Presently topping the charts of the Steam Store, Dream Daddy is the game of the year, and we have the distinct honour of welcoming seven lions of the feminist literary canon to review each Dream Daddy’s storyline. Keep scrolling to read fresh takes from Jane Austen, Judith Butler, Anne Carson, Sylvia Plath, Warsan Shire, Virginia Woolf, and Hanya Yanagihara.
Anne Carson reviews Craig Cahn
Anne Carson is a poet, essayist, and professor of Classics, perhaps best known for her translation and modernization of Ancient Greek literature. We asked her to review the storyline of Craig Cahn, a newly single dad and workout buff who once roomed with your character in college.
Craig was a divorced father of three everything about him was stressed
Put his feet to the jogging path in the morning he was stressed
How stiff the green landscape where his daughters scraped against
Their bases in the ball park
Buried himself in the nutrient rich jelly of a Protein
Craig’s dream began stressed then slipped out of the bed and ran
Upsail broke silver shot up through his Nikes like an olympian
Secret olympian At the front end of another little league game
II. MEANWHILE HE CAME
Across the PTA meeting it was Him
Knew about the kegstand
Had sighted red smoke above the red minivan
III. CRAIG’S WEEKEND
Later well later they left the cul de sac went out to the camp
Site the father had a tent made out of a tarp Holding one
Sleeping bag Holding it he said Come over here you can
Sleep with me if you’re afraid to sleep alone The father
Patted the ground beside him Reddish yellow small alive animal
Not a bee moved up Craig’s spine on the inside
IV. CRAIG’S WAR RECORD
Craig lay on the ground kissing his boyfriend The sound
Of his relief like iCalendar notifications being burned alive
Sylvia Plath reviews Brian Harding
Sylvia Plath is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and novelist, perhaps best known for her semi-autobiographical novel “The Bell Jar.” We asked her to review the storyline of Brian Harding, a home improvement contractor and devoted single father with whom your character enjoys mini-golf and fishing trips.
Brian. There it is; his name. And what I can I say? I can say he called for me – or, rather, the game’s protagonist, a sturdy character of my own making – at nine Sunday morning, and that I was weak from an accidental frisbee to the forehead. I can say that I met his daughter, a rosy-cheeked young thing sporting unkempt pigtails, and his little dog, plump and sharp of tooth. He proposed a round of miniature golf; it being a balmy autumn morning, the grass bending under the burden of dew, I could hardly refuse.
At the golf course there was more small talk, more laughing, sidelong glances, an unspoken physical friction that made the putting mini-game a sheer delight. On the green, there seemed to be no wind, but the branches of the maple trees stirred, restless, and water fell from them in great drops onto the grass, with a sound like that of people walking down the street. A smattering of birds, high above us in the pale morning sky, sang a sweet, haunting-thin trill. There was the peculiar and distinctly masculine smell of mold, dead leaves, decay in the air, which created the ideal medium for our characters to exist in.
There was something in Brian, a lack of seriousness, a chemical magnetism, that met my mood the way two pieces of a child’s puzzle fit together. He had a ruddy face, a thatch of tawny hair, and eyes which bowed closed in frequent laughter. I took in the broad slopes of his shoulders, and the grip of his firm, unflagging hands on the putting iron. I knew it would be the way it was.
Hanya Yanagihara reviews Joseph Christiansen
Hanya Yanagihara is the editor of T: The New York Times Style Magazine and the author of “A Little Life.” We asked her to review the storyline of Joseph Christiansen, an unhappily married youth pastor and father of four.
Ms. Yanagihara responded to our request with the submission of a 1,350-page manuscript detailing Mr. Christiansen’s traumatic orphan adolescence as a petty criminal in the streets of Kansas City; his subsequent capitulation into a bloodless heterosexual marriage to a daughter of the Civella family; his brief and fraught romantic relationship with her player character, a world-renowned Finnish clarinetist named Soini Hesekiel Järvinen; and, finally, his tragic death in an airline disaster.
As it is not possible for us to publish Ms. Yanagihara’s excellent manuscript in full, we have elected to print the following excerpt.
As Joseph spoke about the church bake-sale, Soini noticed a pockmark of batter clinging to the corner of his mouth. “Excuse me,” he said, and rested his hand on Joseph’s shoulder. “Excuse me, but you have some brownie batter on your cheek.”
“Is that so?” said Joseph. He lifted a hand to his face and searched with his fingers for the errant chocolate. “I’m sorry,” he said. He looked at Soini, who took a breath. “I believe you, but I can’t seem to find it.”
