Online Dating… And Visual Novels?

When I first started telling people about Elysium Studios, I mentioned that we’re a cooperative that makes visual novels and online dating. After you get past explaining what a visual novel is, people wonder what the connection is. It has an air of sketchiness as a store that sells occult relics and frozen yogurt. You know, like in that one Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode.

“We sell forbidden objects from places men fear to tread… we also sell frozen yogurt, which I call frogurt!”

Even though that problem is now mitigated by the fact that I call Elysium a “new media cooperative”, the fact remains that these two lines of business still seem a little strange. I mean, visual novels and online dating… what’s the connection?

The connection is in fulfilling our mission as a B-Corp: to improve the health and well-being of transgender people. While my personal goal for Elysium is that we expand out to all areas of new media, we have to start somewhere. Online dating and visual novels seem like the two areas where we can expand and achieve our mission.

Why Online Dating

Online dating, even in spite of FOSTA-SESTA, is still an early focus of our cooperative. Our goal is to create online dating services that are radically inclusive of gender variant and transgender people. However, we don’t want to create something that has limited appeal. To have the massive cultural effect we want, we must make a massively appealing product.

Initially, our goal was to create an online dating service first. Once that was launched, we would use the proceeds from that to fund our visual novels. However, FOSTA-SESTA certainly complicated things.

Rocks in my path? I keep them all. With them I shall build my castle.

Nemo Nox

So while it’s not insurmountable, FOSTA-SESTA certainly complicated things. To the point where we’re delaying the release of our online dating platform until we can sort out the details.

Why Visual Novels

Which leads us to my next point… why visual novels? Visual novels give us an opportunity to tell an immersive story with a message. It allows us to make that story accessible to a larger audience and communicate values. But when doing that, we have a solemn obligation to do so in a way that is subtle.

The single thing all women need in the world is inspiration, and inspiration comes from storytelling. 

Zainab Salbi
My First Castellan: Elysium Studios' First Visual Novel Coming Summer 2019

Our first visual novel, My First Castellan, is currently in production and I’m excited about it’s release next year. However, it’s going to be the first in a long road map of visual novels that we’re continuing to develop. In fact, My First Castellan is the first in an extended universe that we’re developing.

FOSTA-SESTA and the GDRP… Oh My!

So, since the last time we updated you here at Elysium Studios, a few laws were passed. The most notable are the U.S. Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Tragically, both of these laws will make launching our online dating service much more difficult. Also, we are working to make Elysium widely GDPR-compliant.

FOSTA and SESTA

FOSTA-SESTA is a really deceptively named bill and has only caused harm for sex workers. The implications of these bills are so heinous, Craigslist has been forced to shutter its personals section. Besides shutting down one of my favourite sites to go to for a laugh, it’s more sinister. FOSTA-SESTA has made it more dangerous for sex workers to make a living. With sites such as Craigslist and Backpage, sex workers were able to screen clients and practice their profession more safely. Now, this bill puts sex workers in more danger.

This bill is also causing alternative dating sites to shutter their doors. This also poses a larger threat to the Internet at large. Elysium Studios won’t stand for it. While we all see the impact of absentee ownership with Facebook and Twitter refusing to take action against bigots, making websites responsible for the criminal acts of their users has a chilling impact on the industry.

General Data Protection Regulation

Unlike FOSTA-SESTA, we’re actually excited about the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). We believe that it adheres to the seven cooperative principles. While we are formed as a worker’s cooperative, it is crucial to create high-quality products that embody the cooperative principles. It is through our commitment to these principles that we can establish a strong worker’s cooperative. We are working on a strong privacy policy in light of the GDPR.

Our First Game, My First Castellan

I am excited to announce that we’re making progress on our first visual novel, My First Castellan. We are working on a highly interactive and informative website for the novel. Look out for it in late June/early July, we are so excited to announce it.

Slow and Steady Wins The Race

Earlier this week, I started Elysium Studios with it’s own d/b/a (Elysium Games) and just in time for NaNoRenO, the visual novel writing competition that occurs in the month of March. Elysium Studios is a public benefit cooperative that has the mandate to try to improve the lives of transgender people, as well as the public perception of transgender people. I think the two kinds of products we can start to launch quickly are visual novels and an online dating site, and these may have the highest likelihood of impact towards our mandate.

Why I need to go slow.

Unfortunately, as much as I’d love to do so, I can’t go full steam ahead with this brand new worker’s cooperative. And trust me when I say I would love to. I’d love to rent a co-working space and have an editor working alongside me on scripts for visual novels along with a couple of illustrators working hard on our projects. But sadly, I’m not independently wealthy enough to start a cooperative and my credit is kind of abysmal. That, and I have significant medical bills because I need medical procedures.

So, what can we do now?

If I can’t start full-steam ahead, then I can get as much work done now so that once I can hire some people, we can go full steam ahead. I can work on rebuilding my personal credit, to start building some business credit as well, writing some amazing visual novels, and of course, to start the early work now to establish Elysium Studios as a brand.

Of course, this also means that I’m going to have to give you something to talk about instead of just talking about a co-op that is in the works. Enter our games site, elysium.games. This is where I’ll discuss the games I’m working on and how I’m coding them.