Dating Damien (and Other Dream Daddy Reflections)

October 8, 2017

 

Soon after circulating my first blog post about Dream Daddy-----the one that praised its fluffy, happy-go-lucky queer narrative-----someone responded that there are actually three ways that you can die in this game. 

 

Alrighty then. 

 

Actually though, this is one of Dream Daddy's more fascinating features. Dying is an integral part of most games' rule system, a mechanic that isn't dependent on the fictional world. No one really questions why Mario has three lives, we just accept that this is part of the game's fantasy. Similarly, even 'realistic' games provide do-overs, for the simple reason that most people can't complete a game (or even a level) in a single run through and we'd feel cheated if we were to lose everything because of a single mistake. Yes, there are experimental games like One Single Life that make death permanent for the sake of emotional investment, but for the most part games favor playability over that level of realism. 

 

So yes, if you die in Dream Daddy you get to start that part of the date over again, but what's notable is that the game actively doesn't want you to die. I mentioned previously that Dream Daddy is catering to the same Internet communities that popularized Undertale, and we see another connection between the two games in their treatment of character ethics. Undertale wants you to die because that means you're taking the game's harder route-----talking things out rather than fighting. Dream Daddy doesn't want you to die because death can only come about from inappropriate behavior: 

 

You can die on your date with Craig if you jump off the waterfall enough times, and here "enough" means so many times that Craig gets annoyed with your obsession and ditches you to head home. 

 

You can die on the dance floor with Joseph if you're hell bent on showing off. Attempting numerous, impossible dance moves will eventually result in a broken neck. 

 

Finally, you can die with Brian if you choose to "be an ass." Ignoring his heartfelt apology for a previous misunderstanding, you can try and punch him, throwing yourself straight off the ferris wheel you're both on. 

 

 Sadly this isn't one of the in-game deaths

 

In short, like Undertale, Dream Daddy is trying to teach us something. Death might be a pain in gaming, but it's an inconvenience you'll only have to deal with here if you play a "bad" character, someone who doesn't fit into the open, nurturing world that the game is trying to promote. No, the game world isn't perfect-----you can alienate your daughter, Robert has his demons, Mary's an alcoholic, she and Joseph have one hell of a rocky marriage-----but failing to improve on any of these situations by the game's conclusion is framed as a "bad" ending. Like your initial fight against Brian or the mini-games embedded into each date, dying seems to be an option simply because that's what you expect to experience at some point in a computer/video game, not because it truly adds anything to the narrative. This is a game that just wants you to be happy. 

 

 Robert is thinking the same thing, honestly

 

Which just makes fans' insistence on a secret cult ending even worse than it sounds. 

 

Luckily, I didn't have to worry about any of that. I'll never play Undertale's genocide route, I'll never be a hard-ass in Mass Effect-----I'm just not cut out for being cruel to fictional characters. So when I started dating Damien everything was smooth sailing right up through Amanda's graduation party. I even got the "World's Best Dad" achievement.

 

 

However, based on previous knowledge of the game I honestly hadn't expected to go that route. After all, why date the weird goth when your hot college friend is living next door? Or better yet, when there's a well-dressed scholar making heart-eyes your way? 

 

Well, Damien was just a pleasant surprise. Your dadsona remains stupidly relatable throughout. I feel a deep kinship with anyone who grabs an ice cream sandwich late at night because it's been "a long day of socializing." He just wants to be vaguely cool and Damien is the perfect match to that. He, like you, is already the outsider of the cul-de-sac and his creepy persona quickly gives way to a straight-up nerd. Damien is an amalgamation of the beloved, "hot" vampire (think Lestat, think Edward Cullen) and the datable fan, someone who mirrors Dream Daddy's intended audience. I said before that this is a game that caters pretty heavily to tumblr-esque communities. Amanda was once caught with drawings of "dancing boys kissing" and has to explain memes to her dad. Joseph's creepy twins? Yeah, they're mini nerds who enjoy playing at Stephen King characters. There's even a potential nod to all the Mpreg fans out there with Hugo gushing over a male seahorse giving birth. But nothing quite embodies the culture Dream Daddy is attempting to emulate more than realizing Damien doesn't just read Sasuke/Naruto fanfiction, he prints it, binds it, and displays it in his library

 

Damien sends you gorgeous letters in calligraphy, talks about the beauty of graveyards, gives his son the option of attending therapy without insisting on it, and certainly doesn't let anyone give him shit about having a gothic house. He's basically the good-guy dad from this old German commercial.  

 

In fact, Damien's biggest fear in the game is that you'll find him boring, as if the ability to change seamlessly between 19th century gentleman and down-to-earth modern day worker isn't many peoples' dream guy. He volunteers at an animal shelter for god's sake.  

 

It's also worth noting that Damien's run has some of the most meta commentary about what it means to both consume and critique a piece of popular culture. The people playing Dream Daddy are, for the most part, those who struggle with finding a balance between highlighting issues in media (when it's racist, transphobic, etc.) while still enjoying it. It's Damien who says that, "it takes a critical mind to truly appreciate something to the fullest----to be cognizant of its flaws and love it all the same." 

 

There are far worse ways to spend your time than playing a wholesome queer game that encourages you to be a good person. As an added bonus, it lets you date the trans guy who embodies 21st century fan/activist culture. What's not to love? 

 

Do yourself a solid. Date the wannabe vampire. 

 

And as a side note: I desperately want to watch this world's reality television. 

 

  • Long Haul Paranormal Ice Road Ghost Truckers 

  • Tiny-House Hunting Brothers: Extreme Edition

  • Chopped: Toddler Tournament 

  • Wine and Dine Mastermind

  • MEAT HELL - c'mon does anyone not want to watch that? 

 

Someone get a Kickstarter going (and call Gordon Ramsay for that last one.) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image Credit

 

All: personal screenshots 

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Please reload