One of the more surprising facts about Sad Panda Studios is that its creative staff is comprised of almost entirely women.
While the Studio itself has an even split of men and women overall, the majority of Sad Panda’s artists, writers and creative staff just happen to be female. That may be a surprise to some fans, since the studio’s main products are dating sims.
Sad Panda has two versions of its hit dating game – Crush Crush and Blush Blush. Crush Crush features a cast of all girl characters, while Blush Blush features all men. In both games the characters the player interacts with are open to any gender for their romantic partner. And what’s interesting is that both games are played equally by all genders. The demographics are split 50/50, which may seem surprising for those familiar with the genre of Date Sims, as most are aimed primarily at male audiences of various sexual orientations.
This comportment of the team was not intentional, but fortunately it was sort of somewhat inevitable, as the Studio has always championed games that, while featuring adult content, nonetheless convey positive social messaging in terms of cultural differences, gender, romantic consent, and sexual orientations.
Since the formation of the Studio, the founding members knew they didn’t want to simply create games with a sexual gimmick or edge. They wanted to create experiences that were fun and light-hearted at first, before progressing into moments of intimacy and strong emotional underpinnings.
That openness to being inclusive and positive, the dedication to quality experiences, and wanting their games to have as much “heart” as they have “heart throbbing” content, meant it was to the studio’s advantage to have as great a variety of artists and creators as possible.
So let’s shine a spotlight on all the lovely ladies who have contributed to Sad Panda games, either past or present.
Ok starting with meeee, haha. I am Artist Panda and I’m one of the 3 peeps who founded ‘Sad Panda Studios’. My back-story is long and tragic, so I’ll just give you the cliffnotes of the fun stuff:
I worked at Disney (doing Club Penguin art) for 7 years. Then I hopped over to Hyper Hippo and worked on Hello Kitty games.
In my free time, after work, I was getting all the art ready for Crush Crush. That was Sad Panda’s first game, which we launched on Kongregate. Once the game came out, I quit my job at Hyper Hippo to focus on my own stuff! It was a passion of mine to draw cute anime girls, so it felt really great to see players enjoying our game. Now I get to draw anime girls every day, haha, (I wish I could tell that to the High School art teachers who disapproved of it :P)
I’ve known Trash Panda for over a decade. We used to work together at Club Penguin, and really hit it off. She’s one of my oldest friends, and is the most talented artist I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. Somehow, I was able to convince her to come work at Sad Panda with me, but I know she could easily get a job at Pixar or any big studio if she wanted to. Together we set the style for Blush Blush and Kitty Catsanova. Her art continues to inspire me and I’m so happy to have her as a fellow Panda ❤
Mur has been a contributing artist since 2016 believe it or not! Her style was really appealing to me, so I started commissioning her for things like the Hush Hush dakimakura designs. When the idea for Phone Flings sprouted, I thought of Mur to be our designated ‘Phone Fling Artist’ and she’s done a really great job with them. She continues to work on Crush Crush and Hush Hush artwork for Sad Panda, and has an endless list of illustrations we want from her ❤ I’m super jealous that she lives in beautiful Vietnam, and I’m sad that it’s so far away. For now we continue commissioning her, but in my heart I consider her an official member of the Panda team.
I scouted Azayuki’s art back in 2018 and had her do an art test to see if she could match the art style I set for Crush Crush. She passed the test with flying colors (lol – artist joke!) and became the biggest helper artist. She’s been really great to work with, is super fast, and takes feedback/critiques really well. She’s just a pure joy to work with and I love seeing the designs she comes up with. We collaborate on every image she makes for Crush Crush so that it stays on-brand with the art style, and has the most appealing designs we can think of. She’s a keeper, and if she didn’t live all the way in Spain I think she would be an official in-studio Panda. You’ll recognize her work in Crush Crush since she did the art for Sirina, Rosa, Shibuki, Charlotte, and so many more!
Where do I begin with describing Dao… She is SO COOL and I adore everything she makes. Her specialty is doing Ghibli-style background art, but she has many other artistic talents. I have never been very good at drawing backgrounds, so I have a huge amount of respect for her. She also lives in Vietnam, but her English is really good! All of the gorgeous backgrounds used in Blush Blush were made by Dao, as well as Hush Hush. Her art inspires me so much, and I love that she is able to take an idea and develop all the details of the environment to make the setting come to life. I hope to keep working with Dao on many future projects, because she is awesome!
