NSFW Content Warning: The below interview contains sexual references involving explicit non-human relations and the game it discusses includes some explicit sex and drug use scenes. Both the game and this interview are intended for an adult audience.
When I saw that Ryro (AKA GenderVamp), creator of one of my favourite games of the last few years GENDERWRECKED, was making a new visual novel all about a club of gay monsters I couldn’t believe it. After all that’s the kind of club I would feel super happy being a part of. And after streaming the demo I knew I had to have them on to talk about it.
So grab yourself a slice of pizza and a chair, and settle in for a monstrously queer episode of Digital Diversity…
Kaiju: Welcome to the Digital Diversity project, Ryro. I can’t believe it’s taken this long for me to ask you to join me on the blog since I haven’t been able to stop talking about your work on GENDERWRECKED.
Tell us about who you are, what you do, and what Gay Monster Kiss Club is all about…although the title may give it away slightly.
Ryro: Hi Kaiju! Thanks for having me on your blog! I’m a 24yo transmasc enby from the US West Coast; I make weird niche gay games and comics (while working shitty day jobs to pay the bills); I spend the rest of my free time on local labor organizing and anti-fascist action; I’m emogoth trash 4 life. I have a lot of feelings about the intersection between monsters and queerness, so I like to explore that in my work, particularly in GENDERWRECKED and GMKC.
Gay Monster Kiss Club is an 18+ comedic dating sim where you play as the president of your university GSA, who is also a dragon. In the game, you perform your presidential duties while also having the opportunity to befriend and/or romance and/or fuck your constituents, who are all gay monsters.
K: That intersection between monsters and queerness is where I live so I too have lots of feels about it, I think that’s what draws me strongest to your work. GENDERWRECKED utterly entranced me with how it handled gender and sexuality and those feels are coming back hard with GMKC; getting to play as myself, a giant queer monster, in a game for the first time is wonderfully liberating.
So first up I gotta ask, Ryro, why Gay Monster Kiss Club? What was your thought process that resulted in a GSA full of gay monsters? Was it just the subversion of “classic” school-style visual novels that drew you to the concept or did you want to tell a story that was totally new?
R: I’m so glad that the games are meaningful to you!
So my sophomore year of undergrad, I co-founded TAG (the Transgender Advocacy Group) at my university, and I ran it until I graduated. That was the most meaningful thing I did while in college, carving out a space for trans community at a school that was pretty conservative. Gay Monster Kiss Club is a love letter to that time in my life, and to my queer college friends. Luna in particular is based off of a friend who was my co-president for a year, and who I later dated. It’s a very personal game in that way. My co-writer Milo, who I’ve brought on to help me write the full game since it’s a bit too big of a project for one person to write, is actually currently a student at my alma mater. It’s been really neat to have him bring a more current perspective; I graduated a couple years ago so I have some nostalgia blinders on.
I could write an entire dissertation on why I make queer characters who are monsters instead of humans, but here’s a partial explanation as it relates to GMKC specifically. Most dating sims are full of movie-star-beautiful people. Personally, when I consume media where all the characters are conventionally attractive humans with cisnormative bodies, I feel really othered. I’m fat and short and trans and I have bad skin and weird teeth, and I feel like a monster when I compare myself to these gorgeous characters who were designed to look cute on a body pillow or whatever.
My games are intended to be intimate, loving experiences designed for people like me and my friends. I don’t want anyone to feel ugly or alienated or dysphoric, so I made the love interests monsters and I made the player-character a dragon. I don’t think anyone feels dysphoric playing as a dragon. Except maybe cis people, but they can suck it up.
Originally I didn’t plan for it to be a porny dating sim, but that happened pretty organically while I was writing. Who doesn’t love some steamy monster-fucking?
