The video game industry is as prone to systemic oppression as any other. Developers of color, and perhaps particularly Black developers, face an uphill battle for employment, let alone creative expression. With this series of features, DBLTAP hopes to highlight the creations of Black developers working to tell their own stories through games. New entries in the series come out the second Tuesday of each month. Last month we spoke to Decoy Games about their action game Swimsanity!, and the month before to Veritable Joy Studios about their visual novel ValiDate.
Cede is a 3D action farming game. Players take on the role of Seph, a golem trying to reconnect his barren, fractured planet, or as one of several Lil Bois who help him out via 4-player co-op. To save the world, Seph and company must defeat enemies in combat, causing them to regrow as life-sustaining plants. Players can also perform more peaceful farming at a hub farm of their own, or earn blockchain items with cryptocurrency values. Developer BareHand is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the game's continuing development. We spoke with BareHand founder Edwin Jack, also known as Eddie Winback, about Cede, social justice, and whether or not Piccolo is Black. Our conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
DBLTAP: So let's start at the beginning. Where did you get the idea for Cede?
Eddie Winback: Where did I get the idea for Cede. There's a few points that are relevant for that. I started off with just a visual of — and forgive me ahead of time, I'm outside and you'll probably hear sometimes kids calling out to each other. I started out with a vision of a big golem and a small golem, and the big golem can make the little golems out of soil materials. I just had that, right? Then, you know, I gave the golem — the big golem — I gave him personality, you know? I gave him traits. Characteristics.
Here are the three key points from that. So basically, my aunt was passing due to cancer, and I asked her, I said “Auntie, I want to base our main character off of someone from the Bible.” I gave her the characteristics [of the golem.] I said “Who lines up with these characteristics? She said, “Oh, nephew, read Joseph in the book of Genesis.” So I read about Joseph in his life, and Joseph was a farmer. So I was like oh, OK. So that's why our main character’s name is Seph. It’s short for Joseph.
I said, “Auntie, this is perfect.” I said, “He lines up — his characteristics, his personality — he fits the persona of what I'm looking for. So, that's how the farming element, you know, we implemented that. The thing is for me, I was like, “There's so many farming games out, how do we make it interesting?” Because the farming games I've played have been, you know, tedious in terms of how you’re farming. You'll get abilities and stuff in games like Harvest Moon and stuff like that, but, you know, it's still kind of tedious. So I said, “How can we make it fun?” I said well, I think we can do something different and fun by adding it with one of my favorite genres, which is action. So that was the second part. And when we started prototyping, we were prototyping a bunch of action then [lead programmer] Nic [Bondi] also prototyped, like at a game jam, he prototyped something there. And then we just kind of combined all of these ideas into one thing which was for combat farming.
Yeah, so. Started off with the big golem/small golem image in my head, the vision for that, then my aunt leading me to read about Joseph, which led to the farming. And then, three, when we prototyped just combining action and farming. Action RPG, pretty much. My favorite genre, action adventure. So that's how the idea came about.
DBLTAP: How long have you been working on the game?
EW: Pre-production for Cede started early 2015. It’s been a slow process because I started [my studio] Barehand with like $200 in my bank account. I was just like, dude, how am I going to freaking make an indie game like this?
DBLTAP: That makes it hard.
EW: Yeah. But I didn't let that stop me, you know. And I truly believe that money should not stop anyone, no matter how grand their vision is, money should not stop them from shooting for that. I just started. I just started and I just started meeting people. Barehand is really founded on my faith in the Creator, faith in Christ and foundation in Christ. From there, man I was just like look, I'm just going to move, and do stuff, and take action, and just trust in my faith. Next thing you know, I start meeting people who align with me. Meeting people like, “Yo, I like that. Faith-based foundation. I love that.” And they're like, “You know, I want to work with you. Like, our concept artist [Kris Carter]? He believes in the same faith as myself, and all the concept art is by him. He's done so much concept art free, just on his own time. I've been able to pay some of my teammates when I have money or save up money. But let me, uh — I'm sorry, I'm going on like I can go on. But no, yeah, just to answer that question, yeah, since 2015.
