At the end of every year Paste’s games contributors write about their favorite game of the year that didn’t make our best-of-the-year list. Dia Lacina starts it off this year with a look at Heaven Will Be Mine.
My relationship with outer space, and space-centric media, is complicated. They’ve never felt like they were for me, even as I craved them. I wanted the cold, dark isolation, the feeling of being precipitously close to danger, but untouchable all the same. The closest I ever got was the ocean. That felt like it could be mine.
Weightless. There is no one. Just you. There’s the sudden shock of cold when you’re far enough out. The growing salinity of your mouth. Buoyancy. But really, it’s being held, wrapped in pressure, cradled, but completely alone. And from the black, frigid waters of night, you look up and feel the stars reaching down, surrounding you on gentle Atlantic crests, and all sense of directionality is lost. And that’s when you dive. Pushing deep into dark, until your lungs start to burn, you kick and pull, limbs feeling more like extensions of limbs, and you claw towards the stars.
And you hope you guessed right about which way is up.
Space for me has always felt like a way to get an unattainable, inviolable perspective, approaching existence from the vantage point of vantage points. But, in reality, it’s messy. Space isn’t what it seems. Space will change you. Space will kill you.
Heaven Will Be Mine
understands this both metaphorically and literally. It’s rare that a piece of media feels like it speaks to the totality of myself exactly in the moment, but this visual novel by Worst Girls Games and Pillow Fight managed exactly that.
Heaven Will Be Mine’s Space is where queer mech-pilots who are simultaneously needed and unwanted can sort their shit out together. It’s where fights can hurt, but not kill. Where ideas can blossom and be contested. Where tidal forces of individuals rip, tear, but also mend. Space is where we can try to be better than what we were, who our parents who rejected us are, and with some care, find our own way forward together. Space is where we find each other/are waiting to be found.
My silence can fill a room like a tidal wave, sucking the walls and ceiling down into it. They can scream so quietly, lying next to them in bed I won’t even register it deep below their steady breathing. When we fight, it’s because sometimes it’s just so much—History, Body, Space, Thought, Gravity. Because we have too much conviction, or too little. Because of the un/done, un/said. We fight because of others, and what they’ve done to us.
But we don’t fight like them. We won’t let ourselves.
Heaven Will Be Mine should have been on my Top 10 list this year, but it wasn’t. It slipped through the wreckage of this year and drifted out of my orbit until literally the day after I filed my list at Giant Bomb. It should have been my game of the year. Like Austin Walker, it’s extremely my shit. Like Colin Spacetwinks, I love the representation of internets in games. This is my Game of the Year that couldn’t make my list. Sometimes there’s just too much to hold it all together, and Heaven Will Be Mine understands that. It understands the year I’m having, the impulse to throw the towel in, but also it wants to remind us of the importance of connection, of new ways, even if they’re unsuccessful. But maybe this was a game I wasn’t supposed to play until after this year ran its course. Maybe this was exactly when I needed to play it, floating adrift between the last year and the next, just wanting someone to hold these pieces together with me.
Editor’s note: Heaven Will Be Mine was written and directed by former Paste contributor Aevee Bee.
Dia Lacina is a queer indigenous writer, photographer, and founding editor of CapsuleCrit.com, a monthly journal dedicated to microgenre work about games. She tweets too much at @dialacina.