Heather Flowers is an indie developer originally from the deep south, focusing on unconventional storytelling thru visual novels, adventure games and hybrid genre pieces. We sat down with her at GDC for a few minutes to discuss her past projects, and current works!
REBIND: Introduce yourself!
Heather: Hi, I’m Heather Flowers, I’m an independent developer, I am made of meat.
REBIND: What have you worked on? Just for people who are unfamiliar with your work?
Heather: I’ve worked on too many things for my own good. The ones that you might have heard of are: Genderwrecked, on which I was the programmer/assistant writer/assistant a bunch of other things/audio/marketing/etc etc etc. Also, Extreme Meatpunks Forever, the first season of which is out now, the second season of which is coming out soon-ish? Hopefully within the next year.
REBIND: What are your inspirations? What brought you to games and inspired you when making games?
Heather: I mean, I don’t wanna be that “person” but, I’ve always kind of wanted to do games. Like, uh, there’s this little piece of paper that my parents have apparently kept around since I was like 8-year-old that says, “I want to make video games when I grow up,” in, like, crayon.
REBIND: That’s good! You’ve got some lore!
Heather: Yeah, I got lore! I got into the games industry by being lucky enough to go to a games school, which I am still very grateful about. That sort of gave me the opportunity to focus on my own work, meet new people, and really start building up a following while also starting to make work that was actually good, instead of bad.
REBIND: And what games school did you go to?
Heather: I went to the University of Southern California.
REBIND: We run into a lot of students and teachers with their respective experiences differing wildly. How was that for you?
Heather: Yeah, I mean, I’m an odd case in that most of the games I have made have been completely independent of the curriculum?. Like, I do make games for school but, I’d say 70% of what I make is stuff that I just make on my own without really any scholarly input because I just have… A lot of things I want to say apparently? And, those, the things that I want to say, don’t really line up with a curriculum a lot of the time.
REBIND: So, how do you feel, like, the indie community has been receptive for you?
Heather: I’d honestly say they’ve been pretty receptive. I’m not gonna say that there aren’t jerks and there aren’t creeps, or nothing like that, like I have had people message me for feet pics. [laughs] Not indie developers, just random people.
But, on the whole, things have been alright. Like, I understand that being trans or basically any minority in the independent game developer community is like living with the Sword of Damocles over your head. At any second, if somebody gets the wrong idea about you, that Sword can suddenly snap and your income is gone. But, so far, I have actually been very lucky in my interactions with other people. I’ve met a lot of really good folks, and the folks that weren’t so good, I have learned to stay away from. Yeah, that’s my basic thoughts on the matter. I’m not making a huge amount of money but I am getting close to livability.
REBIND: That’s awesome! What are some developers or games you’d like to make a shoutout there to? People who also create, that you’ve been very inspired by or just love the work of?
Heather: Oh my god. [nervous laugh]
I’m just so bad at picking favorites! Hm… I mean, I could talk about people that I know personally that I find inspiring in their own personal work. Like, I think the work of Kevin and Priscilla Snow is really good. They made this one game, Mama Possum, which is about a couple of sisters who are mech pilots in, I wanna say Arkansas or somewhere in that area, fighting off the apocalypse.
Yeah. So, yeah, there’s that… Honestly I get a lot of my inspiration from music? Like I listen to a lot of folk punk, so, I listen to a lot of AJJ, I’ve sort of been getting into British folk punk which is its own thing, I don’t really know any band names off the top of my head… But, like, it’s good and it’s about, like, “never trust a Tory” and that’s a motto I can sort of get behind. More on the games side of things, I find myself very inspired by games like Night in the Woods and Kentucky Route Zero: games that are very honest about the experience of being in a specific place, like, that is a lot of the inspiration behind Extreme Meatpunks Forever, because I wanted to make a game about Oklahoma.
It’s a game about this fantastical, magical desert world called “Hellzone” but it’s also about growing up in a place where you feel isolated for being LGBT. Not because the community is especially hateful, but because there’s just nobody else around you.
REBIND: There’s just not a lot of resources down in the south, it’s not because necessarily people are aggressive or overtly bigoted, but it’s the isolation that gets you.
Heather: Right, so, the plot of the game is these four LGBT people who finally find each other just cling on to each other for dear life while also beating up neo-Nazis in giant robots made of meat, because, it’s— it’s… That’s just how I roll… I felt like there was a second half to that sentence and I just sorta forgot what it was!
REBIND: One thing I wanted to ask is, you’ve developed quite a few games in the past few years…
Heather: I’ve developed over 50 games.
REBIND: Out of the ones that were the heavy hitters for you, how do you feel the development process changed how you approached development? What did you learn, what do you wish you had known sooner?
Heather: I feel like every time you finish a game you’ve learned something. Whether it’s just a sequel to a pre-existing game or you’re trying the same thing over and over again, you’re still learning something by the act of finishing and getting a game out there. So, for example, in Genderwrecked on which I was the programmer, etc etc, I learned a lot about visual novel programming. I took that into the next game, Extreme Meatpunks Forever, and learned how to write along with doing the programming side of things and that’s sort of been the impetus for that game. And in my most recent medium-sized game, I’d call it a medium-sized game, You Are A Wizard, in which you are a wizard.
it’s this pixel art game where you’re jumping around and doing cool spells in the middle of this magical forest and you’re searching for your boyfriend, Sherlock Holmes.
You interface with some weird characters and also it’s about coping with the death of your father, and learning how to not be a shitbag in a relationship, and it goes deep into these weird themes. I can never make anything truly happy. It does have a happy ending!
REBIND: Well, I’d say being LGBT has some happy moments but it’s not always a very happy experience, so, it’s good to be real about that.
Heather: I feel like any game with truth in it has to accept that there are both good and bad things in life. Like, anything that says— like, any piece of art that says, “everything is unquestionably good,” I don’t trust that. But, anything that says everything is unquestionably bad, I also can’t trust that either. Like, it’s a spectrum and things happen all at once. I find a lot of my games hard to define by genre such as comedy or tragedy, etc, because they all have jokes, and they’re all really sad. I don’t think there is such a thing as a life that is truly only one genre.
REBIND: I mean, the original comedies were oftentimes really tragic, too, that’s kind of built into the genre to start with for that very reason. That’s great! Is there anything you’d like to add, anything that’s been an idea or a thought about something that’s been rattling in the back of your head that you’d love people to, like…
Heather: Be gay, do crimes.
REBIND: Thank you for joining us!
Heather: Thank you! Thank you so much for interviewing me.
REBIND: Of course.
Emily Rose is an indie developer who writes for rebind.io and resides in the pacific northwest. She’s often seen in the local VR arcade and developer community participating in pushing the medium’s horizons. You can find her on twitter @caravanmalice