Finally, I finally discovered the truth behind a Surveillance question that has tormented me for six years: what is going on with Lúcio’s hair?
Last week I spoke with Monitor 2 developers Geoff Goodman and Dion Rogers on Sojourn, the game’s first black heroine. As it was the rare chance to be alone with a couple of Surveillance developers, I took the opportunity to ask a burning question about another black Surveillance hero: lucio
Lúcio is my favorite pre-stay Surveillance character both for its gameplay and story. He is a healer with unique movement and healing abilities. He was one of the first and only characters I dedicated myself to mastering (with questionable and less mastered results) despite not being a heavy team shooter. He’s also this cool, quadruple-platinum Afro-Brazilian DJ with an affinity for frogs who decided to join a group of international freedom fighters to stop the gentrification of his favela. I was instantly drawn to him. But one thing that has always disturbs me about this Beyonce-with-a-gun character was her hair.
I’m obsessed with black hair in video games because, for black women in particular, hair is such a sensitive topic. A few weeks ago, we couldn’t stop talking about an event that was basically about a black woman’s hair. There were laws written in the 18th century legislating how black women could wear their hair. Even today, in the supposed “enlightened age” era of 2022, we pass laws protecting black people from hair discrimination after people lose job opportunities and kids get cut hair against their will.
Much of my self-worth has been tied to my hair. I have worn wigs, extensions and dreadlocks. I wore my hair straightened, natural and, now, cut short. So I’m particularly sensitive to how black hair is portrayed in video games, which brings us to Lúcio and the case of his mind-boggling hair.
You see, he has these huge – huge – dreadlocks that looked so weird and unnatural that I came up with this elaborate conspiracy theory that it’s not her hair at all but rather a piece of performance art. Yes, I am a truth about Lúcio’s hair. I’ve had dreadlocks before. I know how good a capital “B” they can get depending on how you maintain them (or not). But Lúcio’s locks didn’t feel real to me. They looked like they were made of foam rather than something that came out of his head.
Where most black video game hairstyles fail is when designers fail to consider hair texture. That’s why a lot of the afro styles you can choose from in a game’s character creator look like those big matte balls of not sure what it is but it’s not hair or why the afro style in The wonders of Tiny Tina looks like the armor pattern for Ring of Eldenis the detestable manure eater.
I understand that creating any type of hair texture in a video game is a laborious process, so I’m usually willing to attribute bad texture to time constraints and the limitations of a game’s engine. cornrows flat against Lúcio’s head that turned into big bouncy things??? was so bizarre that I rejected that premise in favor of a hat full of tinfoil, literally. In my hypothesis, Lúcio’s hair is actually a hat he wears as part of his DJ persona. It’s like helmets from Daft Punk or Deadmau5. It’s a theory I held for years until I finally had the chance to ask the Surveillance developers and confirm my suspicions.
“Yes, your theory is correct,” said Rogers, artistic director of Surveillance. Sweet, sweet vindication. Rogers also shared that, with Monitor 2Lúcio’s hair would get an update.
“We are improving this to Monitor 2“A lot of the research we did was aimed at creating more culturally correct ethnic hair. You can see this improvement in its Monitor 2 concept art. The foam loc helmet is replaced with more natural (and textured!) hair that still pays homage to her DJ persona, ending in bright neon coils that remind me of late 2000s cybergoth wigs.
While I’m glad my long-held suspicions are finally allayed, I’m also glad that Rogers and his team have realized that hair is important to a character’s identity, especially black characters like Sojourn and Lúcio.
“What I find pretty cool about the art team is that we have people who are dedicated to improving the perception of hair on ethnic characters,” Rogers said.