Toronto-based punk band Pup are no strangers to referencing video games in their work, but next week they're set to make their game debut with a cameo appearance in the upcoming Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator.
"Dream Daddy is a dating simulator where you play as a hot dad, and your goal is to meet and romance other hot dads," said the game's co-creator Leighton Gray.
The game features seven dateable dads, including a teacher, a goth and what the game's synopsis describes as "a Bad Dad."
You play as a dad whose name and appearance you can customize at the beginning of the game. He's referred to as your "dadsona" (short for "dad persona").
"We have a dad in the game who is the cool hipster dad, so one of your dates takes you to a concert venue named The Sound Garden, because there's a lot of dad puns in this game," says co-creator Vernon Shaw.
During the date, you meet animated versions of Pup, while their 2016 song DVP plays in the background. You can't date any of them, however.
This isn't the first time the Juno and Polaris Prize-nominated band have worn their love of video games on their sleeves. The music video for DVP, directed by Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux, uses footage from a long list of retro video games including Super Mario Bros., Mortal Kombat II and Pole Position.
The song's lyrics are superimposed over characters' dialogue boxes, and the entire video has a fuzzy look reminiscent of tube TV screens and arcade cabinets.
"The four of us grew up in the golden-age of spastic, seizure inducing video games (see: the 90's)," drummer Zack Mykula told Nerdist. "Our best bud Jeremy had the idea to smash together scenes from some of our favourite games in a hot pile of ADHD-insanity. Turns out that pairs really well with our music. Go figure."
They also released a free game called Pup Tour: The Dream Is Over, where players drive around a racing circuit named after Toronto's Don Valley Parkway highway.
Canadian music references
Shaw describes himself as "a huge fan of Pup," spurring him to ask if they were interested in making a cameo appearance in Dream Daddy.
"It was sort of a ridiculous ask, and they thought it was ridiculous, and I think everybody thought it was ridiculous. So we just did it," says Shaw.
The game includes a few other Canadian references and in-jokes — some intentional, some accidental. In one scene at a coffee shop, the player is asked to choose between drinks with band-name puns, including "Iced Teagan and Sara" and "Godspeed You! Black Coffee", after Canadian bands Tegan and Sara and Godspeed You! Black Emperor respectively.
Dream Daddy also takes place in a seaside town called Maple Bay, though Shaw, an American based in Los Angeles, insists it's only a coincidence that this is also the name of a town in British Columbia.
"It was more or less purely coincidental. Now that you lay out all of the evidence in front of us, I'm starting to get worried that I'm secretly Canadian — which is also a label," he said.
'Wholesome' dad culture
Gray said the idea of "dadsonas" grew out of her fascination with furry culture, and the fact that they refer to their in-costume identity as fursonas.
"I thought, what are some other personas a person can have? I was really fascinated with dads and dad culture also, and the natural progression of what was the idea of having a dadsona," said Gray.
So-called "dad" or "daddy" culture is a complicated term, especially as its manifested in a multitude of memes and in-jokes on social media — some of it family-friendly, some of it decidedly not.
For its part, Dream Daddy is rated 18+ and includes steamy situations and dialogue, but no on-screen nudity.
According to Shaw, the game is more focused on "the wholesomeness of fatherhood" and the kinds of romance that naturally emerge from that perspective.
"In our game, we try to emphasize that it is mostly about caring for another person, and 'Dad' isn't necessarily a gendered term," says Gray. "The core tenets of being a father are being positive, and supportive, and passionate about caring for the people that you love."
Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator will be available for Windows PC and Mac on July 13.