Dream Daddy is one of those indie cultural phenomenon games where everyone has heard about it, knows enough to make a reference or two, but maybe not everyone has played it. After Steam had discounted the price by 69% (nice), I picked it up. It also may have had something to do with the fact I met Dream Daddy developer Leighton Gray at Melbourne International Games Week last year and her being completely delightful.
Not at all…
The lies we tell ourselves
Dream Daddy is a visual novel where you, a single dad, date other dads. It seems like a pretty simple idea, but hidden underneath is some really grounded storytelling – especially around gender roles and norms, cis and homo relationships, and how parenthood changes the very fibre of who you are.
Dream Daddy’s story is pretty basic: You’re a single dad, with your 18-year-old daughter who is soon to leave for college. You’re both moving into a quaint cul-de-sac where, what a coincidence, there are a bunch of other dads! Single dads, married dads, athletics dads, gothic dads, blast-from-the-past dads – It’s like a suburban cul-de-sac!
You get introduced to all the dads through various interactions with the world, and then you’re already planning which dad you’re doing to date. Your daughter, Amanda, is a force to be reckoned with and sets you up with DadBook. I like the DadBook aspect. It makes managing the characters in the game easier – my memory is rubbish with people I know in real life, let alone game characters. Each character has their own profile, with their likes and dislikes, making it easier for you to score those precious eggplant emojis with your favourite Dad.
What I think is the big draw in Dream Daddy is the writing. I was raised by a single parent (shout-out to Mumma Rade!) and playing the role of both parents can be hard. The Dad’s in this game are vessels for how hard parenting can be, how hard it can be to be true to yourself while still trying to conform to social norms, and the differences and similarities between hetero and queer relationships.
The biggest flaw with this game is me, in all honesty – I’m not a visual novels kind of girl and I easily play favourites. I would replay Dream Daddy over and over again, but it would be hard not to run back to the warmth of Damien and the My Chemical Romance backdrop that is his life (don’t @ me). I wouldn’t say I got bored with Dream Daddy, but I found myself speed reading through dialogue to get to the action (not that) because my twitchy FPS brain can’t sit still long enough in a video game, which is more of a disservice to the game on my behalf.
Dream Daddy has a nostalgic colour scheme which lures you into thinking you’re playing a light-hearted dating sim, but you get caught by well-written, funny, and diverse characters, fun minigames and an adorable corgi wearing a bandana. It’s the kind of fun you can pick up and put down when you need to feel some happiness and watch a bunch of dads get enthusiastic about cheese and wine – which are things I can definitely get excited about.