K: *Feels intensify*
Gosh, that’s a heck of a lot to process and I’m getting all kinds of good feels; especially on the feeling like a monster part. Heck, my name is “Strange creature” in Japanese for a reason. I really wish that more games designers, especially in the visual novel space, would work more with unconventional characters. There’s only a couple from the entire Digital Diversity project that I can think of that strayed from the conventionally attractive or cute designs, so I’m in the same space as you when it comes to not feeling represented.
Okay, since you’ve broached the subject of monster fucking, a topic never very far from my mind (on a mostly academic basis I swear) why are folx, especially in the queer community, into monsters? This is something I’ve brought up in a community blog I did but I’m curious to hear your take on it. Why monster fucking and which monsters out of any media are you most drawn to (for whatever intent)?
R: I think part of the reason queer folx are so drawn to monster-fucking is that mainstream porn is super, super cishetero-normative; even so-called “lesbian” and “trans” porn cater to the cis male gaze. Monster smut is a place where you get to play with kinds of sex outside of the cis straight normie box, without falling into those gross fetishizing tropes.
Also, queer folx and especially trans folx are used to getting creative with sex, since for us it’s not usually as straightforward as “cis dude’s dick goes in cis girl’s vagina.” That’s part of why we’re on the whole kinkier than cishets are. So of course if anyone is going to look at a huge monster and go, “Yeah I’d fuck that, I can conceive of how I’d fuck that,” it would be a queer person.
I’m kind of stereotypical in that I’m really into tentacles and werewolves (as you can maybe tell from Gay Monster Kiss Club). Tentacles are fun in that even though they’re phallic they’re still genderless; sometimes you have tentacles laying eggs or whatever. The gender of the tentacle monster doesn’t really matter, just the fact that it’s fucking you. Also, anyone can get fucked by a tentacle– it doesn’t matter what kind of parts you have, the tentacle will find a way to fuck you. I think that’s really hot. Werewolves are fun because there’s a combination of the carnality and instinct of an animal, with the intelligence and sexuality of a human. And as a transmasc person, I love how normalized boypussy is in werewolf porn. A lot of people out there writing m/m werewolf erotica have “omega” characters who have self-lubricating front holes, and are able to get pregnant. I wish it was more explicitly trans, but it’s still nice to be able to see myself in porn even a little bit.
Also, obligatory shoutout to Fishman from The Shape of Water. Harley (in Gay Monster Kiss Club) was inspired by him. Huge kudos to Guillermo del Toro for both creating amazing monster designs, and also acknowledging that they’re 100% fuckable. That’s some big dick energy right there.
K: “The tentacle will find a way to fuck you” is the name of my new monster-metal band, haha. Although now I’m wondering about werewolves with tentacles; is that a thing yet? Can we make that a thing? I’m pretty sure those are on Magic the Gathering cards…
I definitely get where you’re coming from though, representation of sexuality outside of the cis-hetronormative scope gives people the opportunity to explore aspects of their own bodies and urges outside of the usual a + b = sex that is all we get to see in media, or when it’s not that it’s something downright hostile which makes it worse. I’d really love to see more creators work within the realms of the monstrous, especially for relationships as well as sexual encounters, and see what could come out of it. Asexual tentacle monster that just wants to hug? Demisexual werewolf (which is kinda where I see myself)? Maybe a pansexual trans gorgon polycule? The variations are as endless as mythology.
Before we move on I have to ask, if given the opportunity would you ever make an explicit adult monster game? I’m thinking something like Hardcoded but with monster themes instead of cyberpunk? Gay Monster Kiss Club is already adult in nature, but would you venture further into making positive sexual games if you had the chance?
R: Tentacle Werewolves is also a pretty sick band name, haha.
Gay Monster Kiss Club is already horny– I don’t know if you’ve played all the routes, but Luna’s is just as explicit as anything in Hardcoded. And some of the new scenes that my co-writer and I have been working on are also really smutty.
