The developers of Dead by Daylight announced on Wednesday that David King, a character introduced to the game in 2017, is gay. Reactions ranged from joyful to outraged, and a Reddit thread discussing the decision was ultimately locked.
Dead by Daylight is a multiplayer horror game in which a team of survivors attempt to outwit a killer either inspired by or directly pulled from slasher flicks like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween. It doesn’t need much backstory to work, but in 2019 developer Behaviour Interactive added The Archives, which expanded the game’s lore with Tomes that include audio stories and animations. The latest Tome, Devotion, features a new David King story which “explores a deep personal connection” and is playing out now—snippets of the stories are released over time.
The romantic preferences of other characters have been alluded to in previous Tomes—a character’s wife is mentioned, for instance—but none were made explicit, and until this new David King story, one could have gathered that Dead by Daylight’s 30 survivors are all straight. In fact, in the one previous story about David King, a former girlfriend is mentioned. (“His ex has moved on and she doesn’t want to see his face.”)
“The fact that our character roster did not openly feature any confirmed LGBTQIA2+ representation was something we have been determined to change,” Behaviour Interactive said in its blog post (here’s an
LGBTQIA2+ definition). “Upon consulting extensively with the GaymerX organization, who shared their expertise at integrating LGBTQIA2+ themes into established games, we felt confident in our chosen direction.”
Many fans responded positively to the announcement, applauding the increased representation. Some players noted that by adding to the backstory of an existing character rather than introducing a DLC character, Behaviour chose not to use the moment as an opportunity to sell inclusion. David King is one of Dead by Daylight’s most popular characters to play—he occupies a “a comfortable top ten position,” says Behaviour—and players will presumably continue to choose him for the same reasons they always have.
Other fans felt the announcement was tacky, pandering, or didn’t go far enough. Some would have preferred that a new character had been introduced, with one argument being that it isn’t impossible to think that David King was chosen at random as a token gay character, given his existing backstory.
“He’s literally a stereotypical British chav who’d probably brag about his success with women in pubs. Like I’m gay and I’m not saying gay men can’t be hypermasculine fighting addicts but it just feels sooo out of place,”
said one player. “Corny pandering honestly.”
A number of negative or confused reactions also came from people who weren’t aware that the announcement coincided with a new David King story—or weren’t aware that Dead by Daylight contained backstories at all, like me about an hour ago—and therefore thought that the developer consulted with GaymerX just to write a blog post which states that a character is gay. That would indeed be weird, but it isn’t the case. The developer announced that the new David King story will establish that he identifies as gay, not just that he’s gay.
The rest of the negative reaction broadly comes from people and pundits who reject not just the idea of representation, but the identities being represented themselves, and took the announcement as a cue for outraged soapboxing.
Some of the posts in the
now closed thread on the Dead by Daylight subreddit fit that description, although a lot of the player criticism is more along the lines of the “corny pandering” comment. Celebratory posts (“As someone who has been a David main for years, this makes me feel pure bliss”) and counterpoints are scattered throughout the Reddit thread, too. One player said that they think others are primarily uncomfortable accepting that an established character isn’t who they assumed he was.
“I’m a gay dude, I’ve had four girlfriends,” the
player said. “[David King’s] Tome lore is probably going to be a coming out story, something I can relate to and something I’m sure a lot of other gay men would feel represented by. My point is it’s hard to call this tokenism because this happens in real life to almost every gay person. We don’t pop out of the womb and have everyone understand that we’re gay. Gay people don’t even just come out once. I have to let people find out im gay on their own or tell them myself every time I switch jobs or meet new friends, and it’s always unnerving when I’m anticipating their reaction to confirming my orientation. For that reason I really hate this ‘well he wasn’t gay before so I don’t like him now’ argument because that happens to us in real life.”
Over on the game’s official forums, Dead by Daylight community manager Peanits
elaborated on some of the decisions. Regarding David King’s past, “people often learn things about themselves as time goes on,” they said. And regarding suggestions that a new character would have been better, Peanits said that putting the game’s first gay character behind a DLC paywall could have been considered “promoting pride for a profit,” as some players also suggested. They also noted that new characters don’t typically come with much backstory, so establishing their sexuality right away might overemphasize it. David King is already a fleshed out character, and so his sexuality will be a part of him, but not everything there is to know about him, according to Peanits.
As for the future, with the ice broken, “it’ll be a lot easier to approach these subjects up front and/or in more subtle ways,” they said.
Devotion is Dead by Daylight’s 11th Tome, and
released on Thursday. Aside from David King’s story, it also features a tale about The Twins, a pair of 17th century conjoined twins (in case you’d forgotten what game we were talking about). There’s also an updated pride charm in the game, which can be acquired free in the in-game store with the code “PRIDE2022.”