking for collaborators, particularly for the Open Source Afro Hair Library," she says. "While it's not exclusive, it's really important that we provide opportunities to, and highlight the work of, Black 3D artists. Please spread the word to QTBIPOC artists who make work through a pro-Black, pro-feminist lens in particular. I'd love to work with them on a hair series for OSAHL. I want to go through different eras of Black hair and draw from cultural icons like TLC, FKA twigs and Missy Elliott. I can't wait to share the vision and get free, high quality homages to Black creativity and cultural influence in our games and 3D virtual spaces.

"And of course, donate to The Other Lab to fund this kind of work, which can only exist outside of profit-driven industry spaces."



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