Digital Diversity: DemiDato The Monster Dating Show

It’s a special night, one you’ve eagerly been waiting for, your chance on the monster dating show, DemiDato. 12 demihuman contestants, you, and at the end of the night, your shot at true romance!

Tonight’s very special episode of Digital Diversity is something I’ve been waiting for for a long time. This project has come a long way since its inception back in 2018, and for most of that time I’ve had one particularly incredible person by my side. Her first title I played, When Aster Falls, was something I didn’t know I needed to unlock a part of myself. Since then she has been helping the Digital Diversity project grow as co-host and all round awesome person. So when DemiDato: The Monster Dating Show finally released, a game we spoke together about back in 2019, I knew this had to be the interview for the Digital Diversity project’s 5th anniversary.

Lights. Camera. Monsters!

Kaiju: It’s a brand new Digital Diversity episode, and we’ve got a very special guest on today. My very own Digital Diversity BFF, co-host & all-round awesome human (?) friend, it’s Madi!

Welcome back into the spotlight of Digital Diversity, Madi. It has been far, far too long since we last got to catch up for an interview. It’s been nearly 4 full years since I first brought you on to talk about When Aster Falls, and we’ve both come a long way since those early days of the project. If I hadn’t been working on Kaiju Noir I know I would have brought you on to talk about Were|House, but here we are, to talk about DemiDato, the monster dating show.

For those out there in the audience who don’t know of you and the great work you’ve done so far, give us all a quick run down of who you are, what you do, and how you make the world a more wonderfully queer place to be in?

Madi: Hi hi, Kaiju!!! I’m so happy to be back! That first interview about When Aster Falls meant so much to me as a baby dev, and so it feels really full circle to finally be doing one for DemiDato (which was actually already in the works all the way back then!)

My name’s Madi Wander, I go by timepatches on the internet, and I’m an ace queer woman from Western Australia who makes visual novel games under my label Sad Ghost Studios! I love to make soft, silly, and safe stories for queer folks (and almost all of them have demihumans in them, which happened almost completely by accident, believe it or not).

Kaiju: Well it’s wonderful to have you back, your games have always been heavily relatable to me, and definitely helped me discover parts of myself that I hadn’t understood before. And the monster lover in me will always appreciate the demihumans you fill our world with.

So let’s get right to it, DemiDato, this has been a work in progress for quite a while with you and your team. I know we were talking about it back in the When Aster Falls days, tell us a bit about it and the long journey it, and your team, have been on to finally get it out the door and onto our screens.

Madi: Quite a process is almost an understatement!
As a quick primer, DemiDato is a comedy romance VN that takes place on the set of a fantastical dating show, with a cast full of monsters – twelve love interests in all, who are all different spins on monster and monster girl tropes. It’s silly, and retro, and cheesy, and has many puns in it, and in a lot of ways it’ll always be in my heart as the Little VN That Could.

To wind right back to the start, DemiDato as a concept goes back to 2017, almost all the way back to the very beginning of my VN dev story. I’d gotten the bug, and released my very first demo (Nanairo, which I made fully solo for SuNoFes and I’m so grateful I did, I learned a lot!), but hadn’t started working in earnest on any other VNs yet. I had a few ideas that I was eagerly brainstorming. But they were both pretty huge in my mind, and I’d gotten the (very good) advice to start with smaller projects first, and given my experience with Nanairo I still didn’t really feel equipped to make the huge epics that I was noodling on.

(I still don’t, honestly. But I definitely wasn’t back then. I think that’s just the way of things!)
Enter DemiDato! Mum and I had a phase of being Bachelor tragics (we watched it “ironically” and both knew we were lying), and I’ve always sort of been fascinated by dating shows as a concept. I started watching one on my own called If You Are The One (Fei Cheng Wu Rao), which is a Chinese show with a pretty unique format compared to the more Bachelor style shows – it features one guy contestant aided by the host and two commentators, who comes onto stage with like 25 women and has to tell them about himself and what he wants in a partner. If all of them reject him, he loses, and another contestant is brought on. IYATO is particularly addictive not only because of the unique format but because the women are outright brutal a lot of the time, and since it’s just strangers meeting you don’t get the same uncanny valley reality TV feeling as watching people fall dramatically in love over like two weeks in the Bachelor.

