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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 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.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. 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.“The most moving [feedback] comes from people who are trans or nonbinary people feeling really included in this experience,” Gray says.“Someone actually messaged me today and said that this game encouraged them to come out as non-binary to their parents.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."We can have narratives that are about queer people that are not necessarily about being queer.