In Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator, released last month, you play a single dad, newly relocated to a cul-de-sac of hot, sexually available men who all happen to be loving fathers. What sounds like the most niche-on-niche possible premise has, in its branching storylines, shockingly broad appeal – romantic escapes range from punk shows to yachting, garden strolls to bar hookups. Your avatar comes with remarkably inclusive options for body type, race, and hairiness. What could’ve been a gimmicky lampoon of dating sims (see: Hatoful Boyfriend) turns out to be a funny, well-written, beautifully drawn, and heartfelt collection of stories about romance and family. It became Steam’s bestselling game almost immediately, and has remained a top seller for weeks.
Obviously, I bought the game on release day. I am neither a dad nor a daddy, but I am a goth, and so is one of the game’s seven dateable men. Within this tiniest of niches, I found an even smaller, darker sconce, and his name is Damien Bloodmarch.
* * *
Like many goths and “former” goths, I enjoy goth appearances in pop culture. Sometimes you see a goth gaggle at a popular kid’s kegger, even though none of my high school friends would have been caught (un)dead at those parties. South Park’s kids are full of gags about conforming to non-conformity and burning down Hot Topic. You rarely see goths presented earnestly, at least in worlds where everything else isn’t goth. In a dreary-paletted movie like The Crow, nothing stands out as goth because everything is. But like the roommate in that 2004 Dell commercial or the roommate in Urban Legend, goths often appear as exaggerated foils or external manifestations of angst – death-obsessed sarcasts who wear black and talk shit. This isn’t even wrong, necessarily, but it’s Goth Lite. Saul Bellow wrote, “Death is the dark backing that a mirror needs if we are to see anything.” In pop culture, goths are the dark backing; we rarely see goths’ inner lives because they exist only to provide contrast.
All hype has all goths wary. The videogame hype for Damien Bloodmarch had me wary. But naturally, I was going to date him.
Early in Dream Daddy, you can take your daughter, Amanda, to the mall. In the food court, you ask if she wants to go to “that Goth store . . . You know, the one that’s all black and tries to establish itself as anti-establishment despite being an exact representation of the establishment? You know, the one where you can buy chain wallets and it’s basically an assault on what people fought so hard against in the punk and hardcore movements of the 70s and 80s? The one you threw up in that one time?”
The store is called Dead, Goth & Beyond (dad jokes are not only omnipresent in the dads’ conversations, but are built into the world itself). While your daughter browses band shirts, you witness an argument between the cashier and a man with dark hair and a black cloak. “Listen, when I bought this online the website said this blouse was Victorian-inspired,” the man says. “However when I received it, it CLEARLY held the trademark of Edwardian dressage.”
Later, when you officially meet Damien, he apologizes for his behavior at the mall: “I take the Goth lifestyle very seriously, and to be caught in a ruse by such a corporation as Dead, Goth & Beyond was profoundly frustrating, indeed.” Damien, who’s described as an “older gentleman,” has pulled the classic move of shopping at a mall goth store – avoiding notice by doing so online – and professing deep shame, while still being frank about it.
Deirdre Coyle is a goth living in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Electric Literature, Literary Hub, Hobart and elsewhere. Find her on Twitter @DeirdreKoala.