One of my favorite things about video games is the ability to role play. Being able to put yourself in someone elses shoes and experiencing things that you’ve never seen or done before. Most of the time that fantasy involves taking on the role of a hero like Nathan Drake or Marcus Fenix and running, jumping and shooting your way through hordes of enemies. It’s a thrill that I don’t get from more passive forms of entertainment like movies or books. But for as much as I love playing those AAA blockbuster games, some of the most memorable characters that I’ve played as are the ones that I can more easily relate to, like a dad trying his best to raise his daughter right.
Dream Daddy is not the type of game I usually go for. Until now I’d never played either a dating simulator or a visual novel (I think the game falls somewhere in between) but the buzz surrounding the game prior to its release had me curious enough to give it a shot. It’s the story of a father who is moving into a new neighborhood with his daughter after experiencing a terrible loss. The goal of the game is both to settle into this new life with your daughter Amanda, and to navigate the group of unreasonably attractive dads who all happen to live in the same cul-de-sac in the hopes of finding your soul mate… or at least to score with some hot ass dudes.
Now, as a middle class straight white male it’s safe to say that my life experiences haven’t been the most… diverse. It’s not that I’ve been living in a bubble, but having a diverse group of friends is not the same thing as living those experiences. Despite having a bit of a man-crush on Jason Stathom, I have no idea what it’s like to be a gay man. So I enjoyed getting to place myself into the role of someone whose life is very different from my own, even if it’s through the lens of a video game and even if the life of this particular gay dad is probably a little bit… idyllic. You don’t really get a sense of the unique challenges that members of the LGBT community face, but if that’s not the type of story the developers were going for with this game then that’s fine.
After being introduced to all of the men in the neighborhood, you are connected through Dad Book, a social networking platform specifically for dads. Through that site you can message the guys you’ve met and ask them out on dates, after which you’ll receive a ranking depending on how well you connected with your date. The gameplay mainly consists of reading a lot of text over mostly static images and making a few dialogue choices along the way. I wish you had a bit more control over your dads personality and more choices in what to say, but the writing was solid and the illustrations and music were all great, so I didn’t mind approaching it more from that visual novel perspective. Plus it has some really terrible dad jokes, so that’s a plus.
There are 7 different daddies to choose from in this particular dating pool. From your old college buddy who now spends his days at the gym doing crunches and getting ripped, to the charming coffee shop owner who uses the names of indie bands to create names for his drinks (Decaf For Cutie). Each of the dads you meet has a unique personality and style, insuring that everyone should be able to find a studly poppa to suit their tastes. I admit that I found myself giving an unusual amount of thought into which guy to court. Not so much thought that my wife needs to be concerned, but picking a dude to potentially spend the rest of my life with is a big decision and I will NOT take it lightly!
While the life of a single gay man may be foreign to me, I was quickly able to relate to the relationship between him and his daughter. While Amanda is several years older than my daughter, the bond that the two of them shared felt very familiar. From when she would roll her eyes at his corny puns to the worry he felt when she wasn’t answering his texts and came home late, it’s a sweet and warm relationship that really struck a chord with me. I saw a lot of my own relationship in theirs and it made me more invested in the game.
On the last episode of Mega Dads Live we may have made plenty of jokes and poked fun at the thought of me trying to seduce the hot barista down the street, but I really did get a kick out of placing myself in that role. The benefit of having more diversity among developers is that we get more diverse games that bring unique points of view that we don’t see as often. Hopefully the success of this game will mean more people give those voices a chance to be heard.
I haven’t yet found true love in Dream Daddy (hell, I haven’t even made it to second base!) but I’m anxious to keep playing and see if I can find the dude of my dreams. While this style of gameplay may not be my favorite, I appreciate the game for taking me someplace that I hadn’t been before. After spending time with game, I really want to seek out more experiences like this. I want to play more games that place me in roles that are different, unique, and maybe even a little bit outside of my comfort zone. And games with more dad jokes… bring on the dad jokes.
Dream Daddy is available now on PC and Mac