While I can’t share too many details on what project or type of art Osiimi has been working on, just know that she is really good at what she does. Her designs have a strong character style and lovely color palettes. She’s also really good at drawing confident women characters with a lot of appeal 😉 She’s been so fun to collaborate with, and I love her art style so much I want to keep finding projects she can work on! Like Mur, she also lives in Vietnam. I really want to travel there one day so I can meet all of these incredibly talented artists I work with ❤ You can check out a webcomic that she works on with MerryWeather called ‘Crawling Dreams’.
Carmen is an artist whose style has a distinct flair, with a particular talent for animal characters. She did a ton of work getting the Blush Blush bois looking their best, especially Scale who is a Dragon, and Dragons are awesome. She’s worked for a wide range of companies big and small, and has more than her fair share of art walking around in the form of elaborate tattoos on happy customers. Check out her Instagram for some of her work!
I adore Waifubot’s art style and everything she designs has so much appeal! She has worked on several illustrations for the same secret project that Osiimi is working on. Hopefully we can announce it later this year, but in the meantime just trust me the art is so amazing! And Waifubot played a big part in that =^_^=
BurBur is an artist with a really cute style, and she’s not shy to draw women in the buff. I discovered her art when Sad Panda ran a Hentai Foundry art contest. She really impressed me with her attention to detail, and the amount of work she put in for her contest entry. Her art was able to flex to the Crush Crush style pretty well, so I reached out to her after the contest and asked if we could commission a few illustrations from her for Hush Hush. So she’s working on the game’s phone pics.
Alanna is one of my good friends and also happens to work at the Sad Panda office! She keeps things running, helps out with all sorts of things, and is great for bringing the team together. I task her with lots of random things every day and she’s a big help. She’ll proofread scripts that OjiPanda writes, track down new fanart people have made, bake Crush-Crush themed cookies, create Jira tickets for helping our team manage their tasks, picks up groceries for the office, and so much more. She has a little dog named Ludo who is a miniature-greyhound, and he comes into the office sometimes. You might see her online here and there, so now you know who she is 😀
Steph is a contributing writer who started just a few months ago. We contract her for the odd Phone Fling script and some other things. Finding good writers is surprisingly difficult! So we really lucked out finding Steph to help take some of the writing load off OjiPanda’s plate. One of the scripts she did for us recently was for the smokin’ hot firefighter ‘Logan’ in Blush Blush.
As a final thought to this post – we wanted to touch a little bit on what prompted us to write it in the first place. Because truthfully, highlighting the “diversity” of its staff is something that can easily make a company come across a bit gauche and even cynical.
Over the years, we’ve had a truly amazing privilege to work with all kinds of people from all over the world. We’ve tackled language barriers and cultural mishaps in our quest to find people that share our vision of quality and light-hearted silliness. As you would expect, that has included men and women of various ages, experience and profession. We’ve had voice actresses whose first paid gigs were in our games, and others with a huge resumé of past roles. We’ve had decidedly ‘masculine’ men writing scripts for adorable anime girls, and women you might describe as ‘abashed’ happily create some of the most blush-inducing graphic content we’ve come across. In fact – there are even several additional women precluded from our list precisely because they do not enjoy the spotlight.
Recently, while discussing how best to continue expanding our studio, we just sort of noticed that the majority of our creative team were women. The observation came as a bit of a surprise. As in we didn’t arrange things like this intentionally, and were sort of delightfully intrigued it had worked out this way. Many of us, having worked in the games industry for a while, know all too well the major issues it has with attracting and respectfully treating women. But here we are – a studio best known for making dating sims, which are almost universally geared toward a male audience, with a bunch of women steering the ship.
In truth, one of the cool reasons things worked out this way is because we’ve been able to judge all of our contributors based on their work and their work alone. Going through applications and submissions, we’ve only ever needed to examine work for passion, style and craft. At this moment in time, it just worked out that our most skilled, stylish and passionate creative contributors are almost entirely women.
So we wanted to highlight this delightful fact in a way that didn’t sound like we were just taking a diversity victory lap. We’re incredibly proud and honored by all the people we’ve worked with over the years, men and women, but also pretty proud that in an industry that sometimes struggles to invite women into the pool, our studio just so happens to have enough women for a volleyball league.
And that’s pretty cool.