'Dream Daddy' Game Creators on Crafting an "Honest" Gay Experience
YouTube stars Game Grumps, primarily known for their "Let's Play" videos showcasing playthroughs of various video games, have officially made the move to game developers with Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator.
In the game, players take the role of a customizable "daddy," a widower who has moved into a new neighborhood following the death of his spouse, with this teenage daughter, Amanda. Romance soon follows in the form of various other "daddys" that call the neighborhood home. The array of dateable fathers is vast and includes, but is not limited to, a reformed fraternity brother, a husky, ginger-haired outdoorsman and a transgender vampiric Victorian goth named Damien Bloodmarch.
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Dream Daddy quickly became a success, reaching the top 10 best-seller's list on online gaming site Steam in its first week, due in large part to its witty dialogue, heartwarming story and, of course, its quirky characters.
The game's writers and creators, Vernon Shaw and Leighton Gray, spoke about the game's inspiration, creation and humor in a recent interview on the Namek vs. Saiyan podcast, hosted by The Hollywood Reporter's Patrick Shanley.
"I think people thought it was a joke at first because we did announce it on Father's Day, but it did quickly become very serious that we weren't really joking in the way they thought we were," Shaw said of the game's initial announcement.
"Leighton told me the idea at Disneyland, actually," Shaw said. "We were talking about this infamous Instagram account, 'DILFs of Instagram.' It's an Instagram account that just finds and rates the hot dads at Disneyland. Leighton told me she always had the idea of a dating simulator where you play as a dad and you go on out and romance other dads."
The idea stood out to Shaw's friends and colleagues at Game Grumps, who were "extraordinarily excited and supportive" of the dad-dating idea and, as it turned out, it quickly found an audience.
Speaking on the game's quick success, Gray said, "It's very bizarre. I think we expected it to do OK, but this is just overwhelming."
The duo, who wrote most of the game "via Skype from across the country" were not only proud of the game's commercial success, but also with its resonance with gamers.
"As a queer woman, making content for the LGBT community is really important to me," said Gray. "When we started, I don't think we really intended this to be a queer game. The genesis of the idea for me was just about dads dating other dads. The more that we worked on it, the more we saw the opportunity to tell a story for this community that could be really important. There's so little queer content now that's just light-hearted and fun and silly and showcases a really honest relationship. I think part of the goal for this was for it to be for everyone."
"I think the way that people have responded to the fact that you can be a trans dad and that the goth dad is also trans has been really heartwarming, because I can only think of a handful of other games that deal with that issue delicately," Gray continued. "The kind of response that feels the best for me is when people say to me, 'Hey, I'm trans and this game made me feel accepted and I've never had a character that I could relate to that is … a fully three-dimensional character.”
The game also features a lot of the writers themselves hidden in its characters.
"There's so much of Vernon and I in each of these characters," Gray said. "Though neither of us are obviously single fathers, what we do know is the emotional issues that the dads are dealing with. Amanda, the daughter character in the game, her relationship with the player's character is really almost autobiographical to my relationship with my father."
In turn, the dads rubbed off on them, as well — particularly in their certain brand of humor. "Before we wrote this game I think Vernon and I were both strongly anti-dad jokes but now we cannot stop and puns come out of my mouth all the time," said Gray.
Naturally, the success of the game begged the question of future projects.
"I think that we can confidently say that Game Grumps is a game studio now, and that opens up this new world of possibilities for all the strange stuff that we can continue doing that still exists in the ethos of Game Grumps," Shaw said.
Listen to the interview in full at the 23:06 mark below.
by Graeme McMillan