There's currently a lot of sighing and tee-heeing on social media about Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator. Though that name may understandably set off some kink alarms in your skull, be assured this indie-made dating sim is quite sweet and innocent. You are a literal dad (as in, you have fathered or adopted a child), and you are down for meeting and possibly dating other literal daddies.
Dream Daddy's sales pitch promises more dad jokes than you can handle, and oh boy, it ain't lying. Nary a minute goes by where you're not subjected to puns, groaners, and other word crimes. It's right there in the game's tagline: "Are you ready? Hi ready, I'm Dad."
Dream Daddy's big effort to deliver the most authentic dad experience possible has been nostalgic and educational for me. Growing up, my dad experience was unusual. Strange. A little different from my friends' experiences, most of which included the puns, the camping trips, and the lawn-worship. I had none of that.
At the same time, there's something comforting and familiar about the bombardment of jokes and advice in Dream Daddy.
I don't mean to imply my father's dead. He's alive and well, if not aching in the typical manner of older fathers. I just mean he still teaches me important life lessons – but not in the way of most dads.
For example, Dream Daddy's load screens have snippets of "Dad Advice." Some of these include "Brush your teeth," "Nothing beats reading in print," and "It's never too early to invest in an IRA." That's all good advice, though I initially wondered if Dream Daddy was encouraging me to invest in the Irish Republican Army. But my dad's advice to me is more along the lines of, "Don't fuck with the mob," and, "If you're going to throw water balloons down at the Rabbi, hide under the windowsill so he can't see who did it."
That's also good advice, right? I mean, it's different. But it's still good advice.
Another piece of advice from my dad that never made it into Dream Daddy and probably isn't destined for any potential sequels: "Don't buy a house with a big backyard. Mowing lawns is a waste of time." He does mow, mainly because the average lawn in southern Ontario is one hot month away from becoming a playground for garter snakes, but that's all the TLC his lawn receives. Last summer, he was supremely offended when a neighbor pointed out his lawn had crab grass. "Can you believe that?" he asked me. "Like I'm supposed to give a flying fuck about crab grass."
He unwittingly taught me his most profound lesson around the time a relative in Ireland sent me a cross-stitch set as a holiday gift. The picture, which was of a butterfly, demanded I use an "x-stitch." I was an uncoordinated eight-year-old who had no patience for artsy-craftsy stuff, and I couldn't grasp the stitch. To be fair, neither could my mother.
My dad said, "Why don't you just weave the yarn in-and-out of the grid?"
My mother said, "The box says to use an x-stitch."
My father said, "Fuck the x-stitch."
I doubt he meant for that moment to imprint on my mind, but here I am almost 30 years later, telling myself "fuck the x-stitch" whenever bucking rules and conventions becomes necessary.
Dream Daddy doesn't use the F-word as much as my father, but I see a lot of parallels between the advice dished out by its well-meaning G-rated protagonist and the wisdom imparted unto me by my own dad. Really, is there any difference between a dad reassuring his daughter by telling her, "Learning to drive is easy, honey," and my own father gesturing around him and saying, "If all these stupid assholes can drive, so can you?"
I say nay. Thank you, Dream Daddy, for reminding me that good dads come in all shapes, sizes, and orientations.
P.S., I still can't drive.