Pokémon Scarlet and Violet is finally out, and I’m counting down the hours until I can play it endlessly. However, I did already take some time to build a character and found that the options for Black Hair were very limiting.
At the start of the game, you get to choose your look. I went to the brownest option (still no true dark-skinned rep) and went to my haircut. Of the 19 options for hair, there are only three Black styles: cornrows, side fade (and really anyone can get a side fade, but you know it’s getting it right that is important), and short dreadlocks.
No shade to the pompadour, but it is just a very limiting set of styles, especially for players. No braids or even the unlined-up afro we usually see tossed around. While these styles are portrayed in a very gender-neutral way, there is a lacking of what we would see as femme Black styles. This isn’t to impose a binary. The side fade look is cute and reminds me of Ola from Sex Education.
The problem is that it is a limiting idea of what Black hair looks like, and as a Black player who has been playing these games for … well, most of my life, I know they can do better. In Pokémon Legends Arceus, I got a great look for my character with updo braids.
It is not, at least to me, about promoting any binary regarding hair but offering players a range of options. Would a fourth hairstyle like long braids take away from the range of almost the same straight hairstyles offered? Why do we have to be content with only two or three options? It is unfair to Black players or players with non-straight hair texture. Especially when our choices are generic, basic, and uncreative for all hair types.
This came up most recently with Elden Ring and will continue to be an issue if we keep thinking that three options out of 19 are enough. Pokémon is an international franchise with a fanbase comprised of every kind of person. I recognize there are limitations, but in 2022, Black hair shouldn’t be one of them. Black gamers play Pokémon. Even people who don’t consider themselves gamers will still play Pokémon. So why can’t I have braids and live in a Pokémon world?
I’m not saying we shouldn’t buy the game to “cancel” Pokémon. I am saying that while we discuss things the franchise needs to improve on, more hair options, height and weight options, and skin tone are all valid in addition to letting starters stay on all fours when they reach their final evolution.
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