Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator- A trans man’s experience

Feature article

Welcome, dear readers. As an opener, I’m sorry! I might be writing this long past the Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator hype. You’re probably all sick of hearing about it by now. I mean, I’m not, obviously.

I wanted to get this out. I’ve been thinking of a thousand different ways to write it. I was thinking of being very closed off, and not letting anyone know I’m trans. I was pretty scared. I still am. What with everything going on in Australia at the moment, can you blame me? As the case may be though, I always want to be true to myself. To be open and proud and to hope that in doing so I’ll make it a little easier on the next person who comes along.

If you aren’t aware of Australia’s current political issues, we’re having a big postal vote on marriage equality. A non binding one that’s causing more rampant queerphobia to bubble up than usual.

So- Hi. I’m Sav. I’m a trans man. I’m a queer trans man!  A queer trans chubby man.  And I found myself in Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator.

A New Experience

For the first time in my gaming life (Nearly 20 years) I found myself in a game.  Before we go any further, I want you to imagine that. Engaging with a form of media for literally 20 years and never finding a mirror character for yourself.  I know some of you are going to be able to relate. Hell, you might have gone a lot longer than me. That’s wild. What does that do to a person?

Currently, I’m studying psychology relating to games and narrative. So I tried to think; what exactly does that do to a person?

If narrative is how we create our own ideas and model ourselves, what happens when there is no narrative to base it off? You have alluded narratives in the Hero’s Journey (Year 10 English class anyone?), you have cycles, you have things you can stretch for, but never you.

No one holds a mirror up to you. No one tells you you’re real, that they understand. Bioware’s Dragon Age Inquisition gave me Krem, a trans male character who glitches in and out of chairs and can be killed off pretty easily. A characters who’s entire identity can be boiled down to “I’m trans”. It’s like looking in tin foil, you can kind of see yourself, but it’s all distorted and jagged.

Dream Daddy handed me a mirror.

There’s not only just the option to be a dad in a binder, but it shows real critical thought as to how queer trans men interact with the idea of marriage and babies. There’s a very sweet montage at the beginning in which you go through some old photos with your daughter Amanda.

In reminiscing, you talk about her parent that has passed away. This allows you to make choices relating to how you had her. In really elegant, simple ways.

“Your father and I…”
“Your mother and I…”

I obviously picked the father option, considering my current partner is male. You reminisce more about baby Amanda and find a photo of her as a newborn. Your options are-

“This was the day you were born.”
“This was the day we adopted you.”

Simple. Regardless, I did have to sit with these options for a while. I’ve never wanted to have kids personally, so these were large questions for me. Would I want to carry them? Would it be dysphoric?  Would we adopt instead? Would it even be physically possible by then?

I always pick the birth option. I loved being able to acknowledge my dad status while still connecting back to my body physically.

And by always, I mean I’ve played through 6 times so far.

Creating Me.

Dream Daddy is a short game. It’s 3 dates, with the preamble and ending scenes. So 6 playthroughs took me about 10 hours, with a lot of fast forwarding (bless you for putting that button in, devs) through content I’d already seen.  I romanced Robert twice for his good and bad ending, Mat, Craig and then Damien.

Damien.  I’ll get to Damien later.

I want to talk about the character creation. So that’s my character- It’s pretty accurate to life. Except no one can ever capture the nonsense that is my mohawk. Not Sims, not Skyrim, not Dragon Age. Nothing can deal with this mess of hair and colour.

Yeah that’s not gonna happen unless I make my own.

No, I want to talk about the attention to detail. While 3 body types might not seem like a lot… well, it’s not. But the crafting done with it is what’s important. Compare these two.

I know it’s not a lot of variety, but- the binder. The tum. The body hair. And the body hair is what I want to talk to you about.

The first one is a cis body. The hair is evenly distributed and thick, growing as if it has been growing there since puberty. It has that weird little peppering of thick hairs cis dudes seem to get on their upper forearms (anyone know what’s up with that?).

The second one is my trans character. He has hair because, well, I do too. But I’m not on Testosterone, so mines not very thick. It doesn’t grow in thick and strong. It grows patchy and fluffy a lot.

The body of my trans character is more consistent with someone who has been on Testosterone though. The growing in of hair in the places it has been previously, but thicker and stronger and renewed. You also have this option no matter which body type you pick.

Honestly, is this how good it feels to be able to see yourself in a game all the time? To see the folds of your own stomach, your patchy body hair, your still lumpy even when bound chest; to see these in a light that isn’t mocking? Acceptance, where your plot line isn’t to die?