If you’re asking if I’d make a game that was kind of “porn without the plot,” aka where the main focus of the plot is to give a reason for everyone to be fucking… probably not. I like writing porn (and I like Hardcoded!) but I also enjoy writing character interactions, comedy, quiet/poignant moments, poetry, horror. I like for my games to have a little of everything. I don’t think I could write a horror game that wasn’t at least a little funny, and I don’t think I could write a porn game that didn’t have long stretches of not-porn in between the explicit scenes.
K: All totally fair points. I hadn’t gotten around to all the paths in GMKC yet, that’s probably going to be my holiday game, since I was streaming it and those streaming terms and conditions don’t mess around, haha. Very keen to check out the punk show path and see where that leads. I do wanna say how appreciative I am as a streamer that you included SFW paths in your press kit, I’d love to see more devs do the same because it really helps when there’s a game you want to share but are worried about falling into a random sex scene or lewd imagery.
Okay, back to the game related stuff before we get sidetracked again talking about how hot monsters are…are minotaurs totally hot to you too or is it just me??…
Before Gay Monster Kiss Club your big thing was GENDERWRECKED, which was another game that resonated with me on too many levels, I’m curious what lessons you’ve learned through those two and even earlier games that have helped you make your projects? Any big insights that you’ve stumbled across that’s made things easier for you? Or that have struck you as important elements to include to make your work feel true to what you’re trying to say?
R: No problem, I was getting the question from streamers a lot so I figured I’d add it into the press kit! And yeah, minotaurs are definitely hot haha.
This is a tough question. The three biggest critiques of GENDERWRECKED (besides the transphobic ones) were “not enough choices,” “default Ren’Py UI is boring,” and “sometimes the jokes are trying too hard.” I don’t regret the first one– it was just a fact of scoping the game properly, and if we’d overscoped then we wouldn’t have finished. That was probably my most important lesson, and the one I still struggle with the most: cut mercilessly if you want to finish on time. As far as the second, I customized the UI extensively for GMKC and was pretty happy with the results; I think the game looks much more polished because of it. Third is still tough for me, because my writing style is basically just “jokesjokesjokesjokesjokes emotional moment jokesjokesjokes” but I think I’ve gotten better at checking in with my playtesters whether my jokes are landing, and cutting them if they don’t. Cutting the jokes, that is, not the playtesters.
K: Maybe I’m weird then that I didn’t find any of those critiques an issue for me in GENDERWRECKED; it felt right for what it was. GMKC does feel well polished already, and it’s only just a demo so far, so those lessons were well learned.
We’ve just started a new decade, a year I hope we’re all going to make as queer as physically possible, so I want to know what your favourite games from the last decade were that really done right in terms of representation, or that made you feel seen, or even that made you want to create your own thing? Or contrary wise any games you think tried but missed the mark for one reason or another in how it tried to represent the queer community?
R: Number one on my list is probably always gonna be Butterfly Soup, and every time GENDERWRECKED is mentioned alongside it I feel so honored. Lionkiller by Sisi Jiang, which is a gay Mulan Twine written by a transmasculine Chinese enby. Also a huge fan of Dream Daddy; I’ve come back to it a lot while working on Gay Monster Kiss Club because it’s such a heartwarming and funny game.
Oh god, I sound like such a dweeb because these are all IGF narrative nominees. I also love Skate & Date by Gensuta! And there are so many lovely queer games that I haven’t played yet, either because of lack of time or lack of funds.
For the most part, I play small to mid sized indie games by queer developers, so I don’t feel comfortable calling out any game in particular for not having perfect representation. We already dog-pile on queer indies enough. But when it comes to games missing the representation mark, there are a few problems I see repeated. 1) Development teams not including BIPOC. 2) Paltry trans representation, and especially a dearth of transmasculine characters and AMAB nonbinary characters. 3) A lack of clear consent in dating/porn games. 4) No variety in body types; if there is a character who isn’t thin (or conventionally attractive) then that character is usually non-romanceable, villainous, and/or pitiable.
