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Dream Daddy: Craig, Matt, and Hugo Game Grumps/via Polygon

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Dream Daddy review

This silly dating sim has more heart than you might think

Simone de Rochefort has been producing & hosting YouTube videos for Polygon since 2016. She co-directed the upcoming documentary The Great Game: The Making of Spycraft.

Daddy kink is very real, but online it’s reached certified meme status. Teens tweet “fuck me, daddy” to the Pope. Brands join in on the fun. Daddy is sort of synonymous with fuckable in this, the year of our lord 2017.

And now, there’s Dream Daddy — a game custom-built to satisfy the internet’s unquenchable thirst for memes taken to their logical extreme. In this case, that extreme is a dating sim where you can play a dad who dates other dads. And the most surprising thing about it is that it isn’t a joke at all.

In Dream Daddy, you play a customizeable single dad who’s moving to a cul-de-sac in the city of Maple Bay. This new neighborhood is entirely populated by dads, and they are dads who want to date you. There are seven romanceable fathers in total, hitting on a broad variety of archetypes. Whether you’re after a sweet coffee-shop hipster, or a dangerous (or is he just misunderstood?) gruff stranger, you’ll find a man who hits the spot for you.

Dream Daddy’s choices are intense Game Grumps/via Polygon

The danger with Dream Daddy was that it could’ve been a goof on queer players. The game could easily have had nothing more to say than “The internet thinks dads dating dads is hot, and that’s hilarious.”

Instead what developer (and popular YouTube channel) Game Grumps delivered is a game that actually fleshes out its characters, treats their problems with respect and is genuinely funny to boot. Dream Daddy isn’t just the same “fuck me, Daddy,” joke over and over. It’s a genuinely competent dating sim geared to welcome a queer audience.

The writers chose to gently lampoon dad culture, instead of making the existence of gay dads the butt of the joke. In an early part of the game, my character met another dad at the park, and we began to talk about our daughters. The screen blinked, tinny chiptunes began playing, and I found myself in a Pokémon-esque minigame. The goal? Destroy the other dad’s HP by bragging about how freaking awesome my daughter is. Powerful items included her childhood drawings, and her super effective good grades.

Dream Daddy Brian Battle Game Grumps/via Polygon

If you’re expecting a game whose end-all and be-all is fucking hot dads, Dream Daddy somehow… isn’t that. Your character’s relationship with his daughter, Amanda, is the beating heart of the game.

As a senior in high school, Amanda is going through a lot: college applications, friendship struggles, the quest for her own independence. Your partner — Amanda’s mother or father, your choice — has died before the game starts, and you’re both mourning that loss. It’s pretty clear that something else is up with Amanda too, and lot of your choices will be about how to treat her. Are you a patient Dad who can break through her prickly teenage shell and help her get through the hell that is high school? Or do you default to callous — if well-intentioned — jokes when she’s upset?

An emotional scene with Amanda. Game Grumps/via Polygon

As I said, Dream Daddy isn’t just about dating. It’s about dadding, too.

The other dads are also universally going through some shit, and Dream Daddy is capable of setting the comedy aside to give these emotional moments some breathing room. A confrontation between goth dad Damien and his rebellious son Lucien saw Damien reminding Lucien that if he needed to speak to a therapist, it was always an option. And that Damien would love and support him no matter his choice. Scenes like this embody the game’s willingness to engage with its characters emotionally. Even a pain-in-the-ass kid like Lucien still has depths, and a dad who understands that he lashes out because he’s hurting somehow.

Dream Daddy gets what any reader of romance novels understands, and what people who scorn the genre completely ignore. What makes romance attractive as a genre isn’t just the promise of hot boning. It’s everything outside of the bedroom too, everything that adds context and weight to the eventual union between the characters.

But this isn’t a romance novel — it’s a game, and boy can you mess shit up. Not every ending is happy, and even some of the ‘good’ endings are bittersweet. They did, however, feel earned. Even fighting a losing battle can feel good when you’re invested in the characters and their stories. For example, when it came to romancing Joseph, I knew I was getting into trouble because the guy is still married. That relationship is all about how we want things to be easy but we can’t always get what we want.

Other romances are more straightforwardly sweet. Damien’s, in particular, I found extremely endearing. Getting to know the guy under the goth exterior was one of the game’s highlights.

While it’s remarkable and perhaps surprising that Dream Daddy capably handles serious plots—especially if all you’ve seen is the game’s marketing—no one should be shocked that it’s also damn funny. I cackled with laughter, such as when I attended a Christian youth dance with youth minister Joseph, and saw that a kid had hung up a banner that read “JESUS IS CUMING.”

The resulting attempts to fix the banner are too hilarious to spoil.

How you handle it, of course, will contribute to the success — or failure — of the date you’re on. At the end of each date, you’re presented with a grading card that shows how you did, based on dialogue choices and actions. The rubric for success varies from dad to dad, and it’s not immediately clear what the components mean. Sure, I understood that an S-rank date meant I knocked it out of the park. But the rankings on other dad-specific factors — like “margaritas” or “goofy” didn’t translate, and that irked me at times.

In the end, most of the success or failure of each date will come down to picking the best dialogue responses. A good response will net you an explosion of hearts (and eggplant emoji, if you’re amazing). A bad response is indicated by a puff of black clouds from your dad date. But even if you say all the right things, you’re not guaranteed a happy finale; some stories are just meant to end on a melancholy note.

The mini-games you’ll encounter on each path likewise vary from clear and simple (reassemble a gargoyle!) to totally obtuse. At best, the mini-games feel like an enjoyable break from clicking and reading—a sort of mechanical breath of fresh air. But don’t get too invested in trying to beat them. Winning some of these games — like the “brag-off” you’ll encounter early on — feels basically impossible. Did I enjoy them? Sure, absolutely. I had fun playing mini-golf and fishing with Brian, as inevitable as my defeat was.

In Dream Daddy, you can be a good dad. Game Grumps/via Polygon

More importantly than the minigames and personality tests, each date peels away a layer of another dad’s persona, revealing more details of his personality, his demons, his life. That’s what I live for, and I found getting to know each dad very satisfying. And each storyline is relatively short — about two hours — so it’s not a chore to date each and every dad. Doing so will net you perspective on secondary characters—Joseph’s wife Mary comes off terribly in his storyline, but gains a more well-rounded personality when you’re uh, not trying to get with her husband.


I went into Dream Daddy hoping that it would be good, but not necessarily believing it. I want what Dream Daddy is selling: a romance game about queer dads that love each other and love their kids. It doesn’t necessarily approach this construct with the nuance and hard edges that are present for real-life queer single dads. But at its core, this is a game that’s funny and good-hearted, presenting a world where a single queer dad’s ability to be a good father is never called into question. It’s a pretty cool accomplishment for a silly game birthed from a meme.

Dream Daddy was reviewed using a Steam code on Mac provided by Game Grumps. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.

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