“The Ballad of Pigeon Man” — featuring D&D Sluggers and produced by SublimeCloud of The Digi Destined — is the latest single from North Carolina-based emcee SkyBlew. The song pays homage to the classic Nickelodeon cartoon Hey Arnold!, a show that had a major impact on SkyBlew’s life and serves as the main subject of his latest album.
I’ve been playing video games for as long as I can remember. From my dad giving me four quarters — and no more than that — to spend at a video game arcade, to sleepovers at friends to play Atari 2600, to playing text-based adventure games on the Apple IIe, to helping my friend defeat shadow Link, to Doom to Half Life 2 to Knights of the Old Republic to Plants vs. Zombies to the Last of Us… OK, you get the idea. And for most of my early years, I had no problem that, in roughly 99% of the games I played, the protagonist was either a white male or a white elf or a white looking quasi-human.
It didn’t matter to me because it was drilled into my head that being white was the norm. Which is a bit weird because the neighborhood I grew up in was predominantly working class and poor people of color and American Indian. It wasn’t like I was trying to be like everyone around me (that came later), it was like being white was an escape. Escape from where I was, escape from people of all colors blaming families like mine for the Vietnam war, escape from a rainbow of bullies chasing me and calling me chink. And video games are in many ways the ultimate escape. Even more than films or books, you can get lost in lovingly rendered worlds and realities. You can effect a positive outcome and become a great hero or villain if you work hard and you don’t quit. But you better be OK with playing a white man, because you often won’t have a choice.
In gaming culture, an NPC (non-player character) is often a bit player in the overall story — he or she is there for no reason except to get the main character to their goal. Their backstory is never told.
Much like an NPC, people of color who desire to create music or art or think differently than their counterparts are often discouraged and forced to keep those thoughts and ideas to themselves. And to play the background.
I had an idea a while back to create a collective of like-minded, forward thinking creatives who have been through a lot of the same things I had as a person of color who enjoyed nerdy things as a child an as an adult.