Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator Review
Healthy Relationships Are My Kink
I first came across Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator in a Tumblr post back in June. When I saw it, I immediately thought it was either a joke or a creepy dating sim full of unsettling sex scenes. After finding out that it was being developed and published by Game Grumps (of all things), I was fully prepared to just write the whole thing off as a silly, forgettable game not worth anyone’s time.
But then I kept hearing about it.
Knowing the development team has a handful of folks who identify on the LGBT spectrum helped me get past my fears that DDADDS was going to be a weak, possibly offensive attempt at portraying MLM relationships. And after scouring the internet for any reason to dismiss the game and only finding a gold mine of terrible puns, dad jokes and a real sense of sincerity, I finally caved and bought it.
And, holy shit.
Dream Daddy is the purest, most wholesome game I have ever experienced.You play as a customizable “dadsona” who has moved to a new neighborhood with his daughter, Amanda. Upon arriving at your new home, you find there are definitely hot singles in your area.
Dadsona customization is quick and fun. There are six different body types to choose from, three of which are cisgendered male and three are trans male. I was confused at first because I thought players were just choosing between having a tank top or crop top. When I realized the bottom row bodies were sporting crop binders, I immediately took pictures and sent them to friends. It makes me really happy to see trans inclusion in a game that could have easily swung into the territory of toxic Grindr profiles. My dadsona turned out to be a beautiful (seriously, all of the dadsonas end up being so goddamn pretty) trans man named Percy Bysshe Shelley, because that’s who I am as a person.
You get to meet the neighbors and explore the area after your daughter chastises you for being a homebody. When players reach the park, they meet their Rival Dad, Brian Harding. He’s a big, jovial ginger man who loves to brag about how smart his daughter, Holly, is. His bragging triggers a Pokemon Red-style Brag Battle, complete with retro Gameboy graphics and music. Players take turns with the AI showing off grade cards and science awards and throwing out higher and higher praise for their daughters until one or the other emerges victorious. I thought it was a clever and incredibly cute way to introduce Brian’s character and his rivalry with you.
Other characters you meet are:
- Craig Chan – your old college roommate
- Damien Bloodmarch – resident Goth Dad
- Hugo Vega – Amanda’s English teacher
- Joseph Christiansen – the chill youth minister
- Robert Small – cool biker dad
- Mat Sella – the shy barista
After Joseph invites the whole neighborhood over for a barbecue, players are able to message other characters through DadBook. This sets up various date scenarios to play through. Each character has three dates to complete, the third prompting players to make sure this is their “dream daddy” before proceeding. Dates are scored and ranked by the kinds of responses you give in conversations; each response triggers a negative, positive or attractive response from the characters.
“Dream Daddy is the purest, most wholesome game I have ever experienced.”
The gameplay is rooted in building and maintaining a genuine romantic relationship rather than sexual conquest. This gives weight to every dialogue branch and action chosen by the player. You’re not just choosing a romantic partner, you’re also choosing a second parent for your child and theirs. There are no sex scenes in DDADDS, so ace/grey/demisexual players will be able to enjoy it along with allosexual folks.
During my first playthrough, I decided that I was going to romance Damien. Because how could I not pursue the only man in town to remodel his home into an exact replica of a Victorian manor, paint it entirely black, and dress in authentic Victorian clothing? Also, there were, like, a million My Chemical Romance jokes along with references Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. What drew me the most though was seeing Damien’s relationship with his son, Lucien.
Lucien is the watered down, late 90s Hot Topic version of goth to his dad’s true Goth. He’s a teenager. He’s moody. He’s constantly in trouble at school. Yet Damien is exceedingly patient with his son. Players get to tag along with Damien during a date to pick Lucien up at school after he had gotten suspended. The car ride back to the Bloodmarch house gives an incredibly tender insight to a father desperately trying to reach out to his son who is clearly struggling with some deep emotional issues. Dadsona comments on how level-headed Damien was about the situation and Damien replies:
“Shouting doesn’t do either of us much good.”
These are the words of a man who truly wants to help his son; who understands what it’s like to feel isolated and angry and not be entirely sure why.
Every dad in DDADDS has a similar revelation for the player to try and hook them to that character. But as someone who struggled with mental illness and emotional issues as a teenager, Damien got me hook, line and sinker. I was left both wishing I’d had a dad as understanding as him, and hoping that I could be that patient with my own children if I have them.
There is an exceptionally touching sub-plot with Dadsona and Amanda. Amanda is a senior in high school and wants to go to an arts college after graduation. She’s also dealing with the ever-shifting landscape of high school friendships and the realization that sometimes, people aren’t who you think they are. There are some really tender and heartbreaking interactions in this thread. Watching Amanda rage and cry bitterly as she tries to deal with it on her own before confiding in her father made me ache to hug her and tell her it was going to be alright; that sometimes, people are just terrible and that real friends don’t treat you that way. Things we’ve all had to learn the hard way.
Dream Daddy is a surprisingly wonderful game filled to the brim with MLM representation along with a smattering of other characters that fall on the LGBT spectrum. The best part about this game is that each character is presented as-is without fanfare or special treatment. They simply…are, and the player has the choice to either accept them or avoid them. It’s so nice to see this many LGBT characters treated like actual human beings with thoughts and fears and feelings. I constantly found myself saying, “So this is what representation feels like!” There’s only one other work that has made me feel that way, and made me cry this much: Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home.
On the whole, DDADDS is well worth the $14.99. If it does well, hopefully we can get a Dream Mommy follow-up.