There are days when all you want to do is sit down with a cup of tea, switch off from the real world, and relax with something cute. On those days what you really need is robo-tea:1cup!. A visual novel that is even cuter in story than it is in style, and it’s damn cute in style.
robo-tea:1cup was one of the first games I streamed on my LGBTQIA+ days and I fell in love with it instantly, so it’s more than fitting that I get the creator of the game in to talk to me about it…
Kaiju: Welcome once again to Digital Diversity, a spotlight on games made by awesome people from the LGBTQIA+ commuity.
Today we have Josie Noronha, creator of the adorably sweet and gentle robo-tea:1cup!. Thanks for joining me today, Josie. First things first, please tell us about yourself and about what robo-tea:1cup! is all about.
Josie: Hi, hello! I’m Josie, and I’m a graphic designer who makes visual novels in my spare time! When I’m not working on robo games, I’m usually drawing robots for instagram or going on dates and talking about bots. In everything I do… robots will somehow be involved.
robo-tea:1cup! is a short and sweet dating sim that takes place on an all-robot planet. I made it with the hope that players could use it as a way to self-soothe in times of stress. To be honest, the catalyst for making this game was the emotional fallout of being laid off from a game job… and being months without work. So I ended up pouring all my effort into this game, because I really needed something to look forward to while on a very sad job hunt. That desire for hope and soothing got infused into my work, and that’s how robo-tea kicked off my “cute. calm. queer!” brand. 🙂
Kaiju: I have to ask already, why robots? Where did your love of robots, and robot tea culture, come from? Because it’s cute as heck.
Josie: That’s the question a lot of teachers and friends have asked, and for YEARS I didn’t know why I love robots so much! I thought it was only because of the ~aesthetic~ of robots, but oh no I was wrong about that. One day in like 2015 I was trying to explain to someone why I preferred giving my robots non-binary pronouns, and that’s when it hit me: we usually believe whatever gender robots say they are. And I know that can happen with aliens, monsters, and even humans… but robots were the start for me finally realizing “wow I’m none gender?? with maybe a smidge of girl??” Amazing. Robots really did that for me.
The specific thing about robot tea culture though is that robots absolutely deserve good things. They deserve to have tea parties and cake and just all the celebrations!
Kaiju: Robots as a means of gender discovery? I love it! Wishing I had played the game back when I was a teen and still trying to figure myself out, heck, I’d have happily had it in my mid 20s.
Speaking of non-binary representation in games, what are your feelings about non-binary finally being openly represented in popular media? First with Steven Universe, now with Apex Legends? Do you feel that big studios are finally heading in the right direction or do they need to be working harder to make folks like you and me feel included?
Josie: I’m so hungry for that representation. While it’s been nice for me as an adult to find it through indie games, most kids are going to find media through mainstream outlets like AAA-developed games and TV channels. So having Apex Legends and Steven Universe is a good start!
I would love for studios to work harder though. I know that we have it good as adults who can access indie games. I want things to get that good for kids who might not have the means to own their own devices, and might be channel surfing and stumble upon shows with non-binary leads! I want them to hear about the cool games their friends are playing and find out “wow there’s so many non-binary characters!”
The next step honestly is to make sure the studios are doing outreach on a customer service/marketing level. There’s so many people who make videos about how cringey it is that there’s pandering to people like us in games, and studios should flip that on its head. Having major studios saying “Oh, you didn’t like that character being non-binary? Well, here’s that character being BADASS IN SO MANY WAYS!!” It’d be encouraging to get content like that to support the games and encourage the players who are looking forward to diverse characters.
Kaiju: Positive representation is really the only way we’re gonna get accepted, I agree. Those folk who are whining about inclusivity are the ones the industry needs to stop listening to anyway.
Back onto robo-tea:1cup!, when you started making the game what sort of things did you know you wanted to include in production? Were there things that you felt needed to go in to help you through what you were going through?
Josie: While dealing with everything in my life in 2015 (when robo-tea development started), the things that helped me get through were good friends and small things that brought me joy (like tea). This was also during a period of personal growth. I knew for sure that I wanted to have a non-binary love interest, and for the game to take place on a utopian planet. I really wanted to give a feeling of safety and care for the player, so they could play while dealing with tough times, just like I felt I needed back then.
Kaiju: You obviously love your characters, it shows in their behaviour, in their interactions, in the whole feel of the game. Do you plan to make your beautiful robot universe a constant in your development career? Are there new directions you would like to take your characters, or new stories you would introduce to their world?
Josie: The beautiful robot universe is near and dear to me, but I think I’ll be taking a break after finishing robo-tea:2ndServing, which has been in development for about 2.5 years now. I think even in new worlds and dimensions, I still add some robo-tea charm to the characters and locations.
I’ve always wanted robo-tea to be a series of beginnings for each main character, so others can interpret what happens next. I still have a few main characters I’d like to introduce in the future, but I have a long way to go before those games are ready.
Kaiju: I’d love to see a full collection for each of the characters, get the “robo-tea boxed set” that I could bring out and binge when I feel sad… Please make it happen one day.
Now onto my favourite part of the interview, where I get to ask you: Josie, what is your dream game? You’ve been given the key to the Vault of Endless Time & Resources and told to make The Thing, whatever it may be. What do you create?
Josie: Haha, it’s almost like you knew I’m planning on making a robo-tea boxed set in the far off future!
But if I was in the Vault of Endless Time and Resources… I’d want to make a robo-tea game that gives you the ability to romance multiple characters and choose which ones you want to date! robo-tea:2ndServing! is the closest I’ve gotten so far, but I haven’t implemented a point system, it’s already set in the story that you’ll date multiple characters no matter what. I want to try giving people more choice in their datemates!!
Kaiju: Ha, It’s always a pleasure when someone responds to that question with making something they have already made even better. It shows such a passion for the work that is important for them.
Visual Novels are like books, everyone has their favoruites, do you? Are there any VNs that really jumped out at you as something you could really fall in love with?
Josie: To be honest, I think the game that started me off on making VNs was the Harvest Moon Series? But the VN I really fell in love with after starting my game development journey was Cute Demon Crashers, a game that focuses on intimacy and consent in a fun story! Another VN that charmed me was Ristorante Amore , which inspired me to think about how I could play with character perspectives!
Kaiju: Gonna have to add those to my ever-expanding to-play list.
Well it’s about time to wrap up, so tell us all what’s coming up next and where you see yourself in a couple of years. Is it all adorable robots and tea from here to the horizon, or do you have other projects that you’re looking forward to working on?
Josie: After I finish robo-tea:2ndServing!, I am going keep writing about new worlds! Recently, I made Robomancer_000, a game for #sadmechjam. It’s a precursor to the next set of games I’ll be making, with humans as major characters. But make no mistake, there will absolutely still be robots in it!
Every now and then I put up development posts on my Twitter, so keep an eye out for my upcoming games! ;D
Kaiju: I can’t wait to check out everything! And you know I’ll be streaming the heck out of all of them.
Thank you so much for being on Digital Diversity, Josie. It’s been an utter delight.
Any words or shout outs you’d like to share before we wrap up?
Josie: Kaiju, thank you so much for interviewing me!
And thank you to all the robofriends who have been playing my games! I hope the next robo-tea game will quench the thirst for polyamorous robot dating!
You can find robo-tea:1cup! at Itch.Io