I cried. A lot. I mean, I’m here for masculinity, not toxic masculinity. I’m not ashamed to say that over and over it would hit me in waves of intense…belonging. And I’d start crying again.

Games have made me cry before. The Last of Us had me sobbing pretty consistently all the way through, and I wept with love for Trico in the Last Guardian.

Dream Daddy was different. Dream Daddy felt like coming home, something I’ve only ever found in horror games.  Dream Daddy crying was this kind of visceral animalistic feeling. It was having a pack. It was having a story. It was feeling real and belonging. It was on an incredibly base level that it connected with me.

Very fancy games design terms.

I mentioned above I’m studying psychology of games narratives. And the part of myself I’m referring to there- about the base level- is known as the Id. Yeah, it’s Freud. No, thankfully, it’s not about a penis.

I’ll be honest, I did think of writing this article purely from the point of view of the psychology of why I like it. Like an analytical essay to be studied, and for everything to be understood.

Like how for the first time Dream Daddy was a game that called out for people like me. That for the first time a game was not specifically just for cis people, that it thought to reach out and shout out for transgender people too. (Interpellation).

Or how it can be said that dating simulators allow us to fulfill some of Carl Jungs most basic archetypes– The persona, the self, the anima vs the animus, the shadow.

But- I wanted to be more open about all this.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my academia. I love getting too into something. When I’ve hit the point that a friend is saying “it’s not that deep”, then I’m happy. I do my old English teacher proud.

There’s something inside me that is driving me to be very vulnerable about this to you, dear reader.

Vulnerability and Dream Daddy

I say I’m being vulnerable here but it’s for a couple of reasons.  Let me explain.

I was raised to be a female. Not so much by my family, I’ve got 4 older brothers, but more so societally. As a teen, I attended an all girls catholic college from year 7-10. I was taught how to sit, how to talk, how to pray, how to keep my skirt long and my legs shut. I learnt fork arranging and cooking and literally no sexual education. It kinda messed with me a lot.

I was taught to be vulnerable, to be emotional, but quietly. I was allowed this emotional state, as long as it didn’t affect anyone.

Dream Daddy has this consistent gentle theme of socially awkward vulnerability. It’s discomfort, but also with a lot of characters, it’s opening up. It’s an admittance of something shameful, or even just liking something. It makes you feel open for attack in just liking things unironically.

It’s this quiet vulnerability, this openness, this lack of toxic masculinity that connected with me the most. You see this kind of trait in a lot of my trans masc friends and I. We were trained to be emotional in a way our cis brothers were not.

It’s so refreshing to find this in a game. To be able to point at it and go “look! this is how to interact! It hurts and it’s scary but you will feel better!” I mean just look-

It is nice to be vulnerable sometimes. It’s even nicer to see male characters in media doing it.

Now. To talk about the other big thing that made me absolutely adore Dream Daddy.

Damien Bloodmarch.

Damien. Goth dad. Closest to a character written by someone else I’ve ever come.  He’s been confirmed trans by a developer, in reference to the line talking about him wearing a binder.

So Damien was literally the first trans character I’ve ever encountered who’s whole life doesn’t revolve around being trans.  That sounds wild when I say it outloud but I promise it’s true.

He doesn’t die. He doesn’t have some tragic back story. We get a perfectly happy ending. How is this possible? Are trans people allowed to have this?

I do regret that if you play a trans dad you don’t get the option to be like “Binders?? Binders!! Trans buds!”  And I did write a very hilarious (If I do say so myself) tweet in regards to it.

Cause uh, let me tell you something, my delightful cis-biscuits. If I meet someone else who is trans, it’s literally an immediate “What is gender theory? Don’t you hate THIS dysphoria thing? Isn’t being trans excellent in THIS regard?”

Pictured here: My trans friends and I discussing gender theory.

I had this really long complex paragraph I wanted to write about Damien but really, it’s a story you should play yourself. He is so genuinely delightful, so fun, and so beautifully written and full of life that I think you, dear reader, need to experience this yourself.

Play Dream Daddy. Encounter some wonderfully diverse gay characters. Deal with some nuances in adult relationships. Love your daughter. Feel free to be trans and fat. Date POC and play as POC.

If you have never felt that raw visceral pack feeling of belonging, of something being made for you, specifically you, play it. You might get it. And you might be like me, and start holding other games to higher standards because of it.

Tell me about it on twitter if you do get there, or if you’re an unsure queer who needs to talk to someone about the plebiscite or being an openly unapologetic trans person.

See if this game makes you more unapologetic. See if it makes you proud.