Sometimes when I have ideas it’s like that cartoon bolt from the blue Frankenstein kind of electrification, and this was definitely one of them – I thought, I could make a visual novel spoof using this format. And then I thought, I could use monster girls as a gimmick.
That was it. I was off!

I’m lucky in that, as well as being primarily a writer, I’m self taught in graphic design, so after I got the concept locked down and brainstormed a long list of monster folks, I was able to do up a logo for the project so that I could post a recruitment thread on Lemmasoft – put images in your threads, y’all, I know it’s annoying but it really does make a difference – and before long I was heading my very first team and we were getting started on writing! It’s a long time ago now but I still look back so fondly on those early days of development, and I’m so grateful to everyone who contributed to the game, be it way back then or up until now.

Kaiju: Heck, that’s one hell of an origin story there. Though as we all know here in the indie dev scene long production times for something we’re proud of is far from unheard of. And for a game with a relatively short play time, it is an incredibly well devised and obviously complex beast under the hood. I know there’s a couple of segments in there where I was imagining just how you got it all to piece together so cleanly, because it is a masterpiece of scripting.

Let’s see if I can put you on the spot and give you one of the toughest choices a dating sim maker has to answer, making you choose between your creations! Of all the wonderful monstrous dating options in DemiDato which three are your favourite, and if you could go out on a date with any one of them who would it be and why?

Madi: Haha, thankyou! It was certainly pretty ambitious! Big shout outs to the rest of my writing team, Jane Titor and Red-Chan from WitPOP, we did a lot of work on the structure to make it all make sense before we started on the script.
(And as for me, I’m glad we did it, but I am also excited to write some more normally structured VNs for a change ^^)

I can’t believe you’re making me choose T-T
Although, there’s a little in-universe nepotism here, because it is my project and I did manage during the planning stages to scoop two of my favourite character concepts into the route that I wrote – that’s Mino the mermaid and Saffron the lionfolk. Mino is pretty famously my favourite to those in the know, and has been right from the start, and Saffron… well, I’m gay. You know how it is.
As for my third… this is where it really gets hard because I truly love the whole cast and to toot our collective horn, I think we got such a fun range of different kinds of characters into such a small space! But even if I wrote the adventure-themed route, in real life I’m much more of a house cat, so I think my date would have to be with Tomoe for some hexflix on the couch :3c
Mino and Saffron are too high maintenance, I want to stay home!

Kaiju: *fans self* Saffron is… a lot, and I love her. Can’t believe I had to pick between Mino & Saffron at the end because they are both so much fun, but the heart wants what it wants.

So between starting work on DemiDato and it finally releasing you’ve released two other wonderful games. The wonderful When Aster Falls, which taught me more about asexuality than I’d ever thought possible and resulted in me coming out on the Ace spectrum, and the delightfully cheeky Were|House, which actually broke me from laughter a few times. What were the biggest lessons you brought across from making your other titles that helped you complete DemiDato? Any particular hard-won lessons that finally clinched it for you and helped you get the show on the air?

Madi: Scope!! Lord, scope.

That’s the answer pretty much all devs of every stripe will tell you, because we’ve all been bitten by the overscoping beast at some point, and it’ll get you even if you think you’re being very sensible and evading it.

With the benefit of hindsight and more experience, it’s very easy for me to tell that 12 dateable characters is simply too many for a game of this size. If everything had gone right, if I had been a consistent and organised team lead, and if we hadn’t had large lulls in development, it could have turned out fine, but those were just too many points for possible failure. That just led to more lulls, because with so many LIs it was hard to finance replacing art from ghosted team members, and hard for me to envision even what tasks I had left to do in order for the game to ship. For big chunks of the game’s development I didn’t feel very positive about the game at all, and I was terrified that would show through into the final product, which just made working on it seem even more impossible.
A lot of those problems I couldn’t really fix without just muscling through the extra work they’d created for me, haha. But toward the end of development I ended up cutting a few features like a gallery and a video opening cutscene because really they just weren’t necessary, and I think it’s a lifelong thing learning exactly what you need and what you don’t, but I’ve gotten a lot better at it with releasing other things and being involved in other creative projects (like fanzines).

