Saturday, April 13, 2024

Dead by Daylight has a promising queer future ahead

Behavior Interactive’s Dead by Daylight has evolved into the multiplayer horror game that everyone has on their radar. It’s got everything from gnarly survivors, terrifying killers, incredible maps… But that’s not all. Dead by Daylight has an incredible queer community.

For game director of Dead by Daylight, Mathieu Côté, the queer following of Dead by Daylight didn’t come as much of a surprise.

“We knew from the start that our Horror game would find its fans in the fringes. That’s part of the whole horror genre, in games just like in movies.” He told me over email. Then, as to be expected with a growing community, a tone of what was and wasn’t accepted was introduced. Considering Dead by Daylight is a social game, it was important that inclusion and diversity was apparent within the game itself yes, but with the conversation surrounding the game as well. And LGBT+ members, as Côté explains, of the Dead by Daylight community were glad to help in that regard. “We keep hearing from a lot of our active LGBT+ community members how many of them got into DbD because they heard about how nice, inclusive, and safe the community is. And I am not talking about game-related trash talk here. That’s obviously nasty sometimes, but there is ZERO tolerance for hate speech of any kind for which the ban hammer is swift and final.”

For the most part that seems to be true. Behavior Interactive isn’t shy in hosting or promoting streamers, cosplayers or fan-artists that are LGBT+. They have Fog Whisperers (partners of Dead by Daylight) who are part of the LGBT+ community, including the Hag Queen herself, Elix, who are passionate and have bucket loads of positivity and creativity to share. It was only a few weeks ago that, as Influencer Manager at Behaviour Interactive, Gabrielle Malvar tells me, that they promoted LucilleXOXO’s Virtual Drag Show. According to Malvar the hope is that, in promoting diversity and inclusion, they are fostering “these values in [our] community.”

An active queer community outside of the game is certainly significant, but for some players the true desire is finding representation within the characters that make up the world of Dead by Daylight. This may seem strange to some. After all, Dead by Daylight is a horror game with no voice acting – outside of the Tomes, that are usually read by an omnipresent Narrator – that aren’t grunts of pain and screaming. Where would LGBT+ characters and themes fit in such a terrible world, and why would it matter?

Source: Dead by Daylight

“That is an ongoing debate, internally and with members of our community. The argument is valid but it’s not a clear line. It’s easy to use that to hide the fact that you do not want to tackle the subject.” Côté told me when I asked him those exact questions. “I’ve had that conversation a few times, with fans I met at events. I mentioned how we made it public that at least some of our existing characters are not straight and that we are not pointing them out because, just like in real life: “Their preferences are none of your business”. It’s a good point but there is more we can do there as it lacks visible representation. We can and will do better.”

Visible representation is something that some feel is the ‘endgame’ for LGBT+ characters within video games. But there is also authenticity, and respect in how characters are treated to not just make them a token. With Dead by Daylight these ‘goal posts’ aren’t all that possible in the same way it is, perhaps, for a game like Overwatch. Dead by Daylight offers lore in its Tomes, where players are able to discover more about the past of survivors and killers. Overwatch has events that actually let you play out this lore, this past, for yourself.

With that in mind, including LGBT+ characters within the realm of this horror game is a significant step and one that Côté assures me is something that they are “committed about.”

The first step towards a more inclusive realm first appeared during Pride Month of this year 2020, with the official Dead by Daylight Twitter making a statement about the narrative and identity of the characters within the game. As Côté mentioned, in the past the team had said that it was up to the player what the sexuality of certain characters was in the vision of letting players create their own narrative. However, as more lore came out about survivors and killers, particularly when it came to romance, it became more and more obvious that characters did have set preferences and the vision that Behavior Interactive had in mind was, in fact, meaningless.

But the meaning behind that statement? It had everything to do with the internal conversation going on behind the scenes. “We wanted to make a statement to explain some things we found lacking in our lore so far and we wanted to make a commitment about the future.” Côté explained to me. “Visible representation is important.”

Source: Dead by Daylight

But what is visible representation in a game like Dead by Daylight? Côté explained that for survivors new pieces of their history ‘will be revealed’ that will eventually help paint a picture of who they were before they got lost inside the Entity’s Realm. With these stories, Dead by Daylight wants to create characters that aren’t tokens, but ‘compelling’ and ‘realistic.’ Romance and sexuality will be revealed, but it will “always take place in the past” as the world that the survivors exist in-game doesn’t leave any room for romance – just pure survival.

As for the Killers, who some people have found themselves drawn to either because of their tragic pasts or just because they look particularly tasty in a certain skin, they barely remember their pasts and romance and love is something that won’t be touched upon. In Côté’s own words, the sexuality of killers will be left “to the fan fiction.” Sorry killer fans, maybe next time!

Licensed characters are also a whole other issue, but my curiosity over licenses was more about what would happen if the franchise holders took issue with the inclusion of LGBT+ identities within the community and the game. Would there be a situation similar to Friday the 13th: The Game? Or would Dead by Daylight’s team feel the need to ‘censor’ in order to protect their IP?

According to Côté, the answer is neither of those things. If a company did take issue with the support and inclusion of the LGBT+ community then, just like the logic behind their moderation policies, Dead by Daylight simply would “not be interested in their business.” Just like how the developers are fine with blocking and banning people for hate speech, there is zero-tolerance for homophobia with the people they work with.

Source: Dead by Daylight

A good thing too, as through our talk, there was also the discussion of cosmetics. Various multiplayer games have included LGBT+ cosmetics before – though, surprisingly, Overwatch and Apex Legends, two multiplayer games with LGBT+ characters, do not – in order to allow players to express their pride. Not just their pride, but their likes and dislikes. There is always the chance that close-minded players can see these cosmetics and target people, but the option of having these cosmetics in the first place gives freedom of expression. So it’s encouraging to know that, as far as Côté is concerned, it is something that the Dead by Daylight team would like to provide. “[Cosmetics] bridge the gap between the player and their avatar since these charms are more of a player thing.”

When we’ll see these cosmetics has yet to be confirmed, but knowing that it’s something the team has considered – alongside the inclusion of actual LGBT+ stories and characters – promises an interesting, queer future for a video game that has a community which is eager to embrace diversity and inclusivity.

Dead by Daylight’s current tome follows survivor Nea Karlsson – will future Tomes embrace the different identities of each survivor in more detail? We’ve yet to find out, but if my talk with Mathieu Côté and Gabrielle Malvar is any indication of what we can expect later on, then the future for queer players looks bright.

I guess my message has to be: Thank you so much for all you to do inspire us and show your support. Please continue and show your work with pride!

Aimee Hart

[She/They] Aimee Hart is Editor-in-Chief of Gayming Magazine. She specializes in queer fandom, video games and tabletop, having started her career writing for numerous websites like The Verge, Polygon, Input Magazine and more. Her goal now is to boost LGBTQ+ voices in the video games industry.