Even if technological advancements in video games are currently shooting into the stratosphere, it’s nice to go back to the basics with a visual novel about fatherhood – or more specifically, one about being a single father, dating other single fathers.

Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator (DDADDS) was announced on Father’s Day 2017, and was met with overwhelming praise and excitement from the online community. It is produced by the YouTube sensations, The Game Grumps, and was heavily anticipated for the last month. It allows you to create your own ‘Dadsona’ on your quest to date other eligible Dads that all just happen to live on the same cul-de-sac that you’ve just moved into. The premise itself sounds ridiculous, but when games get progressively more serious (with the release of games such as Prey and Horizon: Zero Dawn), sometimes it’s nice to take a step back and enjoy the simplicity of storytelling.

[The characters] each have their own individual story that does not revolve around your persona, and you help them come to terms with their own troubles

What Dream Daddy delivers is an amazingly written story. It undermines common dating simulator tropes (such as – why is everyone single, and why do they fall in love with you specifically?!) and subverts stereotypical expectations of these characters. The game gives you seven unique and diverse Dads, all seemingly based on certain tropes. There is the Sports Dad, who is really a workaholic bro; the Music Dad, who suffers from social anxiety; the Trash Dad, who is… trash (hey look, not everyone can be perfect); the Teacher Dad, who struggles with his rebellious son; the Goth Dad, who is shy and passionate about Victorian culture; an Overachieving Dad, and finally, the Cool Youth Minister Dad.

These characters fulfil expected tropes of dating simulators, whilst simultaneously giving them new dimensions, and personalities and traits in their own rights. The characters are also highly diverse, with only two white men in a cast of seven dateable dads (one of them is ginger, too!), which is a huge step up in the world of videogames. It has also been confirmed that one of the Dads is canonically a transgender man. The amazing thing is that these differing genders and races do not affect their characters. They are written as characters first, rather than typecasted and flimsy. It is clear that a lot of time and effort went into the creation and development of these characters. They each have their own individual story that does not revolve around your persona, and you help them come to terms with their own troubles, and move on with their lives. It’s a story of friendship and romance, shedding light on serious topics in a fun and funky fresh manner.

It was nice to see writers acknowledge that life isn’t always perfect

In addition, you are the father of a teenage daughter, Amanda, who is struggling with college applications and high school drama. As a father, you have to try your best to support her and understand her. The writers clearly knew their target audience – teenagers and young adults – as it brought up the serious topic of what to do when your friends abandon you, or when you feel left alone or hurt. It reminds the reader that all these problems, for an 18-year-old, are perfectly valid. Being upset over people that have wronged you is perfectly viable, and should not be dismissed as being ‘kinda dumb’ or being ‘stupid teenager stuff’, because in reality it’s a big deal. It was nice to see writers acknowledge that life isn’t always perfect, and reminding us that our real friends are there through thick and thin.

But Dream Daddy isn’t without its faults. One of the biggest issues is the lack of unique endings. Every single ending is the same setting – a party for Amanda, with the only change being a conversation at the end with the Dad of your choice. It’s cute and fluffy, but overall underwhelming, especially considering all the effort that had gone into writing the individual storylines. I would at least like to be taken back to the meaningful places to have a romantic moment or something. The game also has a few bugs and some grammatical errors, but considering the short timespan in which it was released, it isn’t too surprising. One bug I encountered is during the second date with Craig, as you enter the diner. If you load the game from that diner scene change, Joseph’s creepy twin children come on screen, overlapping everything else, and stay there. They just stay there, watching, staring. It’s a strange bug, but funny nonetheless.

it’s hard to dislike such a wholesome game, even with its faults

Of course, what is a Dad game without dad jokes? And trust me, this game is full of dad jokes. It’s almost dad-ly with the amount of cringe at points, but they were dad-icated to making it true to life, and mirroring your own dear sweet dad. The game manages to be simultaneously hilarious and painfully realistic despite the absurdity of the setting. It is a reminder that everyone is more than what they seem. We all may represent a specific idea to others, but at the end of the day we’re individuals. With its diverse cast and wonderful writing, it’s hard to dislike such a wholesome game, even with its faults and bugs.

Mei Lian Hoe

4.5/5

Image: Game Grumps

Mei is a third year English Literature undergraduate at University College London. They can usually be found crying about having too much to read or getting into heated debates about superhero films. They enjoy reading comics, talking about comics, making comics, and thinking about comics. Outside of that narrow sphere, they dabble in the arts: illustration, creative writing, playwrighting, and existential contemplation. They have helped with the direction and production of multiple shows in UCLU Drama Society. They are also a budding actor: they act like everything is okay, every day. Mei mostly spends their days thinking about the apocalypse…

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