Soini stepped toward Joseph with a thin napkin held aloft in his right hand. “Just a moment,” he said, smiling. “I can clean it off for you; it’s really no trouble.”
Joseph nodded, and so Soini pressed the napkin to his steadfast Presbyterian jaw and moved his hand, decisively, across the plane of his mouth. He felt something tremble beneath the skin of Joseph’s face and realized that Joseph had begun to cry, issuing forth the kind of wretched and piteous weeping of a man wholly given over to despair.
“Why, Joseph,” exclaimed Soini. He removed his hand and set the soiled napkin on the marble countertop, sourced from the Calacata Borghini quarry, of Joseph’s kitchen island. He felt vividly alarmed. “What’s the matter? What’s happened?”
“Do you ever feel,” Joseph began, and his voice was melismatic, as though his words were tripping into the room on the unsteady legs of a newborn colt, “that once, many years ago, you may have had the opportunity to experience joy — real, full joy, the sort that renders the future a vast topography of possibility, and suffering incosequential — and although you witness others experiencing what appears to be this brand of joy, you’ve resigned yourself to a life quite without it? Your days and weeks stretch out before you, vague and suburban, and you’ve no particular reason to demand more — more feeling, more capacity — nor to draw up plans for an exit. To feel content, and yet imprisoned; do you know what that’s like?”
“I suppose I do,” said Soini. He was startled by Joseph’s candour and decided to press further, into a subject even more intimate. “Tell me,” he began, “do you and Mary still have sex?”
“No,” Joseph told Soini. “No, not for many years.”
Soini opened his mouth to speak, but Joseph turned away from him and began to wash a bowl still sticky with the residue of egg whites. Soini watched the deliberate motions of Joseph’s hands. He stood next to Joseph, not speaking to him, but simply watching. He poured himself a glass of water from the tap and he drank it.
Virginia Woolf reviews Robert Small
Virginia Woolf is a novelist who is considered one of the foremost modernists of the twentieth century and a pioneer of the use of stream of consciousness as a narrative device. We asked her to review the storyline of Robert Small, a man who, to cope with the death of his wife and estrangement from his lesbian daughter, partakes in drinking, whittling, and hunting for cryptids.
When he looked in the glass and saw his hair grey, his cheek sunk, at fifty, he thought, possibly he might have managed things better — his wife; money; his private investigation of the paranormal. But for his own part he would never for a single second regret his decision, evade difficulties, or slur over duties. He was now formidable to behold, and it was only in silence, looking upon the bay reedy with stars, after he had driven to the look-out point above town, that his new acquaintance — his next-door neighbour, a widower — could observe his strange severity, his extreme masculinity, like a king’s raising from the mud to wash a beggar’s dirty foot.
But here, in the back of his pick-up truck, suddenly their peaceable whittling was interrupted. The gruff murmur, irregularly broken by an inhuman screech; this sound, which had lasted now ten seconds and had taken its place eerily in the scale of sounds pressing on top of them, such as the hissing of crickets within the woods, the sharp, sudden rumble now and then of the vehicles passing on the highway, had ceased; so that the monotonous fall of the waves on the beach below, which for the most part beat a measured and soothing tattoo to his thoughts and seemed consolingly to repeat over and over again as he sat with his lover the words of some old cradle song, murmured by nature, “I am guarding you — I am your support,” but at other times suddenly and unexpectedly, especially when his mind raised itself slightly from the task of whittling, had no such kindly meaning, but like a ghostly roll of drums remorselessly beat the measure of life, made one think of the destruction of the shore and its engulfment in the sea, and warned him whose day had slipped past in one quick doing after another that it was all ephemeral as a rainbow — this sound which had been obscured and concealed under the other sounds suddenly thundered hollow in his ears and made him look up with an impulse of terror.
“Perhaps you will wake up and find the sun shining and the birds singing,” his companion said compassionately, smoothing his hair; for his own mind, with its caustic saying that it would not be fine, had dashed his spirits the widower could see. This going to the look-out was a passion of his, the widower saw. “Perhaps it will be fine tomorrow,” he said.
Jane Austen reviews Hugo Vega
Jane Austen is a novelist whose works critique and comment on the dependence of 18th-century women on marriage in the pursuit of favourable social standing and economic security. We asked her to review the storyline of Hugo Vega, your daughter’s English teacher, who struggles to raise his delinquent son Ernest Hemingway and harbours a hidden interest in professional wrestling.
When Amanda and her father were alone, the former, who had been cautious in her praise of Mr. Vega before, expressed to him just how much she admired her teacher.
“He is just what an English teacher ought to be,” said she, “sensible, good-humoured, lively; and I never saw such happy manners! — so much ease, with such perfect good breeding!”
