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Leighton Gray, a 19-year-old student at the Savannah College of Art and Design who created, cowrote, and art-directed , is queer herself; when she and cowriter Vernon Shaw sat down to develop the game, she says, defying stereotypes was at the forefront of their minds: “We wanted to set up expectations and knock them down.”Those complex characterizations not only make the story far more interesting, they render obsolete the usual rules of dating sims.For all of the genre's seeming emphasis on romance, dating sims often contain a reductively transactional notion of love and sex, relying on a mechanic that independent game developer Arden once described as “kindness coins”: Put enough compliments or gifts into the object of your affection and receive sex in return. The game casts you in the role of a single father who has just moved to a new town with his teenage daughter.Although the two of you have been on your own for a while, the death of your spouse—you can specify if they were male or female—clearly still weighs on your mind.“You’re not going to be sleeping on a mattress surrounded by empty bottles of Mountain Dew. A daddy who has their life together enough to take care of another person is probably more emotionally mature than a twentysomething dude might be.”If ’s hit status suggests any one thing, though, it's that entrenched ideas about what kind of games can be successful and who wants to play them have less to do with reality and more to do with the self-fulfilling prophecy that the industry has become.“The argument ‘oh, I don’t know if it’s going to sell’ isn’t going to fly anymore," Gray says.The heartaches and emotional wounds of the men you pursue are not obstacles to be overcome en route to sex, but rather fragments of real humanity that make them even more lovable—and often force you to reexamine your own intentions.During the resolution of one storyline, you're given an option when comforting one of the dads in a moment of personal crisis: You can tell him what he wants to hear or tell him what he Some of the dads have had relationships with women, some with men, but there's no agonizing about their sexual orientation and no more mention of it than there would be in a traditionally heterosexual romance.
You might think that the best way to win points with a standoffish dad is through sarcasm; once you learn his backstory, however, you find that what he really wants is kindness.The game and the community surrounding the game was so positive and loving that it encouraged them to be themselves.”'s success belies a long-held assumption of the mainstream gaming world: that making games about LGBT people is an inherently niche endeavor, one that limits your potential audience and sales.While the industry has taken marginal steps toward inclusion, queer characters still tend to crop up as sidekicks and subplots rather than as protagonists.Spend a little more time with them, however, and these facades dissolve, revealing complicated men whose passions, secrets and struggles cannot be neatly contained in cookie-cutter character types.Yes, the Goth Dad enjoys cloaks and long walks in graveyards, and the Jock Dad loves getting in his reps at the gym—but they both struggle to cope with rebellious children, shattered marriages, and the parts of their lives that they are ashamed to share with the world.
But Gray sees something very different in the passionate response from fans: an audience that has gone dismally underserved by an industry that has failed to either see it or acknowledge it, and one that is ready to show up in force when offered a full-course meal rather than just scraps.