Hey, Dream Daddy Fandom: You Need to Do Better

You don't have to agree with each other, but at least stop and listen. And no more death threats, damn it!

Opinion by Nadia Oxford, .

Dream Daddy, a dad-themed dating sim with the Game Grumps name attached to it, has taken Steam by storm. It's always nice to see a low-key indie game catch on with a big audience, especially a game as warm and sweet as Dream Daddy. The world's political situation may be a gongshow, but hey, at least people appreciate good games about building relationships.

(Dream Daddy personally unlocked some weird memories for me, but I guess that's neither here nor there.)

Ah, but this is the Internet, and the Internet sometimes has a hard time believing we can have nice things from time to time. Dream Daddy isn't even two weeks old (it came out on July 20), and it's already garnered some hot drama. The lava-seepage wasn't even based around the game directly; it was kindled by some gender-bent fan art of the titular Daddies.

"Genderbending" is a popular spin on fan art, i.e. people like to take canon male characters and re-draw them as females (or vice-versa). The practise of genderbending and even the term itself is slightly controversial, since treating gender like a switch that can be flipped is controversial by itself.

That said, fan artists usually bend characters' established genders with innocent intent. Speaking as an older game-lover, my friends and I whipped up female versions of Mario, Mega Man, and Link in the '80s and '90s because feminine game heroes were scarce.

The picture of the gender-bent Daddies was generally well received on Twitter, but some people took umbrage to the piece. The main issue is with the swapped version of Damien, a character who's suggested to be trans in Dream Daddy. Making Damien a cis female therefore carries connotations of trans erasure, even if the artist (who goes by the amazing Twitter handle "OhNips," by the way) didn't intend to tamper with Damien's identity.

See, gender-bending ignites heated discussion because -- oh my God did he just blink at me?

The Dream Daddy discourse quickly became a skyscraper-high tire fire, seemingly the only kind of discourse 2017 is capable of stoking. One arm of the blaze accused OhNips of being transphobic (as well as fat-phobic for slimming down some of Dream Daddy's heftier characters), whereas another arm raved about political correctness gone mad. OhNips eventually received death threats for their work, as is seemingly the natural (read: horrible) evolution of these rows. The official Dream Daddy account subsequently asked its fledgling fanbase to put away its talons.

I've been part of various online fandoms for a long time, and I'm honestly impressed with how quickly a fanbase goes from zero to nuclear these days. Dream Daddy's not even a fortnight old, and it's already received an indelible mark against it. Now a generally kind fandom surrounding a progressive game will forever be known as "that one crazy fandom that sent death-threats to an artist who drew gender-swapped Daddies."

Welcome to the Untouchables, Dream Daddy. There's an open seat between Voltron and Steven Universe. Take a load off.

Robert, gimme a swig of whatever's in your flask.

Geez. When fan pages were tiny GeoCities shrines back in the day, we took our time getting to know each other on the pages' message boards before deciding we hated each other. Kids these days just get straight to the point with social media's instant soapboxes.

In all seriousness, it was sad to watch the Dream Daddy controversy unfold because there are good points brought up by both sides, and there are a lot of learning opportunities within.

I'm not a trans person; I have no leverage to tell a person who is trans that they have no emotional basis for being offended by a gender-swapped version of a trans character. In other words, if a trans person tells me a piece of fan art offends them, it's not my place to say "Well, I think you're over-reacting." I don't have to agree, but if that's the case, nothing is lost if I keep my big mouth shut. If another trans person disagrees with the first one? That's cool. That's fine. They can discuss the issue until the cows come home. I don't have a dog in the fight.

Dream Daddy's dogs are good puppers who'd never fight outside of a metaphorical sense, of course.

That said, I certainly believe there are kinder ways to convey your problems with a piece of gender-bent artwork than to come out swinging with insults and accusations. One Twitter user told OhNips that they loved the image, but added "I feel like portraying Damien as female when Damien is canonically a trans man is a No-No."

This criticism is rational and digestible. There's no snapping, no scorn, and certainly no death threats (which are not OK in any context, ever). Though I make every attempt to be sensitive towards matters of gender, I had never even considered how a gender-swapped version of a trans character might be hurtful. Now I understand, and will take special care should I ever magically gain the ability to draw coherent fan art.

I also understand the argument that marginalized people shouldn't be expected to "tone police" their discussions about racism and gender. But I don't think telling a first-time offender, "Hey, just FYI, your piece might be hurtful to trans people," counts as groveling. It's certainly going to nurture a more level-headed response than the sharper alternative.

What in God's name did you expect from Hot Topic, my dude?

Humanity's biggest failing is that we've barely left the tree-tops, but we're expected to adapt to a world that's changing in the geological blink of an eye. We're still fearful little shrews who bare our teeth at threats, whether those "threats" are the predators who haunted us tens of thousands of years ago, or an internet-stranger whose first salutation is "You're a horrible person with horrible intentions." If you want people to consider your feelings, you always get better results if you approach slowly, and with a level tone.

I'm well-aware that there are unfortunate people who make it their life mission to purposefully hurt and troll marginalized people. I'm not saying you have to make friends with them, or even be kind. But if someone who doesn't have a history of being a jerk-face does wrong by you, stop and remember that nobody is born an internet saint. Be direct, but be understanding.

We're human beings. We have feral origins, but we also have a responsibility to do better. Even something as seemingly inconsequential as a piece of fan art for a silly dating game offers us all a chance to grow and better ourselves. Let's love each other like Daddies.

…Don't read that last sentence out-loud if you're in polite company.

