In most dating sims, you can rest assured that if you pour time and effort into winning a character's affections, you'll have the option of ending up with them. In dad-tastic dating sim Dream Daddy, however, that's not always the case — a fact that's made some players upset. I recently spoke with creators Leighton Grey and Vernon Shaw about that.
Image credit: Dream Daddy.
Warning: Dream Daddy spoilers ahead.
Dream Daddy is a game in which you're a single dad trying to juggle raising your teenage daughter and going on a series of "dates" with other dads. When it came out last week, players were confused as to why they couldn't get Joseph, the cool youth minister dad, to get with them even after they did everything right. Joseph, the only blushing, doe-eyed dad in the game who's not single, has a wife, Mary, but their relationship is on the rocks.
Mary seems to be cheating on him. As the new hot dad on the block, your character can flirt away multiple days with Joseph in hopes of winning him over. Grey and Shaw, however, didn't want to tell a story where the player character helps end a marriage. It didn't feel right to them.
"Ultimately, there is no traditionally 'good' ending with [Joseph]," Grey said to me over the phone. "No matter what you do, he's gonna stay with Mary. Same with [bad boy dad] Robert. Your 'good' ending with him is that he's like, 'I need to work on myself before I can be in a relationship with anybody.' I think that's more true to life than showing that you liking somebody will be enough for this to work."
Shaw added that while Dream Daddy plays off dating sim tropes like "good" endings and "bad" endings, the dev team also wanted to subvert them. So while most dating sims make your feelings paramount — allowing you to crowbar your way into just about any relationship — the goal of Dream Daddy was to put players on equal emotional footing with the characters they'd be dating. That meant creating a couple of characters you could go on dates with, but not smooch in the end.
"It shouldn't necessarily be about 'woo-hoo-ing' everybody," said Shaw, referring to The Sims' term for video game sex. "Saying exactly what somebody wants to hear until they kiss you is what a sociopath does."
Grey admitted that she was surprised by how many people were vocally upset about Joseph's ending. Joseph's wife Mary, Grey explained, was intended to come off as a crappy person during Joseph's story, but you're meant learn about her more redeeming qualities in bits and pieces throughout other dads' stories. Taken as a whole, their portrayal of her character was intended to get players thinking about how they play dating sims.
"[The goal] was to get people to analyse why they'd villainize her when, in reality, if you're dating Joseph, you're not exactly doing so hot yourself — and how her potentially cheating justifies you doing things with Joseph," said Grey. "I'm surprised, because I thought the discourse about that path would be like, 'This feels morally dubious and bad,' because you're essentially trying to break up a marriage. I'm surprised that so many people have been like, 'Why can't we be together?'"
Disclosure: a friend of mine, Jared Rosen, contributed some writing to Dream Daddy.