DBLTAP: Is it your faith that gives you the strength to keep persevering on this game after you've been working on it for five years now?
EW: Absolutely. Absolutely. There's two things that have kept me going. Well, three. Well, two. Two things, that have kept me going this this far. My faith, first and foremost, because let's say everybody hated it, and no matter who I showed it to, they were just like, “This sucks,.” Because there have been people tell me like, “Oh this sucks.” Or, “Oh, this needs work.” Or they don't think it's gonna do well or anything. And it's like OK, well, at that point, what do I do? If I don't believe in it, if I don't believe in the vision, then it's just not gonna happen. If I told you the whole story, man from 2013 when I got my first gig in the industry up to now? It's a powerful story, man. I can't deny that my faith has gotten me this far. It has. And I feel like a promise has been made to me by Yahweh, by the Creator. I've seen the events in my life that line up with that promise.
And then the second thing is the people who do come and test or see it, no matter what stage it’s at, and they're like, “Oh my God, I love this. Oh my God, I can see what this could become. Oh my God don't give up.” You know, we're running a Kickstarter right now, and there's people like “Dude, I'm so glad you didn't drop this.” They're like, “Man, keep it up, keep going bro, keep fighting. I'm so glad you didn't put this down.” And I'm like, yo, that right there, to hear those words, it pushes me, man. Because any sane person would have given up on this long time ago, especially with the resources that I'm working with. There are companies out here with thousands of people, $1 billion budgets and like I said, I started with $200.
DBLTAP: Did you grow up with that religion or did you come into it later?
EW: Nah. You know, my family was always a Christian household. Go to church Sunday, go to church on Easter Sunday. My aunt she was a powerful woman of faith. She was one of the people in my life that kept teaching me and showing me. Living her life as a faithful woman, she was one person that really impacted me, and impacted my faith. Now, for me, my relationship with Yahweh, the Creator is a lot larger and better than it was when I grew up. It’s tough for me to use the label Christian now. I believe in Yeshua, AKA Christ. I believe in the Creator. But when you use that label, people add the word religion to it. People add all types of preconceived notions around you and around what you should and shouldn't be done and stuff. Like I said, my relationship has grown so much with the Creator that I'm I've been able to see a lot of the truth. But I did grow up in a [Christian] household, yes. I did.
DBLTAP: I don't mean to on stick on your religion, necessarily. I just think it's interesting. It feels important to you.
EW: Oh yeah, dude. Feel free to ask me anything. I love sharing my faith, man. I'm not shying away from that at all. I ain't ashamed, bro. I can talk all day about that. Whatever you want to know man.
DBLTAP: Ok sick, because I do have another question. Is there a label that you are comfortable with for your belief system?
EW: I'm going to tell you like this: What I believe? It just is. It is what it is. That's why I like to use the word faith. You know I don't like to use the word religion because what happens in a lot of religions is there become man-made traditions that don't align with the creator. That kind of pulls away from the spiritual experience that a human being can have. I just say faith. You know people ask us, like, “Oh so you’re a religious company?” I'm like, look, we’re a faith-based company, and this is our faith.
DBLTAP: OK, so to bring it back to Cede — I think it's really cool that in the game, when you defeat an enemy they come back and regrow as something new. And then that thing heals you, or gives you bonuses, or whatever, and that feels really transformative and healing rather than destructive or dominating the way it would be in another action game. So I'm curious, do you see a connection between that sense of transformation and regrowth and the way we talk about social justice?
EW: I'm going to tell you this, man. If you look at the symbol of Cede, the symbol that’s in it, that is exactly what you just said. Yes, it is taking something that is not exactly working, that's very detrimental to the person or the planet itself, the energy, and flipping it into something that works, that's liberating. Because, yes, the story of our game is about that. The player, them doing that is their living that in the game, and the story’s speaking about that at the same time. When I made the symbol for Cede, that's exactly what I had in mind. When I was designing it — the logo, the symbol — I was like man, this is how I feel. And I feel like the creator wanted me to express that.
