Black folks deal with strangers touching our natural hair all the time, and frankly, we’re sick of it. Solange sang "Don't Touch My Hair" on her hit album, A Seat at the Table. Tamera Mowry talked about it after revealing her big chop on The Real. And Prince (R.I.P.) said it was one of his number one pet peeves. Now, Black people can simulate smacking the unwanted hands away with "Hair Nah," an 8-bit video game that makes you fight off people who want to touch your hair.
“Hair Nah" is the brain-child of Momo Pixel, a pixel designer and an art director at Wieden+Kennedy. In addition to coming up with idea of “Hair Nah,” Pixel designed, wrote, art directed, and even sang the hook. (Her Twitter bio does say she’s “your favorite unknown singer.") Trent Johnson, her coworker, wrote the code for “Hair Nah,” according to her Twitter, where her original post about the game quickly went viral.
The concept of this game didn’t come to Pixel in a dream. She’s experienced the fascination with her hair IRL. “My hair is a big topic of conversation on an almost daily basis. It’s not just with my white acquaintances, but also other people of color. Some folks confuse their curiosity and adoration of my hair with having a right to my body,” she told On She Goes.
She recalls a situation in which she dodged a person’s hand that was reaching for her hair. “I’m like, nah,” she said. Telling the story of avoiding the violation of personal space to her coworkers and seeing their reaction inspired her to create “Hair Nah.”
Like many Black people who have had their hair touched without their permission, Pixel’s reactions aren’t always as animated as the woman in her game who can be seen swatting away hands coming from all angles. Pixel told On She Goes, “It leaves me feeling stuck, insecure, and almost catatonic. I want to stand up for myself, but I also don’t want to offend anyone.”
Aeva, the fictional woman in the game, is not worried about offending anyone. She swats and smacks away hands as she travels to Osaka, Havana, or the Santa Monica Pier. Those who have played the game definitely relate to Aeva, and they appreciate that “Hair Nah” allows them to make the character look like them. Players can choose from six different skin tones and hair types, including afros, bantu knots, a tapered cut, and braids. The inclusivity of the game points to a larger issue: It’s not one type of person who attracts unwanted hair attention. This happens to Black people regardless of skin tone or hair style.
Leah Marche, a “Hair Nah” player, tells Bustle how she felt when she played the game: “When I swatted that first hand away, I busted out laughing. Loud! It is definitely an empowering game. I thought of all the times I've had the experience at work, and literally came close to doing just what the game allowed me to do.”
“Hair Nah” isn’t just for Black women, either. While many Black women on Twitter have praised the game as a much needed stress reliever, non-Black folks can play the game to see how annoying touching Black people’s hair without permission truly is. Pixel hopes well-meaning people will see the game and realize the error of their ways. “I hope they see themselves in this game and be like, “Oh my God.” And then from there stop doing it,” she told On She Goes.
The most important thing about “Hair Nah” is what you do after the game is over. As the game states once it ends: “The game is over, but the experience isn’t. This is an issue Black women face daily. So a note to those who do it — STOP THAT SH*T.”