Dream Daddy is a brand-new dating simulator in which you play a dad trying to romance other hot dads, and I’m pleased to report it’s much more charming, earnest and goofy than I expected it to be.
My main source of apprehension stemmed from the fact that Dream Daddy was produced by Game Grumps, a “Let’s Play”-style YouTube channel with 3.9 million subscribers. It’s run by Arin Hanson and Dan Avidan, both of whom are known for their over-the-top, juvenile, shock-based senses of humor. For example, their most recent “best of” video features a clip where one of the two asks the other if he thought he could “stuff tits into [his] asshole.”
So, to say that I was fearful about whether this game would treat its same-sex romances with respect is an understatement. However, I’m happy to report that after playing Dream Daddy for a couple of hours, my fears were (mostly) unfounded.
Wait, back up. What’s a dating simulator? How do you play Dream Daddy?
If the dating simulator genre is a totally foreign concept, here’s how it works: They’re essentially video game versions of those choose-your-own-adventure books.
In Dream Daddy, you design your own character — which, notably, include “binder” body options for trans characters — and help shape their story with the decisions you make.
If you’re having a conversation with another character, you’ll sometimes have to choose between one of several responses. Sometimes, these responses will affect another character’s perception of you, which is indicated by an explosion of hearts (good) or a murky, black ink cloud (bad). Other times, these options simply alter the way a conversation unfolds, but there isn’t a tangible, numbers-based outcome.
Ultimately, your goal is to pursue one — or several, if you’re feeling frisky — romances with another character. But if you choose the wrong responses in conversation, they might not return your affection. Kinda like real life, really.
Dream Daddy’s sweetest relationship isn’t with another dad
Dream Daddy is, of course, about romancing hunky men, but there’s actually a different relationship at the heart of the story: The one between your character and his daughter, Amanda.
The whole conceit of the story is that you’re a single dad who’s moving to a new neighborhood with Amanda — and, in the process of getting to know the new digs, meet a bunch of hot dads. It’s implied that you’re downsizing because your character’s spouse died in the somewhat recent past. Also, Amanda is in her senior year of high school and will be going off to college soon.
Amanda is the main vector by which the story moves forward, and it works surprisingly well. She’s the one pushing you to get to know the people in your new neighborhood — spoiler alert: They’re all dads — and she’s a nice, familiar face that helps ground everything in between all the flirtation.
In the opening minutes of the game, I was already getting choked up over the pair’s conversation about my character’s late husband, which is not what I was expecting out of a game called Dream Daddy. You can choose whether your spouse was a man or a woman, but this game is about romancing dudes, so, the choice was pretty clear.
I’ve also been surprised at how invested I am in her own narrative about troubles in school. I haven’t delved too deeply into her story yet, but I’m intrigued to see where it goes.
So, who can you date in Dream Daddy?
All right, enough about Amanda. What you’re really here for is hot dads. I get it.
I’ve met all the dads so far, and my current favorite is Craig, a sporty, reformed frat bro who’s settling into his new role as a divorced, mature(ish) dad. He regularly pantomimes a voice for River, the wide-eyed tot strapped to his chest. He also works out a lot. I’m not down with his fratty masculinity — he’s bound to have “masc4masc” in his Grindr profile, right? — but for now, he seems like a good option.
At first, I was partial to Hugo, a charming English teacher at Amanda’s school, but then I found out he had a son named Ernest Hemingway Vega. That’s simply too much.
I’m only a couple of hours into my first playthrough, so we’ll see how things go. Overall, I’m genuinely surprised at how much I’m enjoying it, but I do have some qualms with the way the writing fails to engage with gay culture in a meaningful way, despite relying entirely on the idea of gayness for its success.
But that’s a topic for another day. I’ll have more thoughts on Dream Daddy soon.
More gaming news and updates
Check out the latest from Mic, like this deep dive into the cultural origins of Gamergate. Also, be sure to read this essay about what it’s like to cosplay while black, a roundup of family-friendly games to play with your kids and our interview with Adi Shankar, producer of the animated Castlevania Netflix series.