The symbol is actually based off Romans 12:2, that talks about, “Do not conform to this world, but renew your mind every day that you will be transformed and do the perfect will of the creator.” That's what that symbol is. So, yes. That's exactly what it is, and it does connect with that, and that's something that I want to express and speak to people through the game. That’s something that I want to do, which is why you see this symbol when I'm talking about #Unlock. You know you may have seen that [on my Twitter]. This is what Seph is dealing with in his world. He's dealing with a lot of these issues we're dealing with. People dividing because of color, and faction, and this and that. He's dealing with that in the game. When you see him growing those roots, he’s like, “All right, first and foremost the planet’s cracked up and divided, so I’ve got to connect these broken planet pieces before I can even communicate with these people.” Exactly how are we going to resolve this?
DBLTAP: The combination of action and farming [in Cede] is already kind of ambitious. It's not something I've ever seen before, anyway. And then you also have this other layer of the in-game currency that it sounds like you're like positioning [to] have like a real-world value, in a way. Do you ever wonder, or are you ever afraid that you’re maybe being more ambitious than you can manage? Do you worry about overreaching?
EW: I have a lot of people that you know I've met in my lifetime, or just during the duration of this project, that tell me, “Oh, your scope, you know, be careful of your scope, be careful of your scope,” and I think about that sometimes. But I think the thing is, I think I think about that because they put that, they put that [doubt] in my head. That’s like when you have a kid that has a huge imagination. And you know, that’s why I love children, man, because they imagine the greatest and craziest things, and it’s like when you become older people start throwing all this “reality,” quote-unquote, in your head. Like “Oh, you can't do that. Oh, one in a million chance, oh this this this that.”
It is ambitious. I know it is. But there's a lot of lot of greats out there who've done ambitious [things]. You know, I was just watching a movie about The Beatles. And artists like Bob Marley, or entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs — all of those people took risks. And you know what they were doing was huge, but they did it anyway. Some people are telling me “Oh, maybe you should make a mobile game first, get money from that.” But then I meet mobile game companies, or indies that made a mobile game, and in this particular company — I'm not going to say the name but — I played it, I’m like, “Oh my God, this thing is — you guys should be rich!” I’m like, “This thing is amazing.” The music was catchy, great, the graphics, the animation. It was ridiculous. I was there at an event, an indie event, and they said, “Yeah, you know, it’s great, but it’s not doing as well as we thought it would.” They said the market is so saturated. They said we actually want to make a PC/console game right now. They said, “The game did bring us a little bit of money, and it opened a couple of doors, but we're struggling still. It’s still super challenging.” So they were like, “If we could go back, we may have made something else.”
So I know this whole blockchain thing, and the game, the story, and all these things I'm saying — it's huge. But like I said, I don't feel like a huge vision should just stop because someone [doubts it]. Let’s say if a billionaire was like, “Here, here’s all the money,” then people [would be like], “Oh yeah, yeah, now we could see your vision come to light! Yeah, now you got all the money in the world!”
DBLTAP: Right. I mean, you’ve got to take big swings to hit home runs, right?
EW: Yeah, you do. [Laughs] You do, absolutely.
DBLTAP: You’ve mentioned a little bit how Seph is rebuilding this world, and in a way that's kind of like enacting like environmental justice. You know, like making it so that people can actually live in this place again. How do you see that idea of environmental justice being tied to social or racial justice?
EW: The thing is, in the story of Cede there are factions because the state of the planet when the player starts is that this planet is just damaged. It’s cracked up. Pieces of planet floating off. They’re in different regions of this planet, and they're like, “All right. We're going to re-establish this planet into something better. But each of their ideal, the factions — they have their own idea of how that’s going to work. Some of it may be great. Some of it may not be great. Seph is going to these different factions and he's trying to talk to them and connect with them on their ideal and try to bring understanding between everyone. Right now, he just knows that the planet has no plant life or crops. His one gift is to be able to make that. So he’s like, “All right, while we have all these issues, one, there’s on food. There’s barely food or plant life, and our planet’s suffering from that. So what I’m going to do, in playing my part, is I’m going to grow that in regions that need it.” That's like his faction, his role, and what [players] are playing in it. But then with the other factions, he may say, “OK, I want to go with this faction’s ideal,” or he may not. Or he may say, “How do we combine our ideals instead of being divided and separated through our ideals. So that story is really where it's gonna come with the social justice part.