Another related thing I’ve learned is to just have, and more importantly keep, faith in my projects. I pitched DemiDato to the original team as a fun, low-stress game to work on for portfolios, but that wasn’t really what I wanted it to be, and I should have owned that from the start instead of letting my worries make me inconsistent as a leader. I think this is likely what led to a lot of team members ghosting the project (4 in total over the whole development). I should have chosen a smaller, more manageable project as my first experiment with managing people, but that’s less of a widely told lesson than just ‘start small’.

I won’t beat around the bush, most of DemiDato’s extended development time is because I found it really really hard to pick the project back up every time it dropped (for the above reasons and for other life reasons of my own). Every project I’d completed before and during early development, was a game jam game! And those, especially with my ADHD, were easier to muscle through and complete fast before my initial burst of energy disappeared.

It’s been a really sharp learning curve trying to teach myself that it’s ok not to create consistently like a machine, and it’s ok to pick things up again and work on them at my own pace. I’ve been writing for most of my life and have done classes and groups and all sorts of things, but I’d never really met anyone before who understood the weird almost-grief I felt at the failure of losing that initial burst of steam, or at least I’d never really talked about it with anyone before. But these were skills I learned I could work on through both WereHouse and DemiDato’s later stages, but also when I started writing fanfiction again and found community there who helped me write a very long fic that I could never have imagined I’d be able to do without their help.

I’m very shy (to the surprise of people who know me well), and I think I could have avoided a lot of this heartache earlier if I’d leaned on actual dev communities I was part of. It’s one of my goals to be better at that – I don’t have to pretend I have my shit together when I don’t, people will get it.

Kaiju: Scope, the bane of all game developers world over. It sounds like you went through a lot of trying times to get to where you are now, and to get DemiDato out as it is. I’m glad you started to lean a little more on the dev communities , especially when tricky bits of scripting showed up.
Heck, I think everyone in the Digital Diversity community has come in asking for help with a Ren’Py question as some point or other, although that might have something to do with how complex scripting that system can be when you start getting into the trickier kinds of design work.

Do you have a plan for your next project? It’s been a wild few years in the production of DemiDato, as well as all your other projects, is there a new big thing on the horizon or are you going to try and take it easy for a bit before jumping into another game?

Madi: I will fully admit that taking it easy should be the goal (and my chronic health issues have sort of enforced that after the work I put into DemiDato’s release), but I am absolutely working on early development for some new games! Finishing DemiDato has been such a weight off me as a dev, and I feel like I’m ready for curtains up on Act 2 of my dev journey, hehe.

I have two very short jam-style games that are contained stories and also mechanics tests for a game I’d like to crowdfund for later down the track, and also a new idea that occurred to me a few days ago that will probably be releasing in between all of those. It’s a lot to keep track of for someone who’s been working on mostly one project for so long 😂 but I’m really excited for all of them!

(and, as with all the games I release, they take place in the same universe – there’s some common threads to all of them that I’m excited to see if anyone picks up on)

Kaiju: Of course, DemiDato is so obviously in the same universe as Were|House. I hope we get to see a sequel one day where Cormac, Morag & Esseth face off in the talent show to win our hearts again.

Since we’re on the topic of a shared universe, demihumans are an essential part of what makes your games special. Be it the adorably confused & frustrated succubus Aster, our trio of monstrous cuties from the Were|House, and of course our parade of perfectly peculiar participants in DemiDato. What is it about the monstrous that is such an appealing element in your work? What draws you to them as an expression of yourself and your attitudes about life?

Madi: Oh that’s a VERY tempting idea! Let me file that away for later…

And I’ll admit that I landed in monsterhugging territory almost by accident! I’ve always thought it was an interesting set of tropes to play with, and the VNs that introduced me to the genre (Hustle Cat and Cute Demon Crashers) both interact with the concept to some extent. Since it was made after DemiDato was already in thw works, When Aster Falls is the game that autopopulated my world with monster folk, because I wanted to create a game about asexuality and a succubus, and I just thought it’d be fun to set everything in at least loosely the same continuity – and it was!

