Creator Spotlight: 5 Questions with Leigh Harris from Objects in Space

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This week we talk to one of the team behind one of the most ambitious locally made games and from it’s dedicated podcast to demo Ardiuno custom controllers this is something we have been following for sometime. So take 5 with one of the team at Flat Earth Games developers of Objects in Space, Leigh Harris.

What are you playing right now? I’m having a main of Alto’s Odyssey on iOS with a side helping of the remake of Shadow of the Colossus on PS4. The former when I want to kill some time with something super pretty while I get picky about its occasional difficulty spikes in the micro-objectives because it gives me some perspective about that kind of thing, and the latter when I want to muse about high-minded stuff to do with the nature of play, space, narrative and aesthetic like a wanker.

What is Objects in Space? Why is it important? Objects in Space is the biggest thing I’ve ever done with my life. The single largest project I’ve ever undertaken.

For some unholy reason, myself and my sister thought it’d be a great idea to, with our ridiculously small team and lack of resources, attempt an open world game. Not just an open world game, but an open world game where time always moves forwards, meaning that NPC quest-givers are only ever around for periods of time, so you can easily miss a lot of content on any given play through, meaning we’ve had to produce WAY more stories than we would’ve if they were just always waiting there for you like in Skyrim etc.

We have made some odd choices, that’s for sure. But dammit, it’s almost done – it’s almost here and I’m feeling pretty good about just how much our team has accomplished with this absurdly ambitious game.

So what it actually *is* it?An open world space game where you don’t look out the front window like your ship is some kind of plane, but instead navigate our 2D representation of space using your nav map and sensors like it’s a submarine. Made more sense to us given how absurdly huge space is.

Another way of putting it might be ‘an 2D point-and-click stealth-action open world game set in space’. We’ve been through heaps of interactions of ‘the pitch’ for what it is, but it *is* a tough one to try and define.

Apart from your game what should everyone be looking out for in local Australian Pop Culture? The Kates from The Katering Show / Get Krackin’ continue to blow me away. Absurdist dark satire at its finest. Their stuff is all on Youtube and they’re some seriously funny people. Also for those who missed it, Please Like Me by Josh Thomas is a really great little down-to-Earth sitcom(ish) type show set in Melbourne which ran for three seasons and is so endearing it’s not funny. I’d also remind Sydneysiders that the Vivid Festival is on soon (the one where most of the city gets lit up with all kinds of cool digital projections and stuff.

You may notice I didn’t mention any games in spite of my profession – reason for that is that I’m firmly of the belief that your talent or your area of expertise is best served by exposing it to things outside your wheelhouse as well as things inside it. If you watch some of these shows or attend this festival with the mindset of ‘how does the time I spend with games interact with these types of mediums in terms of their comedy, narrative, characterisation, use of space, light, framing, whatever’, you’ll end up the better for it. If you ever saw a 1975 documentary from the UK called ‘Connections’, it was about how great advances tend to me made between the cracks of different disciplines or mediums. Also I just think you grow more as a person if you deliberately push outside your comfort zone as often as possible.

Stagnation = death. Viva la variety!

Yes, I’m being a wanker again.

 Major prediction for Pop Culture 12 months from now? I think the dam is breaking as far as women writing and directing more of the movies and TV we consume. Like, a shift in the perceptions of womens’ capabilities is obvious from pop culture as we switch from women characters as a burden to our male hero (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom for example) to women as the more competent counterpart to the male hero who still has that bumbling wins-by-the-seat-of-his-pants type thing that Indy had (Kick-Ass or Guardians of the Galaxy for example). What this highlights for me is that the culture around gender has shifted, but the people getting to tell their stories hasn’t anywhere near as much. It’s still men telling stories primarily about men with women as sidekicks / supporting cast (caste?).

I mean women in the stories we consume being more capable/talented and getting proper character arcs is great, but when juxtaposed by incompetent men who are still successful, it repeats that shitty narrative that men get to be lazy and not try hard and rely on women to pick up the slack. And like, screw that – I don’t wanna fail upwards because I’ve got charisma, I wanna succeed because I’m good at things and I don’t like it when the stories we tell each other reenforce that men can be lazy but charming and it’ll all work out fine thanks to nearby women who are forced to pick up the slack.

So when stuff happens like the showrunners of Jessica Jones realising they’re telling stories which are quintessentially about women and deciding to break the mould by having an all-women slate of directors for season 2, and when shows like Rick and Morty and Bojack Horseman make conscious efforts to involve more women writers and directors, you can *see* the difference it makes. The stories are much richer as a result or at least they’re telling me stories I haven’t already heard before. Repeating epics of male heroism is a genre you can have a lot of fun with, but if it’s become normalised to the extent that we’re able to construct a meta-narrative/monomyth around it then it’s time to shake things up.

I think a combo of these good examples of shows improving with a more diverse writing and/or directing team (because duh), the major box office wins of things like Black Panther and Wonder Woman and Get Out and the general call to action of #MeToo, might create the perfect storm to allow a surge of new voices and perspectives in mass media pop culture.

About damn time imo.

Best last thing you ate? A few days ago I ate a croissant. Not just any croissant – a croissant which I heated up and smothered in bonus margarine. ‘Not so special’, I hear you say. ‘Not true’, I reply. For this croissant came in a specific context – the context of my being afflicted with some kind of shitty head cold and a persistent cough. When you’re down, basic creature comforts get a x10 multiplier.

And it doesn’t get more basic than a fluffy, moist, warm, buttery croissant from a cafe in Glebe. 

And that’s 5! Objects in Space is coming to early Beta June 21st and you can sign up for it. Jump over to the official Objects in Space site for more details and don’t forget to follow Flat Earth Games on Facebook and Twitter. Still not enough? You can also subscribe to the Objects in Space Podcast!