But the plants — he's also farming, too, so you have a personal farm hub where you're growing food. In the story [of Joseph], there was a famine. And Joseph came up with his master plan to to feed the land, pretty much, and the people. So that's a role that Joseph was playing while everything else is going on.
DBLTAP: Did you draw or take inspiration from the way climate change is affecting the real world when you were thinking about the world of Cede?
EW: Oh yeah. There were 2 things in terms of that that I was really studying. Global warming and stuff, and just like GMOs and stuff like that. And at that time I was transitioning into eating a vegan diet. So that definitely is connected to the whole plant life in Cede. The environment’s important. It’s super important how we treat it, you know? Despite all of the riots and racism and everything going on, the environment itself is super [important]. That's like that movie “Wall-E.” They didn't have no plant life, you know? It's like the air is just nasty on the planet. It’s not habitable.
We’re in a time now — you see what happened with COVID, right? Where stores are getting swept out, and people are going to the store and there are certain foods they can't find. It's crazy how I started this project and I founded this a while ago, and that these are things that I was thinking about — and my team. You know, food and stuff like that. And now we're running into issues where we’re at a time where the stores did not have enough. So farms and stuff are even more valuable now.
DBLTAP: I was going through your Twitter and I was seeing you post about vegan meals, so I was curious if you were vegan or not. Now hearing that you are I'm wondering, is that tied to your sense of environmental justice? Where does that veganism come from for you?
EW: There’s two parts to that. I started studying the food industry. GMOs; what they're doing to the animals and stuff. I said, “Oh, man, I want no parts of that.” I mean, I grew up eating all types of meat and stuff for 20 something years. I’m a big energy person, and the animals, they have emotions, they have feeling, they have minds. In the food industry, a lot of them are in some really negative energy when they're chopped up, or butchered, or whatever. Being prepped to be sent off or whatever.
Then I've always wanted to grow stuff. Grow my own. You know, self-sufficiency. Which is why I think the blockchain thing is so powerful because it creates self-sufficiency for [the] player. Someone could say, “Hey, I want to quit my job at Best Buy or Walmart and just grow stuff in Cede.” It makes them self-sufficient through an income through a game they love playing. Just like in real life: You grow foods the right way, you get your food out there, people buy your food, you're self-sufficient. You can feed yourself. You can sell it and buy stuff. Boom.
DBLTAP: OK, this is a slight pivot, but one of your characters in the game — Lil Bush — is disabled. How did you decide to Lil Bush disabled, and then why was it important to you have that kind of representation in the game?
EW: Oh yeah. This is crazy. This is why I talk about my faith, bro. I went to this event called VGU, Video Gamers Unite, in Washington, D.C. [in August 2014]. Kris, the concept artist, and myself, we love story. We love deep story. We were talking about, like, what if the golems, the little golems that [Seph] creates, all of them kind of have some type of defect somehow? Or are disabled? But they’re powerful at the same time. Then I went to Video Gamers United and I met this woman with this organization called Able Gamers. I told her what we're doing, what our game is, and she said, “Wow, you should work with Able Gamers somehow.” She told me what Able Gamers is. I was like, “What? That's crazy! You guys make tools that are accessible for, you know, disabled gamers to play games.” I was like, “That's amazing.” And she was like, “Yeah, maybe you should even consider putting a disabled character in your game that's very valuable and powerful.” And I said, “Yo, it’s crazy you say that because Kris and I were talking about that for our Lil Bois,” and our first Lil Boi is Lil Bush. And Lil Bush is the first Lil Boi [Seph] creates.
So we were like, OK. It's kind of his first try, and he didn’t create it to where it could walk. He wanted to, he did the best he could, he put all his heart and soul into creating it, and that’s what came out. Lil Bush, we said, “He’s going to be so powerful and valuable to the story, but his legs are disabled.” So we wanted to show that despite that this character's legs are disabled, he’s one of the most powerful, and there's not a lot of representation in games for that.