There are other issues with queer games, but those are some common problems that I think aren’t discussed enough.
K: Fantastic points for discussion, and definitely a few that have cropped up a few times during past interviews. The lack of diversity among development teams stands out especially when matters of consent or poor/negative representation arise.
Since GMKC is all about dating monsters it seems only fair that we swing back to that subject before the end of the interview: If you were given the opportunity to date (platonically or otherwise) any monster from any video game which would it be and what kind of date would you take them on?
R: The issue here is that I haven’t played a lot of games with really cool monsters because they’re usually fighting games and I don’t like combat! But a while back I was watching a friend do the final boss fight with Calamity Ganon in Breath of the Wild, and I asked them why they had to fight Ganondorf, instead of saving him through the power of friendship. Of course my friend got annoyed with me and explained that’s not how the game works because Nintendo is an unimaginative coward (my words, not theirs.) I think there’s something there. I’d love to take Ganondorf on a nice friend-date, go get some yummy food and see a musical or something, get him to chill out and see that there’s more to life than the Triforce. Afterwards we could go back to my place and play a board game so he can exercise his feisty competitive side, and, well, whatever happens from there happens 😉
P.S. I would like to make it clear that this is SPECIFICALLY Calamity Ganon, not regular humanoid Ganon.
K: Taking Calamity Ganon around Hyrule on dates would be pretty amazing, they seem like they would appreciate a hug too after so long trapped in the castle. There’s some beautiful scenery in Breath of the Wild that would be lovely to go walking around on a date. Who can we talk to about making this happen???
Well thank you so much for being on Digital Diversity, Ryro, I’ve utterly loved Gay Monster Kiss Club and can’t wait for the full game so I can keep the romance going. Let’s close this off with some rapid-fire questions because I can to that, it’s my blog!!
Why should people play Gay Monster Kiss Club?
When can we expect the full release??
Do you think Beholders (from D&D) are romance worthy???
Any last words of wisdom or shout-outs you wanna make????
R: Nintendo really needs to get on top of this; they have a HUGE untapped demographic here.
Thanks so much for having me, it’s been lovely!
1) People should play Gay Monster Kiss Club because the gays are very very gay (and trans), the monsters are monstrous, the kisses are steamy, and if it sounds like your cup of tea, it probably is!
2) My cowriter and I are chipping away at the game right now (the plot is all planned out.) Once we’ve written about half the content, I plan on crowdfunding for music, marketing, and miscellanea. By the time we launch the Kickstarter, I should have a better idea of how long development will take, but until then I’m not gonna try to guess. Don’t hold your breath, though, the full game probably won’t be coming in 2020 😦
3) Absolutely! Anything with that many tentacles and teeth is on my to-do list.
4) Shoutout to my amazing GMKC team: Milo Smiley, Tambalaya, Josie Brechner, and M Gewehr! So excited to keep working with them in the new decade. As far as words of wisdom: if you wanna make something, make it, and make it as richly self-indulgent as you possibly can. If you truly love your art, it’ll shine through. Even if it’s unpolished or goofy, I guarantee someone else out there will love it as much as you do. And there’s no better feeling than seeing strangers fall in love with something that you made with your whole heart and soul.
Post script: Since this interview I have played through Gay Monster Kiss Club enough times to experience every conversation tree and path and to say I got a little bit hot under the collar is an understatement.
The GMKC demo has so many layers and experiences going on it’s impossible to get to grips with what the game has to offer until you play through a few times, getting to learn more about each character and reaching each monster’s story conclusion. Some are hot and steamy, some punk and rockin’, others sweet and heartfelt. But what they all have in common is a sense of honesty and compassion. There is real emotion going on here no matter your choices you will feel it.
I’ve no doubt that whenever GMKC is fully released it’ll easily be my game of that year and the one I don’t stop talking about. Also I’ve had the soundtrack on loop for the last few days so that’s where I’m at right now…