“He is also handsome,” replied her father, “which a gentleman ought likewise to be, if he possibly can. His character is thereby complete.”
“I was very much flattered by his awarding my term paper an A+. I did not expect such a compliment.”
“Did not you? I did for you. But that is one great difference between us. Compliments always take you by surprise, and me never. What could be more natural than his grading your work so highly? He cannot help seeing that you are about five times as intelligent as every other student in the classroom. No thanks to his gallantry for that. Well, he certainly is very agreeable, and I shall ask your leave to bang him.”
“Dear Father!” cried she.
Judith Butler reviews Damien Bloodmarch
Judith Butler is a philosopher and gender theorist whose work has influenced political philosophy, ethics, and the fields of third-wave feminist, queer, and literary theory. We asked her to review the storyline of Damien Bloodmarch, who is obsessed with replicating the Victorian era in every aspect of his life, works as an IT systems administrator, and volunteers at an animal shelter in his spare time.
How useful is a phenomenological point of departure for a feminist description of Damien Bloodmarch? On the surface it appears that Dream Daddy shares with feminist analysis a commitment to grounding theory in lived experience, and in revealing the way in which the world is produced through the constituting acts of subjective experience. Clearly, not all video games would privilege the point of view of the queer father, (Kotaku objected to the game’s “dad stuff” as “kind of forced”) and yet Dream Daddy‘s insistence that the personal is political suggests, in part, that subjective experience is not only structured by existing political arrangements, but effects and structures those arrangements in turn. The Game Grumps have sought to understand the way in which systemic or pervasive political and cultural structures are enacted and reproduced through individual acts and practices, and how the analysis of ostensibly personal situations is clarified through situating the issues in a broader and shared cultural context. Indeed, the gamer’s impulse, and I am sure there is more than one, has often emerged in the recognition that Damien’s pain or his silence or his anger or his perception is finally not his alone, and that it delimits the character in a shared cultural situation which in turn enables and empowers players in certain unanticipated ways. The personal of Dream Daddy is thus implicitly political inasmuch as it is conditioned by shared social structures, but the gameplay has also been immunized against political challenge to the extent that public/private distinctions endure. For Damien, then, the personal becomes an expansive category, one which accommodates, if only implicitly, political structures usually viewed as public. Indeed, the very meaning of the political expands as well. At its best, Dream Daddy involves a dialectical expansion of both of these categories. Damien’s situation does not cease to be his just because it is the situation of a player, and his acts, individual as they are, nevertheless reproduce the situation of players, and do that in various ways. In other words, there is, latent in the “personal is political” formulation of Dream Daddy‘s gameplay and storytelling, a supposition that the life-world of gender relations is constituted, at least partially, through the concrete and historically mediated acts of individuals.
Warsan Shire reviews Mat Sella
Warsan Shire is a poet who served as London’s first-ever Young Poet Laureate, and whose work featured centrally in Beyoncé’s film Lemonade. We asked her to review the storyline of Mat Sella, a barista and record collector who yearns for the days when he and his late wife toured the country as a musical duo.
you are a record spinning alone
and he tries to flip you
compares you to merriweather post pavilion
says you are deafening him
that he could never leave you
want anything but you
you dizzy him, you make him dance
every man before or after you
is a 6.8
you are a 9.3 BNM
his ears ache with the memory of sound
his body just a long melody seeking your rhythm section
but you are always too intense
frightening in the way you drum
unashamed and sacrificial
he tells you that no song can live up to the one that
plays in your head
and you tried to change didn’t you?
made fewer bad puns
like americano football
godspeed you! black coffee
father john misto, macchiato demarco
but even when sleeping you could feel
him scratching at your grooves in his dreams
so what did you want to do, love
get him into the national?
you can’t get high off of oregano
someone should have already told you that
and if he wants to leave
then let him leave
you are soft
and strange and sweet
something not every man
who drinks PBR
and sets his homepage to pitchfork
knows how to love
Editor’s Note: Characters were paired with authors by a random number generator. This post contains adapted elements of Anne Carson’s “Autobiography of Red;” Sylvia Plath’s “Unabridged Journals;” Virginia Woolf’s “To The Lighthouse;” Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice;” Judith Butler’s “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory;” and Warsan Shire’s “For Women Who Are Difficult to Love.” It doesn’t really contain any elements of Hanya Yanagihara’s “A Little Life,” although I had the book next to me when I was writing; there’s really not anything in that book that’s suitable for parody so I just kind of tried my amateur best to imitate her inimitable writing style. Please don’t sue me, Hanya; you’ve caused me enough emotional distress as it is.