The media theorist Sandy Stone has referred to flattened and digitized modes of communication in terms of “tokens,” using this framework specifically to address the ways in which we employ technology to compress, send, and receive desire. In taking up this thread, this article examines how tokens of desire are compressed and passed through the specific video game genre of dating simulators. While addressing a number of popular titles, the article highlights one offering in particular, the 2017 release Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator. The scope of this analysis extends beyond the game itself to consider the physical responses of its players—as made visible in game tutorials and walkthroughs distributed online. This exploration of the relationship between players and the game highlights how gameplay facilitates desires, how elements like agency and fictionality encourage certain responses from players, and how the genre ultimately functions alongside earlier, predigital objects of affection.
Jon Heggestad is a lecturer in the English department at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire where he teaches courses on writing, rhetoric, and film. His research interests look to issues of representation in visual culture broadly and, more specifically, at the intersection of queer theory and digital humanities. ORCID: 0000-0002-2376-7947