Recently I’ve been making my way through all the routes in Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator and have really enjoyed the experience. The game has a super fun cast of well-designed characters and the writing was memorable and quirky while also being able to get down to business to provide serious development at times. I’d definitely recommend it despite a few technical flaws (the minigames…)!
But despite all that, there was something about the game that just struck me as being a little weird, and I think I’ve finally figured it out: Dream Daddy is a universe in which same gender attraction is treated as something very normal, yet this attraction is never mentioned in the script at any time. It simply exists without comment.
This, I believe, was part an effort to create what I like to call a World Without Bigotry: the noble goal of placing LGBT+ characters within a setting that completely lacks homophobia, transphobia, and the like. This is a mythical world where people who are not straight and/or not cisgender can live their lives just as openly as those who are. It’s become a more common creative choice in LGBT+ fiction as different types of stories are now being told.
Therefore, DDADDS contains no instances of homophobia (nor transphobia, but I’ll be focusing mostly on the way same gender relationships are treated within the narrative) at any point during the game. Nobody ever comments negatively about anyone else’s sexuality. Straight characters accept gay relationships completely. The Dadsona never thinks, not for a second, that anyone might be unhappy with his dating a man. There is no discussion of what it’s like to navigate the world as a man who loves other men.
In fact, no one’s sexuality is ever discussed at all during the game. True, we know that most of the dads (Craig, Robert, Mat and of course Joseph) have been or are currently involved with women. That Hugo’s ex is a man, and that Robert’s daughter Val has a girlfriend. Amanda has a crush on one of her male friends. Brian and Damien’s previous partners are never mentioned (though Damien does read yaoi), and the gender of the Dadsona’s former spouse is determined by the player.
But none of these characters carry a label or mention that they are attracted to anyone besides whoever they’re currently into. Words such as gay, straight, bisexual, lesbian, queer, pansexual or transgender are not present within the script, so honestly they could be anything under the umbrella. Instead, this decision is happily handed over to the players who can interpret the cast in any way they wish.
And this is all a big part of creating that World Without Bigotry: a conscious creative choice to normalize same gender attraction within the work. Prejudice is not at all a requirement of LGBT+ media, and though views on whether the Gay Struggle is even a desirable trope vary wildly throughout the community, a safe consensus is generally that it should not be what defines our characters and stories. There must exist LGBT+ stories and casts that focus on something other than suffering in order to establish the humanity and normalcy of these individuals to ourselves and to society – and also just because sometimes gay people like to write or read things that aren’t about how much it sucks to be gay. So the world of DDADDS, in which same gender attraction carries so little novelty that it doesn’t even bear mentioning, makes perfect sense.
But how does the Dadsona know that the dads in his neighborhood are even into dudes in the first place? Hugo mentions his former husband, Robert propositions you early on, and the subject might have come up with Craig in college, but other than that there are no signs at all. And he isn’t even surprised whenever a dad makes his move at the end of the third date; there’s no “oh, I didn’t know he was bi!” or anything like that in the narration – and there are no comments from the other dad either. They both just kind of…know. Somehow. I guess to some extent you can just tell when somebody is attracted to you, but there sure isn’t much verbal confirmation on screen.
Disregarding this gay telepathic connection that all the dads seem to share, what is far less realistic in this World Without Bigotry is not necessarily a lack of oppression but that, well, no LGBT+ person doesn’t mention their sexuality or gender in some way if you hang out with them for long enough. And until they do, there’s really no way for you to know. There are people I’ve known for years whose exact labels are still a complete mystery to me.
It’s true that we don’t really know how people would talk about themselves in a world where sexuality and gender identity are freely and openly explored. It’s a difficult setting to fully realize because it just doesn’t exist on any significant scale and never will within our lifetimes. But even within this fantastical WWB (unless the reason there is no bigotry is because we have achieved instrumentality) it would still be impossible to reliably determine someone’s sexuality or gender just by looking at them. And that’s a huge piece of basic human interaction that DDADDS lacks. You never quite know how someone else really feels before they tell you.
In this way the game’s world feels very incomplete. In a similar vein, none of the other dads in town make any comment on your budding relationship with one of their own – in a close-knit cul-de-sac where everyone knows each other? Unlikely. And where does all Amanda’s sass go when it’s time to tease her father about his new boyfriend? The “is he going to be my new dad?” trope is tried and true, yet suspiciously missing from the game. She doesn’t even react to you dating her teacher!
If you enter any predominantly LGBT+ space for a little while, you’ll hear any number of things that feel completely normal within that room. Phrases like “his boyfriend”, “her wife”, multiple friends being referred to as ‘they’ yet everyone always knows who is being talked about, calling feminine-presenting people ‘he’ without batting an eye, and much, much more. This is the realistic face of mundanity, a small glimpse into a World Without Bigotry. For a very short while in these small rooms that world comes into being, creating new standards of normalcy that we can only hope to document in our writing as an accurate portrayal of we feel when we are present in those places.
At the end of the day, I view what Dream Daddy omits in its dialogue as a writing issue, not as flawed representation. LGBT+ stories are absolutely justified in placing their characters into oppression-free zones so that we can, y’know, focus on something else for once. Just because DDADDS does not have this conversation about homophobia does not make it invalid, and I think that it goes so far with this aspect of normalization because its primary creative team (containing no non straight or cis men as far as I know) perhaps didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes. This is a totally understandable goal!
However, I think it really could have kicked the game’s writing up a notch to reflect the particulars of sexuality a little more within its dialogue. For example: an exchange between the Dadsona and Craig about some of the weird dudes they were involved with back in their wild college days – or how one or both of them weren’t out at that time. Brian’s final scene being not only “wait, he doesn’t hate me?” but also “wait, he’s into guys?”. Damien blushing as he talks about the most dashing sort of men’s waistcoat from the Victorian era, or Hugo’s crush on a wrestler. Mat could share some lyrics about a man that particularly resonate with him, and Joseph could mention a fling from his past margarita zone days. Robert’s already pretty up front about things, but there could be a few lines in the bar about the way he’s looking at you. Admittedly these are all pretty cheesy ideas, but I’m sure they could be made to work if given any more than the five seconds of thought I put into them.
Or we could replace, like, every line with “god, I love men” which would make things pretty clear as well. Either one works.