If Solange’s 2016 hit song “Don’t Touch My Hair” had a game spinoff, Hair Nah would be result. Designed by Momo Pixel, a Wieden+Kennedy art director and badass black woman, Hair Nah isn’t just a game, and its message goes deeper than hair.
Momo uses gaming as a medium and black women’s hair as an example of a larger, offensive, and exhaustive experience that women, particularly black women, face on the regular: constantly protecting your body and space. Best of all, Hair Nah gets the point across with just as much attitude and fun as Solange’s song.
— Momo Pixel (@MomoUhOh) November 15, 2017
Hair Nah is “a travel game about a black woman, Aeva, who is tired of people touching her hair,” a tiredness further emphasized when you hit the start button and her hand swats another hand coming at her head. The game can be played in any browser, though I don’t recommend using Firefox due to slower graphic rendering.
A LESSON ON REPRESENTATION IN GAMING
Before you begin, you have to give Aeva a look using various skins tones and hairstyles that you might find on your regular schmegular black woman. The tones and hairstyles Hair Nah delivers is giving the gaming industry a serious lesson on how to represent for black women in an 8-bit, retro design. Talk about doing the most with the least.
After creating Aeva’s look, you can choose one of three travel destinations: Osaka, Havana, or Santa Monica Pier.
GETTING AEVA TO HER DESTINATION
To play Hair Nah, simply tap the screen, or use the left and right arrow keys on a keyboard, to swat away the hands coming for your (Aeva’s) hair. As you swat, the Nah! Meter fills up , but goes down if you miss a hand or swat too much. Your mission is to fill that meter up before time runs out to advance and ultimately arrive at your destination.
Along the way, you’ll encounter unwelcome hands with increasing frequency and speed. Those hands will also come with rude requests to touch your (Aeva’s) hair and comments about how”fluffy” your (Aeva’s) hair is.
HAIR NAH IS MORE THAN A GAME
There is lot of art imitating life in Hair Nah. I noticed that the more public the space you’re (Aeva’s) in, the more hands you (Aeva) have to swat away. In an interview with Vice i-D, Momo says this was intentionally done to give players a sense of anxiety.
“I want players who have never had their hair touched — or who touch others’ hair — to understand how much it’s an invasion of personal space. How disrespectful, entitled, rude, and selfish of an act reaching into a stranger’s head of hair is. I really wanted that to come across and for people to see how this can cause anxiety. When hands come in too fast and you can’t stop them. How overwhelming and defeating it can be when you can’t protect your space. To show that all you’re doing is trying to live your life, go on a trip, but here are all these (mainly white women) who think it’s okay to go reaching into your hair.
But for players who have had their hair touched, and for black women in particular, I wanted them to play this game and get their life! I wanted them to finally have a way to tell white women: “No. My Space. My Body. My Hair. Respect me.” Because when this happens in real life, it’s not funny. So I wanted to give them some joy and let them know, “Hey, I got you.””
Initially, playing Hair Nah had me amped to slap a few hands in real life. However, I would slowly start reflecting on all the times I didn’t take action, but wished I could’ve. When those thoughts crept in, I took a break and listened to Bordeline (An Ode to Self Care) by Solange. Self-care is important when dealing with topics like this.
Still, Hair Nah is a creative way of getting the point across to those who don’t fully understand this experience. It also serves as a much needed reminder that black women have the power to protect their space.
Thank you Momo Pixel for giving us Hair Nah!