Living the Dream

The unlikely story behind Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulation.

Dream Daddy

A Dad Dating Simulator


It began with a trip to Disneyland.

In March 2016, Leighton Gray and her friend Vernon Shaw were at the Happiest Place on Earth. Inspired by a cheeky Instagram account of attractive dads at the theme park, Gray had an idea:

“I said, ‘It’d be great if there was a dating sim where you play the hot dad, and your goal is to meet and romance other hot dads,’“ she recalls.

In Dream Daddy, your choices steer the conversation, whether you’re chilling with “Rival Dad” Brian or checking out “Goth Dad” Damien’s butterfly collection.

Shaw didn’t miss a beat. “I was like, ‘Wait. That’s genius!’ By the end of the day we already had the title and most of the characters,” he says.

The result is Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator. Made by a small team at Game Grumps, it casts you as a single father who moves to a new town with his teenage daughter. Your goal is to meet seven other dads in the neighborhood, go out on dates, and connect with that special someone.

“For me, it was about making the game we wanted to play,” says Dream Daddy cocreator Leighton Gray.

“Videogames are for everyone, right?” says Shaw. “And however we can help people find a love for videogames—even if it starts off with them playing our game on a phone—I think is amazing.”

Despite its humble beginnings, Dream Daddy is no lightweight: Gray and Shaw’s script rings in at over 130,000 words. It’s loaded with gags (including groan-worthy dad jokes like “Where does a dog go when it loses its tail? To the re-tail store!”), but it’s all rooted in love and respect.

“We were coming from this idea of sincerity wrapped in cynicism,” says Gray. “To get people in the door, you have to have that jokey veneer. But if you want them to have a meaningful experience, you need to be passionate and sincere. That will always shine through.”

“We were all extraordinarily passionate about the project,” recalls Dream Daddy cocreator Vernon Shaw.

The game’s inclusivity extends to its robust character generator, which gives you the option of outfitting your dad with a binder, worn by some transgender men to flatten their breasts. You can also decide whether your previous partner was a man or woman, and whether your daughter is adopted.

“It’s really important to give players that autonomy to build their own story,” says Tyler Hutchison, Dream Daddy’s director. Also crucial: not having the dads break into monologues about their sexual identities.

A key challenge for the Dream Daddy team, notes game director Tyler Hutchison, was “figuring out how to build all of this in the time frame we wanted it done.”

“So often, queer narratives become exclusively about the experience of coming out or struggling with angst,” says Gray. “As a bisexual lady who grew up in fandom spaces where people are clamoring for canonical queer stories, it was important to me that we had characters who were more than their sexuality or their identity.”

Dream Daddy’s success has been life-changing for its creators. But don’t expect a sequel—or a female-focused spin-off—anytime soon.

Dateable locals Damien, Joseph, and Robert swap some well-done dad jokes.

“If I had a nickel for every time somebody asked for Magical Mommies, I would have died a long time ago from being crushed by nickels,” says Gray. “We had no interest in doing that, because we did it once and it would feel disingenuous to do it again. So we all started working on our own things that are drastically different from Dream Daddy.”

Still, the team is very much in awe of the impact the game has had on fans.

“When we all started this project, I didn’t think that more than 20 people would play it,” says Hutchison. “It’s been a rare honor to see it affect so many people.”