“I know so many people who play those games not because they’re interested in the combat but because they want the romance and the relationships,” she says.
They simply follow their hearts, and any obstacles they face are a result of emotional and personal complications, not struggles with their identities.
“We were determined to not make any of the dads' individual paths their sexuality or have their sexuality be their defining trait," Gray says.
One of the dads, Damien, is transgender as well, though you can easily play through the game without realizing it; there's no neon sign pointing at his gender identity, only subtle hints as you get to know him better.
Like the rest of the dads, he is who he is—and he is allowed to be, without controversy.
“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.
"We can have narratives that are about queer people that are not necessarily about being queer.
It’s about these relationships.”When you create your own character, you also have the option to make him a trans dad if you wish, complete with the ability to choose chest binders.
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 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.