I was inspired when I saw this guy, he has no arms, no legs, and he's living better lives than people with arms and legs. And I'm like, “Dude!” That's partly what inspired me, too. I saw him doing that, and I was like “Let’s put somebody like that in the game.”
Yeah, this is when we first started just talking about Cede. Like, we’d just started talking about it. The game didn't have any prototype, we were just talking about it, sketching, you know?
DBLTAP: I've also seen you on social media and stuff — even in your Kickstarter — taking the time to spotlight other developers that you know, who are making work that you think is important or cool. Why is it important to you to uplift those other developers and maybe especially Black developers?
EW: It's important to me because I know the struggle, man. Being independent, man. I know the challenges. And it’s time. It is really time for the indies to get a lot more to spotlight than these AAAs because a lot of AAA's, they’re the OGs. They've been around for a long time, and some of the stuff they're doing is like — y’all need some new flavor in the industry. Y’all had y’all time. It's time for the new cats to rise up and change the flavor up. Specifically Black developers? I mean, of course, as a Black developer, I'm like, “There's not enough spotlight. You hear about the Kojimas, like I said in my poem, you hear about the founder of Xbox, you hear about, Miyamoto and stuff like that, but I want to see a Black giant. You know? I mean, I want to see that. I hear people say, “Oh, there’s Black developers.” I'm like, “Nah, but there's not no giants.” I want to see a giant. I want to see a Black CEO of a new gaming console or whatever. So that’s why more and more when I see Black developers I'm like, “Yo, they’re contributing to that.” To become that. An empire, a Black empire founded by a Black person.
So you got companies like Decoy Games that I talk about, [its game] Swimsanity. My boy Shawn [Alexander Allen], @aNuChallenger, his game Treachery in Beatdown City. I want to see them rise and make more games and more games. Even with characters. I’m having this conversation with people like, “When are we going to see more Black people in games?” Or people like, “Oh the Black people aren’t represented right in games”. I'm like, well, if you want that, it has to come from Black people. You see Cloud and stuff like that, and you see characters from Final Fantasy, like [those developers] made those characters from what they're from. From their Asian culture. So you know, people like “Oh, that's it.” You know, Dragon Ball Z. They made Asian characters. Goku and them. If you want to see a Black character represented the right way, it has to come from Black people. Period. Because we live that. Those are reasons why I support black developers. The ones that I know. And when I meet new ones I’m like, cool, what are you working on? What are you doing? I want to check it out and support them how I can.
DBLTAP: It's funny you bring up DBZ because — you probably know — there's this whole thing about, like, Piccolo's Black, or whatever.
EW: [Laughing] Yeah. And then people talk about Mr. Popo. Like, why’d they do Mr. Popo like that? Why’d they do his lips like that?
DBLTAP: [Laughing] Oh no, dude. Oh no.
EW: Yeah, that's what I was saying, you know? And it's like, nah, that ain't no Black dude. We ain’t with that flavor man, that's not us, that’s not our flavor. You know, I told myself — our next game? OK, this game right here that we’re making, it’s like, OK, they’re just these creatures, right? They’re golems or this or that. But the next game, I already have the character in mind. The character’s Black. He’s a Black guy, and I wanted to make that as our next project. You know, it was just in my spirit to make this game with these creatures as our first game.
But yeah, no, Piccolo? Nah man. He ain't a Black dude, man.
DBLTAP: I mean, Piccolo is one thing. But Mr. Popo? It’s like, no.
EW: [Laughing] Yeah, Mr. Popo? Look what y’all doing, man. Y’all doing too much! Barret in freakin’ Final Fantasy, he got the gun? You know, he got the strap? It’s like, “Oh, y’all gave Barret the strap, huh? OK!” You know?
DBLTAP: [Laughing] Totally.
EW: It’s like, hey, he couldn’t have a hammer or something?
DBLTAP: He couldn’t get the big sword?
EW: He got the strap, huh? OK. Whatever, though.
DBLTAP: Yeah. Maybe products of the time? We don’t have to get into it.
DBLTAP: Anyway. That uplifting of other Black developers, that's you being a really active participant in the struggle for racial justice and equality. I've also seen you talk about why you take issue with the Black Lives Matter movement. I’m really not trying to ask this as a gotcha question. I'm genuinely curious. What do you see in Black Lives Matter that you disagree with, and how do you think that the movement could be better?
