Diversity in gaming is a slow-moving beast, but has gradually been gaining traction – even if the developers themselves are still mostly white men. With both those behind the scenes and those responsible for the visuals, there aren’t enough opportunities for women and black people in the gaming industry.

Concept artist Sarah Jones, based in the US, has embarked on a project to design hairstyles that can potentially be used by players who want to see more diversity in their role-playing games (RPGs).

Her designs, developed as part of her studies, give players the option to diversify their characters to better reflect themselves and the people in the world around them. “The project started as just an idea for a video game, but grew into something more important. I noticed how white-washed the gaming industry was, and how little representation was given to black folk,” Jones tells #Trending. “I researched Afrofuturism and did my best to create work that represented and inspired, rather than appropriated and stereotyped.”

Jones says the chosen hairstyles were intentional. “I wanted to offer hairstyles that represented historical African women’s roles in their society. The whole game was designed to be a RPG, and having outward appearances that represent who the player wants their character to be is an important part of that. So I created hairstyles that were realistic and possible, but inspired and creatively pushed boundaries to be more sci-fi and ‘out of this world’.”

She adds: “I used research of cultures, from the Berber to the Masaai to Zulu people – reading about their societal structures, their clothes, beliefs and religious practices, values and virtues. I wanted to fully understand the cultures I was drawing inspiration from, so I could best use the shape languages and beliefs in ways that avoided stereotypes and inspired viewers through informed design decisions.”