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Comments 14

  • Avatar for Roto13 #1 Roto13 6 months ago
    Another game being ruined by its fans before I get the chance to play it.
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  • Avatar for link6616 #2 link6616 6 months ago
    @Roto13 I think they did that to everyone. The anger for the less than a week delay (with some admittedly late communication about it) was odd.

    For a game so cute and silly on the surface, its fans are intense
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  • Avatar for WiIIyTheAntelope #3 WiIIyTheAntelope 6 months ago
    Anything that has the nerve to exist without specifically considering my feelings beforehand is offensive.
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  • Avatar for KaiserWarrior #4 KaiserWarrior 6 months ago
    An observant person might begin to notice a pattern between media that presents itself as capital-P Progressive, and fanbases that are fully ready to be absolutely vile, monstrous human beings the moment anyone expresses their enjoyment of that media in a way that does not comport with their own personal brand of Progressive.

    Such tolerance. Much diversity.
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  • Avatar for benjaminlu86 #5 benjaminlu86 6 months ago
    How do we know the artist didn't intend the female version of Damien to be a transwoman?
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  • Avatar for UnskippableCutscene #6 UnskippableCutscene 6 months ago
    Transgenderism is such a deeply personal thing, I could see that portraying a transman as a woman could be insulting to transpeople in an isolated case, especially if they interpret the artist's intention as "well here's what they'd look like if they weren't trans." However, as part of a mass genderswap of a whole cast I think you have to accept the possibility that no ill will was intended.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #7 Roto13 6 months ago
    @KaiserWarrior I want to disagree with this, but I can't.
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  • Avatar for anusface #8 anusface 6 months ago
    The best part of all this hyper socially conscious pissing on each other is that if you refuse to participate they'll piss all over you anyway for being a status quo stick in the mud
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  • Avatar for KaiserWarrior #9 KaiserWarrior 6 months ago
    @Roto13 The simple fact of the matter is that there is a class of person that does not actually believe in any of the lofty rhetoric of inclusivity and diversity -- they merely recognize that projecting the appearance of such belief is a quick and relatively sure path to popularity in many large internet circles.

    As much as people might dislike the phrase "virtue signaling", it is a real thing that actually occurs, as evidenced in this article. Lashing out at perceived transgressors is an easy way to show that you are a pure-hearted defender of the marginalized. Then you get people trying to out-virtue each other, to be the BEST defender of the marginalized... and thus, the escalation that we see every time this happens.

    That the exhibited behavior is pretty much precisely the same as the behavior people claim to be fighting against escapes them. It escapes them because they don't actually believe in trying to accept peoples' differences and treat everyone with a basic level of human decency. They're just doing it to score brownie points.

    This is also why I take great umbrage with the poo-pooing of "tone policing": Every time I hear someone utter something to the effect of "don't you tone police me", they're doing precisely the things they claim to oppose, just to a socially-acceptable target.

    And that's not progress. That's just doing the same damned thing all over again but believing that your target justifies your behavior... which is exactly the sort of evil that you were supposed to be standing up against in the first place.

    Ultimately, what it comes down to is people not being fans of something because they legitimately enjoy it on its own merits. They become fans of something because that's what "the progressive thing to do" is at this moment. Then they run into someone that actually IS a legitimate fan, and in their rush to prove how progressive they are, they behave in pretty much the exact opposite manner to how they should.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #10 VotesForCows 6 months ago
    I always think people are assholes, but their asshole-ery never fails to come in unexpected forms.
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  • Avatar for Spectreman #11 Spectreman 6 months ago
    Is not a problem specific of Dream Daddy Fandom, Nadia. Is a problem of extremisms. The SJW mob can be awful as a right wing mob. This happen a lot in the current culture war.
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  • Avatar for Vonlenska #12 Vonlenska 6 months ago
    Apparently, the artist has a history of being pretty racist, which has affected some of the response. Obviously doesn't justify death threats, but this is a case where everyone is just sort of a jerk.

    Also, I haven't seen any comments from actual trans people on genderswapping being problematic or offensive in itself. I'd actually probably like to read that. The handful of comments I have seen from trans people express more complex thoughts and feelings than "always a cool thing" versus "always an offensive thing"; it's an area where people can and will have differing perspectives. In this conversation/argument, though, the overwhelming majority of comments have been from cis people assuming that it is offensive and going from there. You could make an argument that genderswapping Alucard Dad constitutes erasure, but yeah, there are far better ways of doing that than sending death threats or loudly speaking for a minority group you're not part of. Ditto fatphobia. There are criticisms to make, but it's fan art for a just-released game. Jeez.
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  • Avatar for Iliya-Moroumetz #13 Iliya-Moroumetz 6 months ago
    Unintended or no, it was still a rather poor choice and when it was brought to the artist's attention, she made it abundantly clear she didn't care. (Not to mention her racist behavior as a turd topping on the cake, but that's pretty much redundant at this point.)

    So, no, this fanartist doesn't get a pass, knowing full well what she did.
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  • Avatar for Iliya-Moroumetz #14 Iliya-Moroumetz 6 months ago
    @KaiserWarrior When said enjoyment is shown to have a basis in harmful stereotypes concerning minorities, then you're pretty much showing yourself as unapologetic when it was initially pointed out and did nothing to correct it, especially when you refuse to acknowledge that what you've done was hurtful in the first place. Then you're just an asshole.

    But hey, it's just art, amirite?

    Or should we not even bother trying to break out of molds because diversity only seems to lead to strife? Because growing pains are a real thing when designers get out of the omnipresent white, straight male protagonist paradigm?Edited August 2017 by Iliya-Moroumetz
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