Dead by Daylight developers announced on Wednesday that David King, a character introduced to the game in 2017, is gay. Reactions ranged from joy to outrage, and a Reddit thread discussing the decision was eventually locked.
“Homophobia will not be tolerated, if you see any please report it,” said one mod wrote in the thread. “This post is locked because it got out of hand, but please check out our entire update megathread if you have anything to discuss about the update (including this one).”
Dead by Daylight is a multiplayer horror game in which a team of survivors try to outwit a killer who was either inspired by or drawn directly from slasher films like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween. It doesn’t take much backstory to work, but in 2019 developer Behavior Interactive added The Archives, which augmented the game’s lore with tomes containing audio stories and animations. The latest tome, Devotion, features a new David King story that “explores a deep personal connection” and is playing now – snippets of the stories will be released over time.
Other characters’ romantic preferences have been alluded to in previous tomes – a character’s wife is mentioned, for example – but none have been made explicit, and until this new David King story one might have guessed that the 30 survivors of Dead by Daylight all are straight . In fact, the one previous story about David King mentions a former girlfriend. (“His ex moved away and she doesn’t want to see his face.”)
“The fact that our character roster didn’t have confirmed LGBTQIA2+ representation was something we really wanted to change,” Behavior Interactive said in its blog post (here’s a LGBTQIA2+ definition). “After extensive consultation with the GaymerX organization, who have shared their expertise in integrating LGBTQIA2+ themes into mainstream games, we felt confident in our chosen direction.”
Many fans responded positively to the announcement and applauded the increased representation. Some players noted that Behavior chose not to use the moment as an opportunity to sell inclusion by complementing an existing character’s backstory rather than introducing a DLC character. David King is one of Dead by Daylight’s most popular characters — he occupies a “comfortable top ten position,” Behavior says — and players will likely continue to choose him for the same reasons they always have.
David King is one of the main characters in our brand new tome, but he’s also a first step towards more representation in Dead by Daylight. More information: https://t.co/tTSozggnWj pic.twitter.com/zieDbEAaa8April 27, 2022
Other fans found the announcement cheesy, pandering, or didn’t go far enough. Some would have preferred a new character to be introduced, arguing that it’s not impossible to believe that David King was randomly chosen to be the symbolic gay character based on his existing backstory.
“He’s literally a stereotypical British chav who would probably brag about his success with women in pubs. Like I’m gay and I’m not saying gay men can’t be hyper masculine combative but it just feels so out of place.” said one player. “Stupid pandering honestly.”
A range of negative or confused reactions also came from people who were unaware that the announcement coincided with a new David King story – or didn’t know that Dead by Daylight contained any backstories at all, as I did about an hour ago – and therefore thought that the developer consulted with GaymerX only to write a blog post stating that a character is gay. That would indeed be strange, but it is not the case. The developer announced that the new David King storyline will establish that he identifies as gay, not just that he is gay.
The rest of the negative reaction comes, by and large, from people and pundits who reject not only the idea of representation, but the identities being represented, and who took the announcement as an indignation for outraged soapboxes.
Using the code PRIDE2022 in the in-game store now unlocks our new updated talisman along with the old one. Wear it with pride. 🌈 pic.twitter.com/7Z44vOtEs9April 27, 2022
Some posts in the now thread closed on the Dead by Daylight subreddit fit that description, although much of the player criticism leans more towards the “freaky pandering” comment. Anniversary posts (“As someone who has been a David lead for years, this makes me pure bliss”) and counterpoints are also scattered throughout the Reddit thread. One player said they think that accepting that an established character isn’t who they thought they were is primarily uncomfortable for others.
“I’m a gay guy, I had four girlfriends,” he said player said. “[David King’s] Tome Lore will likely be a coming out story, something I can relate to and I’m sure a lot of other gay men would feel represented by. My point is that it’s hard to call this tokenism because it happens to almost every gay person in real life. We don’t come from the womb and let everyone understand that we are gay. Gays don’t even come out just once. I have to let people find out for themselves that I’m gay, or tell them myself every time I change jobs or meet new friends, and it’s always unnerving waiting for their reaction to confirmation of my orientation. That’s why I hate that “well, he wasn’t gay before, so now I don’t like him” argument, because that happens to us in real life.”
Over on the game’s official forums, Dead by Daylight Community Manager Peanits worked out some of the decisions. Regarding David King’s past, “people often learn things about themselves over time,” they said. And in regards to suggestions that a new character would have been better, Peanits said that putting the game’s first gay character behind a DLC paywall, as some players have, could be seen as “promoting pride for a win”. suggested. They also noted that new characters don’t usually have much backstory, so an immediate statement of their sexuality might overemphasize it. David King is already a fleshed out character, so his sexuality will be a part of him, but not all there is to know about him, according to Peanits.
With the ice broken in the future, “it will be much easier to address these issues openly and/or in more subtle ways,” they said.
Devotion is Dead by Daylight’s 11th Tome, and published on Thursday. Aside from the David King story, it also includes a story about The Twins, a pair of conjoined twins from the 17th century (in case you forgot which game we were talking about). There is also an updated Pride spell in the game that can be purchased for free from the in-game store with the code “PRIDE2022”.
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