Heaven Will Be Mine is the second game by Worst Girls Games, a game company that seems to take more from Vonnegut’s “Eight Rules” than any author I care to name.
Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
Start as close to the end as possible.
Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
It makes sense, Heaven Will Be Mine is a visual novel, with an emphasis on novel. There’s about 80,000 words of text in this, and they’re all worth reading to get the whole picture. The first controversial sentiment I’ll make is that I don’t think any of them are wasted. Occasionally the prose dips purple and flowery, which is the style of the authors in question: Like Vonnegut, they take magical realism to a place where the line between literal and metaphor blurs, and they play in the smudge.
It’s reflected in the art style too. it’s expressionist in a way that both invites and defies your literal interpretation. It doesn’t give you an outline and tell you to fill in the colours: It gives you the colours and questions why you think outlines are so important, anyway, when everything you need to feel is already right there.
And you know, I really like that. Why do I need specifics when the specifics exist only as a tool to make me think of something in a certain way. If the idea can be better conveyed without them, then what good are they?
So why not blend the lines between literal and metaphor, and let the audience decide on where it wants those lines to be, if there are any at all?
It might be good to give you an example of what I mean. Here is the first bit of text the game dumped on me, as my first playthrough as Pluto.
Intangible distance out of ourselves, communication with what is not, the unknown, the perception of impossible things) and every distance in-between. With perfect communication breath to breath. With perfect communication skin to skin. With perfect communication mouth to mouth, inside to inside, blood to blood. With perfect understanding across the bonds of culture. With perfect understanding across the boundaries of culture. With perfect access to the realization of the highest ideals. With perfect access to the acceptance of the deepest depths.
The solar system maps the human body. The solar system maps culture. In the center is the sun, which is synthesis. When the physical bodies of the solar system become our home, our ship through the universe, our body, their names will be given again, from the name of a rock (such as Hades) to the name of a a part of us and ourselves (such as Pluto). You are the sun. Through you, humans will possess their true body. As you were once born, through us, we too, wish-
This writing style is so important for the idea the story wants to convey, and its details unfold slowly, with precision. It couldn’t tell such an abstract idea in a specific way, so it needs to throw you in the deep end of taking it for granted you’re not going to be able to get any of this at first. You will, though. You go from understanding none of it, to understanding all of it.
Vonnegut’s eighth rule takes on new life here: Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. There is too much information there, an impossible amount, and no context or meaning to it. Every sentence is in English, and understable, but together?
You need a Rosetta stone of sorts. More information, more context, to understand what you’ve already been told. To learn what you know. Many will find this offputting, but I find it to be one of the most uniquely powerful hooks I’ve come across. Is this metaphor or literal?
The answer will be a resounding and confident: “Yes”. But you’ll know where one begins and one ends.
Work backwards to rule 7. Heaven Will be Mine is an allegory few will understand, but those who understand will cherish to the core of their soul. Writing to please one person? This game is black, white and LBGTQ+ all over. You may be shocked to find that the game where every core character is female but two – Mercury, who is trans, and Iapetus, implied to be the single worst person in a world of flawed characters:
The only character whose face is a mosaic blur, a stark contrast to the realness of another faction leader, Europa:
You may be shocked to find this game is about queer issues and feminism and all that lefty social junk. It revels in it, because the story it wants to tell is fundamental to the queer community. This game really is about queer space in every possible interpretation of those two words.
We live in a universe where E=mc2, where there is a conversion factor back and forth between mass and energy, and spacetime curves around the equation. Heaven Will Be Mine wears the aesthetic of mecha anime to ask the question; What if culture was a force of physics that took equal place among the relativity theory? What if, next to relativity, there was a unified culture theory? Mass converts to Culture to energy and back again. What if spacetime curved around force of will.
Gravity is a metaphor, but it’s literal. Uninhabited planets use their Greek names, inhabited planets with culture their Roman ones. Earth is the center of the universe, because it’s where humans they produce their gravitational constant of 9.8m/s2, Terra is just the name of the rock they’re on. There was to be a new world on Mars, but instead a war is fought on Ares
Why mech suits? Because they need to look human, be an extension of humanity. Generating artificial gravity means bringing the culture needed to sustain a person in space, which means artificial humanity as well. They are a projection of their pilots, a weaponized persona.
These details aren’t just flowery flourishes, they’re absolutely critical to conveying the underlying message, the meaning. A story about what it means to be an outgroup invited back into the mainstream.
The surface layer story is that these girls, Pluto and Saturn, grew up outside the influence of Earth’s gravity and became something they could never be because of it. Because gravity homogenizes, it binds everything to its equalness. Outside its gravity they were something more and something less than human: Gravity defines human, as it’s a force produced by culture.
Luna-Terra was an ace of the generation before them, a bit older but still a teenager when they were kids being raised in space. They were brought out here as children and outcasts who didn’t produce much of their own gravity, so they would be sensitive to its forces, and malleable. That was what was needed to fight the Existential Threat.
But now the war is over. The threat was defeated. The space program was cancelled, as it seemed to be creating something truly alien in humans who existed outside of Earth’s gravity.
And the children of space are fighting a war over what to do about that.
The Memorial Foundation wants everyone to go back to Earth, peacefully. If they don’t shut this fight down now, the Earth will send its military. No more plastic toy fights in mech suits that can’t hurt each other, can’t kill each other, were explicitly designed not to, in a way-
Cradle’s Graces wants to build a home in space that allows people to be still human, but more. To live in space and communicate with humans, but to live in their own gravity, have their own culture. To do so would be to divide them, to invite war, to bring conflict. But the alternative seems to be losing space. To lose giant mechs and laser fights and their home.