EW: This thing's been going on for a while, you know? This is like, what, ’09? 2010, 2012, or something? And, you know, for me, I’m kind of like, OK, what exactly in terms of the action, like on paper — if I could see what did the movement change, exactly? In terms of an actual thing [where] we can say OK, [we secured] more jobs. Schools for Blacks. More business opportunities, grants, whatever. In terms of the police brutality and all this stuff like that. You know, I studied Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Malcolm was saying like, look — OK, if I could say this in one statement: Let’s say that whoever the opposing force is, let’s say they never give in. Ever. OK? What is the solution? Because we've been, Black people, have been fighting and shouting this for years. Years. Back in slavery years, we’ve been fighting and shouting for our rights. So I said, wow, 400-something years is a long time. You know, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. So I said maybe the opposing side will never, ever change it. Maybe they love it this way. And no matter who shouts, or who riots, who destroys or protests or whatever? They love what they’ve got. For me, I sat down with myself and I took that understanding.
And then it also, like I said in my video, it puts us in a super weak spot. Like we are inferior. Like we need to prove something. I don't align with that energy. I love Black people. I love Black people. Any Black person that I know, that knows me, will tell you that. People who you know who are who are not Black, who are my friends, who I consider family, will tell you that. My actions show that. I may have put this video out and made a lot of people mad, but you can you say you went through my social media and you saw me supporting a Black company, you know?
Actions speak louder than words, and I feel like this whole thing — I saw a video the other day, I’m sorry, I’m just rambling on, but I’ve got to share with you, man. I saw a video where there was a bunch of white people crowding this one white woman because she wasn't put her fist up in solidarity, right? And they crowded her, and they looked like they were about to destroy this woman, and I sat there and I looked at it and I said wow, look at this. Look at this energy here. They're all white. But look at this energy. Because of a phrase — Black lives matter. You see what this phrase is causing people? You see what's happening here? This woman, just because she doesn’t want to put her fist up in a restaurant, her fellow white people are willing to destroy her. [The woman in the video, Lauren Victor, has written an op-ed about her experience.]
I'm like, there's a bigger picture here. I feel like the opposing forces are using this, just like in Cede, like I told you, there is a lot of the ideals that the factions have that are dividing people. When people say I'm Christian, you’re Jewish, you’re Muslim, you’re this, you’re that? It divides people. This is another tool that the enemy or opposing force is using. And I see a lot of these patterns in the enemy’s tools. I see a lot of these patterns. I'm like, at the end of the day I don't think people see the bigger picture, or what's going on. You know? So. Like I said, man, there's a difference between someone who talks and someone who acts. You see someone's lifestyle and you know, “Wow, this person, they actually love Black people.” No one can say they don't; look at what they're doing in their everyday life. And then there's people who, who talk, and talk, and talk, and talk, and talk, but they’re not living what they’re speaking.
It’s too much of that going on, man. This politics? You know, politics are using it right now. They tell you about how we need to defund the police, how we need to do this. They just doing a bunch of talking. And at the end of the day it’s a bunch of BS. People not seeing the bigger picture.
One thing my pops told me, he said, “Go off 1% of what people say and 99% off what they do.” This whole movement thing, man? I’ve heard about and seen Black people’s companies getting destroyed through these riots, man. Like come on, dog, like y’all not seeing with the energy what's happening right here? You know, these are Black folks whose companies got damaged because people want to act stupid and riot because of Black Lives Matter. Now if we could just take that phrase away and see the action, we can just remove that. That's like I told you, my faith? It just is. I'm not even going to label it or anything. It just is what it is. Soon as you label it? That's when you start getting all the energy that comes with that label.
So that's where I come behind it. I say look, I can display to you all my love for Black people, what I do for Black people, without that phrase. Because you will know that I know that Black lives matter through my actions.
DBLTAP: On a smaller scale, how do you see the struggle for racial justice playing out in the games industry? What's the temperature right now? What direction do you see things moving? How do you feel about it?
