If you’ve seen the new game Dream Daddy recently, it’s likely been in a joking light. You’re a hunky dad romancing other hunky dads in this witty dating sim. Regardless of its funny premise, Dream Daddy has made an important step forward in the video game industry by delicately including the transgender community, which is often ignored or mocked in video games.
When you’re part of a minority group, it’s tough finding video game characters who represent you, playable or not. Steps have been made in character customization to include more diverse races, but that’s about where the variety stops. Some games with romance options allow you to pursue homosexual relationships, but a video game with true thorough character customization with gender options beyond the typical two — male and female — simply doesn’t exist yet.
Dream Daddy doesn’t 100% hit that mark — since it’s a game focused on dad-on-dad romance — but it’s still made an incredible stride in such a downplayed matter. In the character customization tool, you can choose from a wide variety of skin tones and body types. And if you want to play as a transgender character, you can choose one of the “binder” body options, which give your character a garment some trans people use to flatten breast tissue.
Other games often use trans people as the butts of jokes — and you can’t play as them, just passively interact with them with gender jokes. Take Grand Theft Auto V for example. As Khee Hoon Chan noted, “the player can choose to spew transphobic bile to transgender [characters] like, ‘Hello, sir. I mean, madam. I mean, whatever.’”
Other LGBT+ characters in video games who aren’t ridiculed still aren’t normally portrayed in the natural way they deserve. Often their sexuality or gender identity is the focus of their personality, which is unrealistic and honestly pretty insulting.
Though I am a member of the LGBT+ community as bisexual, I can’t fully communicate the importance of the inclusion of trans people since I’m, ya know, not a trans person. Thankfully, Mic has reached out to the trans community for their input on Dream Daddy’s character options.
“I had no preconceived notions of the developers touching on transsexuality before I bought the game, which made the inclusion more a really pleasant surprise than anything,” Twitter user @woodmasterfresh said to Mic. “I’m kind of used to people writing queer stories to look toward gender issues as either secondary or incomprehensible. So it was really unexpected to see a game handle it in such an understated, matter-of-fact way.”
She’s right, Dream Daddy doesn’t advertise itself as trans-inclusive in any regard. It is simply portrayed as a fun dating sim for dads — definitely LGBT+ positive, but social justice isn’t the developers’ platform. Which is perfect. The inclusion of diverse genders and sexualities in video games should be as natural as life, because life is diverse and can never fit into just a few customization options.
Dream Daddy also has a non-playable trans character. Damien, one of the seven dads you can date, indicates he is transgender by mentioning he wears binders, pictured above. Players were also thrilled over this inclusion.
“It was great to see that [Damien] being trans wasn’t his only character trait,” @midoritakamine said to Mic via Twitter. “A lot of characters who reveal gender-specific spoilers are written poorly or center around their identity, but Damien felt fleshed out and is more than just his gender.”
Transgender people are just that. People. And seeing people like you portrayed realistically in popular media is so important and so uplifting to minorities who constantly feel disregarded, unheard, and ridiculed in both media and real life. It’s also important for those ignorant to LGBT+ issues to see that life isn’t restricted to their limited understanding, so naturally their video games won’t be either.
It might be even more vital still for younger communities to see representation of diverse people groups in games, movies, and television. You are a product of your environment, and your environment needs to teach you that there are endless types of people in the world beyond what you personally experience, in order for you to grow into a sympathetic, educated, and open-minded adult.
And young members of minority communities also need to know that they aren’t alone. This game says, “Look, you can be trans and still be a normal person. It’s no big deal.” And THAT. IS. SO. IMPORTANT.
Hats off to Dream Daddy for knowing this and embracing it. Though the message might not reach as many people as blockbuster hits like Grand Theft Auto V, I hope other developers see the positive, roaring feedback from fans and strive to include more people groups in future projects.