When I first heard the rumor about a secret ending where blond, yacht-owning, sweater-and-polo-wearing Dream Daddy Joseph is revealed to be a cult leader, my first thought was “yeah, that sounds about right.” Dream Daddy is a visual novel, after all, and that’s a genre known for including strange hidden elements—look no further than the post-apocalyptic worldbuilding of Hatoful Boyfriend or the infamously bloody Bad Endings of Dramatical Murder, Togainu no Chi, or School Days.
The initial discovery of the “cult ending” script in the game files was followed by a wave of complicating factors that turned it (fittingly, given one of the routes) into something of a cryptid. First of all, it isn’t actually possible to unlock the ending in the build of the game that was released on Steam. Chapter 18 has no start command, meaning there’s no way to launch it. Additionally, several of the included assets are reported to be broken, and the dialogue refers to an older draft of the game wherein the player character had a wife named Cora rather than a spouse named Alex.
At the same time, there is also a Steam achievement suspected to be related to the ending (“Escape from Margarita Zone” and possibly “World’s Okayest Dad,” though 0% of users have been able to unlock them), and a few remaining lines in the finished game that refer to the cult ending (such as receiving a warning about Joseph and a knife from Robert). All in all, particularly with the context of DD’s hectic and delayed launch window, I would estimate it to be content tested and then cut late into development, at which point the developers were too busy fixing other issues to remove the remnants of the route (this is not uncommon even in big budget games: see Grand Theft Auto’s “Hot Coffee” minigame or the first Mass Effect’s nearly intact m!Shepard/Kaidan romance, both still salvageable from the code of the finished product).
While the debatable accessibility and purpose of the scrapped content are ultimately a curiosity, the ripple effect was a debate on whether or not the existence of this ending casts a pall of homophobia over the game as a whole. Much of this clamoring has come from an echo chamber of false information, well-meaning people who heard a thing through the grape vine and didn’t bother to confirm, and a likely handful of deliberate shit-stirrers.
There are, however, two issues that I do want to tackle in regards to Joseph: how he reflects a very specific and harmful mindset among the queer community, most strongly associated with the “gay conservative” (a connection I believe the game’s writing deliberately evokes); and how offering a breadth of representation means being able to portray bad people who happen to be part of an oppressed group without making a statement about that group as a whole.
I. A Brief History of Gay Conservatism
II. Joseph v. Joe: A Comparison of Closeted Religious Men
III. How Joseph Operates and What He Wants
IV. Representation Means Variety