EW: I feel like, in terms of the game industry, you're going to have your companies that — you’re going to have genuine companies that are like, “Look, we want to give more jobs to Blacks. We want to give more grants to Blacks.” Stuff like that. You'll have your genuine companies. You have your bullshit companies, which I've been seeing a lot of since this whole thing. The [murder of George] Floyd and all this stuff started kicking up into flame. They'll send you emails. “Oh, we just want to let you know we support Black Lives Matter. And we value Blacks, and this is what we're doing as a company.” I'm like, well, why didn't you do that before this happened?
But ultimately, what I think is gonna happen is more Black founders are going to get spotlight, and the black founders who really care about the Black body in the industry, they’re going to be the ones that establish grounding for Blacks. They’re going to be the ones that do that. And then like I said, there are the companies who are genuine. They’ll play a role in that. You know, whatever percentage of companies right now that are in the industry? That are genuine? They'll play a role in it. The thing is about this whole thing, man, is if Blacks don't do it, it's not gonna happen. It can't happen if the other companies aren’t doing it that aren't Black, or the CEO’s not Black, or their foundation was Black-owned or whatever. It's not gonna happen like that. You hear a lot of stories about how people from China came to the US and they built their empire. Jewish people came here, or Arabic people, all types of different cultures, come here and build empire. Now they’re got the money and the resources to put their culture and their race or whatever on the map. So Blacks, we have to do that because no one else is going to do it for us. And it's the same thing with representation, all of that. Anything that’s, you know, Black, the Blacks have to build that. At the core, they have to build that.
All of the companies who are not Black-owned, they can contribute to that, but they're not going to change it themselves. They can't.
DBLTAP: In almost every image or video I’ve seen of you, you're wearing this face paint. Can you tell me about the face paint? What it means to you and why you wear it?
EW: When I first started this — well, years before I started this, which was five or six years ago — Dang, has it been that long since I've been doing this? Five years ago? Gosh yeah, I’ve been wearing this stuff for five years. Wow.
OK, but I've been inspired by African tribal culture, you know? I’d watch Discovery Channel and stuff. And I thought that was so cool. Like, “Look at their body paint!” And then you hear information on why they do it, and you’ll hear the tribes talk about their paintings and celebrations. The expression of being under attack, and this paint was a way for them to speak about how they felt about that. And I was like, “Dang that's so dope. I'm like, man, I would love to be part of that. I feel like my Blackness, you know, like I have African roots but I'm like you know all of this has been Americanized. So, I said, man, I’m going to do it. One day I just woke up. I just painted my face. And the first initial thing was I said, OK. When I painted, I painted one line down like here [draws a vertical line between his eyes, down his face to his chin], and then three lines across. It was supposed to represent a cross, and it represents spiritual warfare, that every day there’s spiritual warfare.
And then I said, well, there is also physical and mental warfare everyday for human beings. So one morning I woke up and I thought about a friend of mine who passed away. Her name is Phoenix. I said, “I’m going to paint a bird on my face today, and the bird is going to represent ascension out of spiritual, mental and physical challenges. So this is the head of the bird [points to point between eyebrows], these are the wings [points to horizontal lines across his nose], my cheeks. And this is the tail of the bird [points to his chin]. That's like right now, right? I'm very blessed. I'm very fortunate to be able to talk to you, to have this laptop, to work on this game, to run this Kickstarter, everything. But there's always somebody on the other side who's less fortunate. Who can't wake up and go get themselves something to eat. They’ve got to walk 10 miles just to get some water. I think about those people. I'm like, look, I'm in one tiny spot, a speck on the planet. There's a huge planet out there. And this paint also represents the awareness of that. So that's what it means. It’s a reminder of spiritual, mental, physical challenges, and that there is always a part, someone on the other side, that’s struggling through those challenges.
So that's what it means. For the first couple years I wore it every day. I didn't miss a day, you know? Now I wear it most days. It's always something I'm thinking about, even when it's not on my face. But you know, our world is a very, very visual world. People see what's in front of them. Everyone doesn't feel that energy from a person when they step in a room with them or they come across themselves. You know, for me, I said I will express to the world through this tribal paint and give it the meaning I gave it. And when people ask this is what I share with them.