How Dream Daddy Resonates With the Tumblr Community
Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator or DDADDS for short, has absolutely taken the internet by storm. The dating sim has captured the hearts of its users as they try and navigate a diverse dad-dating scene while also making sure to take care of their daughter. Whether you’re frantically making red-string wall collages to try to figure out how to get Christian-Youth-Group Dad’s ending or just scrolling through Tumblr, you’ve probably heard about the popularity of Dream Daddy and the huge fanbase it’s built since the game’s release last week.
I spoke with Amanda Brennan, Senior Content Insights Manager at Tumblr, who gave me a breakdown of the surge of engagement and content around Dream Daddy. From the day the Game Grumps dropped the trailer, a huge wave of fan-art and buzz immediately started pouring out. The total number of engagements for #dream daddy in the past month was 4.88 million, the total number of searches for #dream daddy in the past month 1.55 million, and it’s been the most searched item on Tumblr this month. Dream Daddy itself has a Tumblr account, Brennan points out, which actively engages with its fan base, re-blogging content and even offering bits of info on the characters.
Dream Daddy feels like a game that’s perfect for Tumblr, Brennan says, “[Dream Daddy] speaks Tumblr’s language.” Like many dating sims, she notes, “Each Dad has his thing” and the passion that each has for their “thing” whether it be sports, music, Victorian clothing, or knives mirrors the way that Tumblr users are distinctly passionate about their “thing.” Whether it’s a TV show, a dating game, or literally anything else, “Tumblr is where you go” for finding people that share your interest.
We also talked briefly about the Dream Daddy discourse, where fans have taken issue with certain elements of representation, such as a secret cult ending. The creator have stepped in to talk about the importance of these conversations and asked that people stay civil, but most internet fandoms recognize discussions can also sometimes be overwhelming. They are somewhat inevitable, but Brennan believes that Tumblr functions productively as a host to these moments. She emphasizes that the format is one that allows the conversation to evolve, rather than “a comment left somewhere.” She adds that being able to see similar posts involving fan art and fan creation means you can choose for yourself whether to avoid the discourse, or to enjoy both the fandom and the critical conversation. There’s little doubt that your daughter Amanda is on Tumblr closely following these conversations, while you’re still trying to figure what being left “on read” means.
There are few things more pure than the passionate earnestness of Dream Daddy. Characters share their feelings or grief with vulnerability, your interactions with your daughter are wholesome and touching, and no one’s treated as lesser for engaging with what they love. Amanda’s conversations with her dad are adorable and heartfelt, and her teenage troubles at school are treated as both valid and important. Brennan says the thoughtful language, along with the way “the caring you see in your chosen family is present throughout this game” makes this a perfect game for the Tumblr community. The occasionally frustrating but adorable side games, she adds, also make it “more in-depth than a visual novel.”
She also points to Damien, the Goth Dad character you first encounter in a store called Dead, Goth, & Beyond. As a former Hot Topic retail employee, Brennan is a fan of him (though Hugo eventually won her over with his cheese plates) and points out that he’s a canonically trans character though “being trans is another piece of his puzzle” rather than a whole gigantic storyline. She also points out that the game has binder options in the beginning for those who want to play as trans and another option that allows you to decide whether your daughter was adopted or brought home from the hospital. You get to choose the gender of your former spouse, pushing past the heteronormative, nuclear family that dominates media.
There’s a definitely tendency within female fandoms to fetishize relationships between men, and another troubling pattern within society to find them inherently funny or ridiculous somehow. While I can’t speak for an entire fandom, Dream Daddy, which had a number of queer people on their team, treats all these relationships with emotional depth whether it’s about grief, fear, or balancing priorities between self-care and family obligations.
While shipping and handsome dads are fun for the whole family, the emotional core of Dream Daddy (yes, this is a very emotional game), really does shine and resonate with Tumblr’s community. Brennan cites the interesting sense of humor (dad puns for days) and the awkwardness of the Dadsona as very Tumblr-like, “but they’re brave and get on that Dad-Book.” (Dad-book is a social networking site for dads where you can set up dates and learn about the dads.) That combination of persevering, emotional honesty, and earnest adoration clearly hit a note with the Tumblr community and it doesn’t look like the outpour of memes and fan-art are going to slow down anytime soon.
Tumblr is hosting Answer Time with game creators Vernon Shaw and Leighton Gray this Friday! Check out the info here. And if you haven’t yet embarked on your Dad Journey, you can find the game on Steam.
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