Deeper meaning aside, I create better with limitations or things to springboard from instead of a wide sandbox, so limiting myself to telling stories that have some kind of demihuman aspect actually gives me more ideas because there is such a history of ideas to play with and turn upside down. More often than not my plots and characters are created by looking at a trope, or my first idea for a project, and purposely inverting it to see what the reverse is. Stories that appear to be about the rock, but are actually about the insects that live under it, appeal to me.

Also, importantly: they’re cute (even the monstrous ones). I like that my games look more distinct than those with human characters, and it gives artists a fun design challenge, hehe.

But it’s not lost on me that, unconsciously or not, I’ve created a world in which monstrosity and queerness are accepted to similar extents. They’re things that are often metaphors for each other, and like I said before, I like inverting things to tell a different story – because of the loose way I’ve built the world, I can tell a story using monstrosity as a queer metaphor, but I can also just tell a queer story, if I want to. More often, those things intertwine, just like they do in real life. Queer folk aren’t the only ones with a long history of identifying with monstrous or vilified characters (disabled and mentally ill communities are the first that come to mind), and I think it brings up some interesting questions.

Ultimately I think it’s about accepting that there is something monstrous in all of us, and striving to love the totality of it, all of it, not just the parts that are palatable.

Kaiju: Very good points, and you know far too well my own attitudes towards monsters & queerness and how they are inherently linked, so it’s always good to get to chat about the topics with like-minded folks.

In that same vein I’m curious about your own journey with sexuality, as it follows your game development path. Have you found creating these worlds, these characters and experiences, has help you understand and talk about your own sexuality better over time? Do you find your asexual characters for example continue to mirror your own identity as time goes on, or do you experiment with those characters to further explore your environment as it relates to who you are?

Madi: Absolutely, yes! WAF was written when I’d only been out as ace among friends for a little while, and there’s absolutely artefacts of me exploring that part of myself that are visible in the game if you look closely. I’m lucky that I have a very queer friendgroup IRL, but even then I didn’t know anyone at all who was acespec at the time, and my queer journey had been really stilted by the tumblr hate brigade around asexuality and aromanticism during my teen years. Being able to not only write some of my feelings out into the game, but then share those feelings with those who played the game – ace and allo – has been really rewarding, and it makes me feel lucky to be someone who makes things and can communicate with people in that way.

It’s also very amusing to me that I created a lot of ace lesbians, in my VNs as well as my for-fun OCs, far before I ever allowed myself to accept that label for myself. A lot of exploration for me is unconscious like that, but visible in hindsight. Accepting and feeling at home in my ace label was definitely something I had to do before I could realise what I liked romantically, and while I like to write people of all kinds of queer identities in my works so that everybody has a chance to feel seen, I definitely lean toward writing routes that have a piece of myself in them.

Kaiju: You’ve created a lot, over the years, Madi. You’ve created wonderful stories, helped make a community of devs who feel empowered to tell their own stories, and helped people through their own experiences so they have a way to discuss who they are with the words that have been missing in their lives. I’m glad we have DemiDato, and I’m grateful we have you. ❤️

And with that we’re all out of time for this episode of Digital Diversity. It’s been utterly wonderful to have you back on the interviewee side of Digital Diversity again, Madi. I’ve missed getting to chat about these stories that are so important to us, and keeping up the positive representation of queer folks in gaming.

As we fade out for today is are there any shout-outs you’d like to make, or final words of wisdom to share from your experiences over the last few years?

Madi: I guess my last words would just be two little pieces of advice with a little ribbon around em: love things, love the things you make, and do it all as earnestly as you can.

I wouldn’t still be here making things without being incredibly stubborn or the help of my support network, but I wouldn’t be doing it in the first place without earnestly loving the things that inspired me, and believing in my own work enough to overcome all the hurdles in my way. All of us struggle with our inner self critic, and especially for those of us that are mentally or chronically ill it can be easy to let self-flaggelation become the only way you know how to motivate yourself. But I’m trying to turn it around into being about love. And isn’t that where it all comes from in the first place? 💖

DemiDato: The Monster Dating Show can be found on
You can find Madi on Twitter
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