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"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.

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.

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.

“I’ve seen so many people who are straight or who never play videogames play it.”The simplest explanation for its broad appeal is the most obvious: It’s just a really good game.

But its subject matter—dads—also touches a nerve that resonates with just about everyone.

“A lot of times with dating sims it’s a matter of getting a read on the character’s personality and telling them exactly what they want to hear,” Gray says.

“That's a really frustrating way to play a game.”, though, encourages players not to think about romance as a game at all.

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