Tag Archives: Cara Heacock

Gaming with Marcus Ross

May 6, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Marcus Ross can frequently be found at Spielbound, one of Omaha’s hottest spots for board game enthusiasts. While Ross thoroughly enjoys board games, he’s not content just playing them—he also designs them. With three games officially published and more on the way, this Omaha native has taken his gaming passion to the next level.

As Ross describes it, his “real job” is working as a programmer for HATCX, an app that helps consumers compare prices between different medical services. His duties consist of back-end programming, which means while other programmers may be concerned with an app’s appearance and interface, Ross is focusing on the actual data the app provides to users.

Ross first took the plunge into game development several years back. He had been working long hours at a job he didn’t like, and his father had recently passed away.

“I thought ‘What would I be doing if I was just doing what I wanted to do?’” Ross says. “And I thought, ‘Game designing.’ So, I started just trying to spin up something like that.”

The first leg of his journey began in 2012, when he roped his cousin, Cara Heacock, into a “startup weekend.” This event required small groups to come together and pitch a business idea. Thus, Ross’ game development company, Water Bear Games, was born. Of the eight groups participating, they placed fifth. Despite the rough start and most of the other group members quitting, Ross kept moving forward with his business idea.

“I think we’re the only company that’s still going,” Heacock says.

She says she admires Ross’ determination. Even after experiencing several hiccups, Ross kept moving his vision forward.

Designing board games isn’t as glamorous—or as simple—as one might think. Countless hours of critiquing, crafting, and redesigning are poured into each of Ross’ projects, and some of them never even make it out of early development.

“I was just playing games, appreciating them, and saying ‘I think I can do this, it should be fun,’” Ross says.

Ross’ mid-development demos look far different from their polished, final forms. Game prototypes are a mishmash of various game pieces, homemade cards, hand-drawn boards, and just about anything else needed to make a board game function.

Ross’ first big break came in 2013, when Water Bear Games submitted a game design to a development contest hosted by the creators of Cards Against Humanity. Out of 500 contestants, Ross’ game, Discount Salmon, rose to the top. With guidance and publishing provided by Cards Against Humanity, Discount Salmon became a reality within a year.

As a joke, Ross had said he would wear a fish costume to promote the game if they won. Discount Salmon’s victory was a surprise, but that didn’t stop him from wearing a full body fish costume at the country’s largest gaming convention to promote it.

“The fish costume did the perfect thing,” Ross says. “The game is absurd. If the fish costume would bring you over, you’re already the right audience. The game sold itself.”

Spielbound guests pulling one of Ross’ games off the shelves might find themselves meeting the creator. He’s not shy when it comes to introducing himself or his games.

Ross is looking to the future of his game development career. He’s putting the finishing touches on his latest game before sending a prototype off to the publisher. If they choose to pick up the game, Ross could have his fourth game hit the shelves in 2019.

Visit waterbeargames.com to find more games from Ross and Heacock. 

This article appears in the May/June 2018 edition of The Encounter

The Boner Killerz

January 15, 2018 by
Photography by Keith Binder

Make no mistake about it — Eris Koleszar, Cara Heacock, and Anna Schmidt knew what they were doing when they named their band The Boner Killerz. Koleszar, a big fan of musician/comedian Lane Moore, noticed a photo Moore had posted on her Twitter account boasting a “Feminist Killjoy” necklace, which sparked the entire idea.

“The way the necklace looked and the way I was feeling about myself, my world and my desire to be in a band all connected through that phrase,” Koleszar explains. “I knew I wanted a band with a name that screamed the same values. One night, The Boner Killers popped into my head. I grabbed up the social media handles and when I formed the band, Anna gave it the final touch with the ‘z’ at the end.”

With Koleszar on guitar/lead vocals, Schmidt on drums, and Heacock on bass (which is really all that’s needed for a proper rock band), The Boner Killerz have dialed in on their ideal musical formula — loud, explosive, and full of heart. But they also have a very specific mission in mind. Koleszar, who identifies as transgender, strives to be influential for all types of people.

“We want to be an inspiration for young women, queer people, and trans folx, and show that they can form bands and rock out,” Koleszar explains. “In a sea of music that is cisgender, heterosexual, white male-dominated, we want to create a space for other people, too.

“I would love to see a world in which all kinds of people had access to equipment, spaces, and mentorship to create, perform, and record music,” she continues. “I don’t think there’s a lot of overt exclusion from spaces and access, but I still see a lot of music in the scene created by the same kinds of people.”

Although the group formed in March 2016, The Boner Killerz have just released their first proper EP, All Boner Killerz/No Boner Fillerz. It’s the result of the trio’s instant chemistry, something they’re all grateful for having.

“I feel like compared to other band experiences that I’ve had, this is by far the most chill one,” Heacock says. “The Boner Killerz is my first serious band venture, and to be honest, it has been the most fun compared to my last attempts to start or join a band. The three of us just mesh really well and I have a lot of fun writing and playing music with these ladies.”

All three members grew up with some kind of music in their household. Koleszar’s father was the music leader of their rural Indiana church and the young Koleszar would mirror her father’s conducting. Then her friends were immersed in ska and punk music in middle school until her former girlfriend introduced her to emo.

“There was an incredibly small emo/punk/folk punk/melodic-hardcore/post-hardcore scene in that part of Indiana,” Koleszar explains. We did whatever we could to feel alive through our music in a place where there really wasn’t much going on at all.”

Schmidt’s experience was similar. Growing up in Central Nebraska, her father was an avid record collector who introduced her to classic rock. As she got older, like most adolescents, she started to form her own identity.

“I listened to the pop hits radio station religiously,” Schmidt says. “Nineties pop music still holds a strong sense of nostalgia for me. During my teenage years, my tastes evolved. The internet was a huge influence, and exposed me to the grunge and emo scene. Of course, the early ’00s Omaha music scene also left an impact on me.”

On the other hand, Heacock, who also grew up on classic rock like The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, and the Beach Boys, was more drawn to metal, an element she brings to the band.

“When I started forming my own taste in music as a preteen and teenager, I listened to anything vaguely in the rock genre, including pop rock on the radio and nu-metal when that was a thing,” Heacock says. “I feel like I’m the one that brings the vaguely metal sound to some of our songs because I’m still pretty into metal.”

Although The Boner Killerz are relatively new to the Omaha music scene, they seem to have found their niche rather quickly. In fact, they often have to turn down opportunities to play live because of their packed schedule. But it’s their live shows that are so intriguing and leave people wanting more.

“I can feel that people do want to connect in meatspace and have personal interactions,” Koleszar says. “I like that we play small venues and meet new people at our shows, and deepen connections with the people we already know. Personally, I have a special connection to those bands I fell in love with at a show and got to talk to even briefly.” 

“We want to be an inspiration for young women, queer people, and trans folx, and show that they can form bands and rock out.”

Visit thebonerkillerz.bandcamp.com to find hear their music.

This article appears in the January/February 2018 edition of the Encounter.