Dream Daddy is the latest game to storm the internet. However, it is unusual for dating simulation games to capture the public imagination like this one has. It has shot to fame because of its LGBTQ+ friendly premise and style. The online gaming community has celebrated this by sending it straight to the top of the Steam store. Considering Steam’s astronomical number of active users – over 125 million as of 2015 – this is quite the achievement.
Dream Daddy was released on July 27 and the premise is that the user is a widowed dad who has recently moved to a new town with his adolescent daughter. The user gets to create their “dadsona” and choose from a multitude of body types – including male bodies that wear a binder, a garment used to flatten breast tissue, to represent transgender people. Fans immediately flooded Twitter with their positive responses for this inclusion:
— rhys 🍭 (@blueberrytrain) 20 July 2017
U CAN BE TRANS IN #dreamdaddy ??!?1? THANK U IM CRYING
— 🗡 Rat 🗡 (@ratdagger) 20 July 2017
OK U CAN BE TRANS IN DREAM DADDY… WOW
— salem (@matseIIa) 20 July 2017
This overwhelming reception reflects that there is a wide, diverse audience for online gaming. It has traditionally been seen as a heteronormative space, but the popularity of Dream Daddy as well as some other titles challenges this perception.
The internet seems to have the power to change social norms with regard to gaming. A typical example is gambling, which was an activity that was seen as predominantly male and heterosexual, but with the creation of online gambling – often referred to as iGaming – the platform has become much more readily accessible. As a result, the norms of gambling have been challenged and a 2013 study showed that 57% of online gamblers are female in the US. Online casinos offer a myriad of gambling games in order to offer something for everyone and it can now be enjoyed by all adults through this link. In fact, sexuality seems to be prominent in casino games lately, with slots such as Twerk attracting the interests of those of us who fancy the ladies.
The creators of Dream Daddy have challenged the gendered norms of gaming with this refreshing new storyline. It has been described as a “trans-inclusive indie adventure game” and has brought into the spotlight the diversity of the online gaming community, while simultaneously bringing them together. The mainstream success reflects that the game has been enjoyed by a variety of players and not just the LGBTQ+ community.
As the user navigates their way through the virtual world through the eyes of a single dad they meet a variety of other likeable dads – ranging from the goth dad to the PhD dad – and users have commented on the humorous dialogue that makes it an enjoyable game. Alongside this, it explores complex themes of love, alienation and friendship. Some reporters have suggested this has struck a chord with modern day users, which is partly accountable for the success.
Dream Daddy has been a breath of fresh air and its popularity has forced recognition that there is a wide audience for online gaming. Gaming has been heteronormative since before online gaming existed and gambling can be utilised as an example of how the Internet can be a space to challenge norms and create a more inclusive environment. Perhaps this success suggests a bright, more diverse future for gaming and will inspire creators to think outside the box.