“We are grateful for our Cradle’s Graces, but we aren’t coming home.”
Celestial Dynamics wants to evert the gravity generators of the Ship-Selves and become something truly alien, to turn the concept of human inside out.
All factions respect the other. There are three keys to happiness here, but there can only be two chosen. All factions simply disagree on what is acceptable to lose.
Memorial Foundation are most willing to lose space.
Cradle’s Graces are most willing to lose peace.
And Celestial Dynamics are most willing to lose their humanity.
The gameplay aspect of the story story breaks it down into decisions, loyalty or betrayal. It’s the same choice for both characters, but what changes is who is chosen to get the better end of the interaction: Loyalty chooses your protagonist of the run, betrayal chooses the other side.
Somehow, no matter whose perspective you’re playing as, betrayal will be the more appealing option to choose.
You get two interactions with the other two rival-protagonists per chapter, across four chapters. Betrayals get you 25% of a lean towards their faction, Loyalty 12.5% towards yours, represented by a wonderful spacetime chart:
The outcome is always about the other two protagonists falling in line behind the leading faction’s, no matter who the chosen viewpoint character is. All three endings are available to all three characters, you’re only choosing whose perspective to view the story from each run. Their truest loyalty is always to each other,
It’s possible to end perfectly balanced, with an even score in all categories, by picking two betrayals and two loyals each in your playthrough. In their previous game, We Know the Devil, that gave you a sort of ‘perfect’ outcome, a ‘true ending’. Heaven Will Be Mine… doesn’t do that. There is no perfect ending, no way to keep all three things. Even by playing perfectly, you are forced to sacrifice some aspect of happiness.
But, the characters say to each other, that is the true ending. The true ending is whatever ending they get, because they will make it the best ending with each other. None of them want to make a sacrifice, but all of them acknowledge that one has to be made and they will follow the decision of the group.
My personal favourite is Luna-Terra’s ending, the return to Earth, with drowsy loving morning-after threesomes. No more mechs, no more space, no becoming something impossible for humans to comprehend… just a shared apartment, and morning breakfasts.
The other two I won’t spoil. The fact that this one exists is less of a spoiler, and more an invitation to see the rest of it, now that you know it exists.
But like I said, that’s the surface story. What does it mean? What is it an allegory for, and why is it so important to the queer community?
Why the hell is it so important that culture is gravity?
I’m deeply convinced this story is about hegemony. Let’s use the queer community as an example, the intended one. The Existential Threat that sent children and outcasts up to grow up differently to everyone else? Homophobia, transphobia, etcetera.
The Existential Threat was destroyed by even those observing it, adults who produced enough of their own gravity couldn’t come into contact with it because they eradicated it just under observation. But it broke them and wore them down to do so.
Finally, the kids grew up, and one of them was so special she defeated it. Then the war was over, there wasn’t anything left to fight, but because the threat was gone, keeping them away from Earth became the new problem.
The days of Stonewall riots are gone. Overt homophobia in the audiences this game is intended for is muted*. Still, the queer community remains a distinct entity with its own established culture, its own minor hegemony.
*Though not erased. In the time of writing this article I was Sieg Heiled at for walking through a strip mall with a male friend, and we were mistaken for a couple.
To remain so is to remain outside the mainstream, and to become a threat for a different reason – cultural competition. But to be consumed by it is to lose everything special about a community that was forged outside, in necessity.
The three factions represent the three possible choices. Be subsumed again, but change the mainstream a little bit – a fraction of a decimal point – with what you bring back from the outside. To maintain the counter-culture, and exist in the in-and-out, the inbetween space of oppression and acceptance that forms from being a welcomed other… and to fuck all that shit, emphatically.
It’s a really important discussion, and a huge idea to discuss, even in 80,000 words of narrative to discuss it. The strength of the metaphors and the magical realism is to convert abstracts into concrete physics, laws of nature, and discuss them in those terms, on that ground… then convert those concepts back in your own mind later, as you understand them.
What does it mean to fight gravity?
It’s Worst Girl Games, so it also uses these themes and ideas to talk about relationships, the fallout of breakups, of fighting with someone you love. It talks about relationships with authority figures, and relationships with authority figures. It talks about being really turned on by getting choked, and the surprise of learning that for the first time.
But mostly it talks about having to make the decision about what it means for your outgroup to no longer be the outgroup. If you’re willing to fight for what you have, if you’ll never be able to stop fighting to keep it that way. Is it worth it?
The answer might be yes. But all of you have to decide together, because you can’t fight the pull of gravity without them.
The true strength of Heaven Will Be Mine is that you don’t need to understand what it’s trying to tell you to appreciate it. The surface level story is still fantastic. My interpretation could even be entirely wrong, though I suspect that it’s not, and it would not remotely matter.
There’s a truism that great writing sounds like how people really talk, but the problem is that most writers aren’t really good at talking either. Heaven Will be Mine must have been written by an amazing conversationalist. Worst Girl Games always manage to write the most real flesh-and-blood people, they bleed into the page, and I could listen to them talk for days.
I suppose I just did.
It’s through them that these issues are framed, why their decision of sacrifice is theirs but not each others’, why they’re constantly willing to betray their principles for each other.
Because talking about such abstract human values might flourish with abstract prose and metaphors, but it needs bleedingly real humans to hold them.