“I’m in art college,” explains Leighton Gray, art director and co-creator of Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator. “We were talking about furry culture and Fursonas and all the different personalities that you could have, and I started thinking about how the group of people I understand, and do best with, are dads. So I [asked] people what their Dadsona would be. Again, art school, so we all started drawing what we thought we’d look like as dads. And I was sure this must be its own subculture but I googled it and it didn’t exist. That’s when I knew I wanted to make a Dad Dating Sim.”
And that’s exactly what has been brought into unholy existence. Art director and co-creator Leighton Gray sat on the idea for a dating sim based on Dadsonas until a Disneyland trip with Hot Pepper Gaming’s Vernon Shaw at a much later date.
“We were in line for the Haunted Mansion scoping out dads,” Shaw says. During a day long foray into the Magic Kingdom of Anaheim, Gray had brought up the DILFS of Disneyland Instagram account, and tied it back to her idea for a dad dating game. Shaw was immediately invested and the two took advantage of all the opportunities for great dad information during their trip.
“That one has a baby bjorn!” Gray says. “And look, that one has socks with sandals. These are all such important dad details.”
“I’d been working at Maker Studios and so you really learn what makes for a good Internet idea. And this checks every box. It’s something that gets an instant laugh the moment you share it, but it can also expand into important, interesting places,” Shaw says. “My whole career goal has been to keep making stupid things and I’ve been lucky to keep that going. Now there’s a videogame where we can explore one idea in depth and we couldn’t be more excited.”
“I’m excited,” Gray adds. “And by that I mean terrified. I’m absolutely terrified. This is terrifying.”
“Right. We’re all terrified,” Shaw agrees.
What they’re terrified about is the July release of Dream Daddy. Built in partnership with the internet famous Let’s Play group Game Grumps, this game aims to dissect single father culture in both complicated personal ways and as an intentionally dad-joke based comedy game. Fatherhood, romance, and connection all weave through seven different stories, each lasting between two and three hours, based in a framework of a traditional dating sim. Your customizable Dadsona has meet cutes with other dads, and goes on a journey of discovery, all while attempting to create a bond with his daughter before she leaves for college.
There is… just a lot going on here.
“Daddy issues are a myth,” Gray says. “That idea often gets leveled against women, but I think everyone has some kind of issue with dads and that informs who you are — whether you have a good relationship with your dad, or a bad relationship, or no relationship at all. And for each of those paths that your life has taken we have a reflection of it here. All those relationships are worth exploring.”
Shaw expands on that idea with some redefinition of the term. “I don’t have kids, but I don’t think that being a ‘Dad’ is the kind of thing that is bound by genetic links or even gender. The idea of a Dad as we are using it is the idea of, basically, caring about other people. Investing in people and wanting the best for them. ‘What does it mean to grow up in a non-nuclear family’ is also something I want to explore, and I think that anything that encourages us to be engaged and supportive of the people around us helps bridge that gap. Again, the genetic link is irrelevant. Everyone can be a Dad.”
The game hopes to explore that by also exploring many different kinds of love including romance and friendship, but all while avoiding the trappings of a binary choice system or the expected structure of games.
“It’s like in Dragon Age 2,” Gray says. “It is especially easy to see these three distinct types of dialogue reactions: Diplomatic, aggressive, and jokes. But jokes rarely help you. Jokes often hurt you or get you nowhere. With this being a comedy game, jokes are very important to get right, especially in a game where you’re trying to romance dads, and we need to use dad jokes in the best possible way.”
The Game Grumps and Friends voice the various Dads in the game, which apparently are mostly grunts — appropriately. And hopefully their platform, following, and the fact that this is their first foray into original game development mean that an audience will find this bizarre little slice of dating sim culture to their liking. After all, there is an extended sequence where you romance another dad while talking about “The Game” you’re watching… in the least specific terms that a sporting event could possibly be described. Because, in the end, this isn’t about anything but Dads.
The types of Dads you meet throughout the game range from cool dads to the least cool dads to dudes with piercings and everything in between. The creators say that finding other people to work on the project became very easy when the idea of expanding Dad culture was pitched to the outside team members. “It was very easy to get people on board with a game that makes you feel neither good nor bad, just dad,” Shaw says.
Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator (DDaDDS for short) is available July 13th via Steam for PC and Mac.