The Queer Appeal of ‘Dead by Daylight’

A few months ago, a friend introduced me to this peculiar horror game he was playing on Nintendo Switch. The game, Dead by Daylight, originally came out in 2016, but quickly enveloped my life. Working from home with minimal social interaction and looming financial precarity put a heavy strain on my mental health, and a horror video game where I’m constantly fighting for survival felt like a kind of virtual exposure therapy.

If you haven’t played before, here are the gameplay basics for Dead by Daylight. Five players are in each round: one killer and a team of four survivors. The team of survivors work together to repair generators, while the killer attempts to catch the survivors and impale their bodies on giant hooks strewn across the map. If the team of survivors is able to repair five generators, then any survivors who have not been sacrificed by the killer can try to escape out the exit gates.

I am definitely not the only member of the queer community currently obsessed with Dead by Daylight. The game is quite popular with Twitch streamers who use the LGBTQIA+ tag. Even Trixie Mattel, from Rupaul’s Drag Race, is an avid fan of the game and recently played Dead by Daylight on Twitch as part of a charity stream.

Dead by Daylight fleshes out its survivors and killers with detailed game lore exploring their backstory and motivations. In June, the development team behind Dead by Daylight, Behavior, acknowledged a lack of diversity in the game’s lore: “We did set our character’s preferences in the past, notably in heterosexual relationships,” the developers posted on the game’s official Twitter account.

We spoke with five Twitch streamers who are members of the queer community and regularly play Dead by Daylight to investigate why a video game that was not intentionally created for the queer community has gained such traction with this audience.

Sammy, aka simplesammy, primarily streams as a survivor in Dead by Daylight. He is especially drawn to the character of Zarina. “I was honestly so surprised when she was released, because I relate to her so much. My dad is a Syrian immigrant to Canada, and her story is similar. She is the child of two Arab immigrant parents (reference) who come to the U.S,” he said.

In the game lore for Dead by Daylight, Zarina Kassir considers changing her first name to Karina. Sammy identified with the pressure to adopt a more Westernized name, “My name is Sammy. That’s my full name; it’s not Samuel.” In English, the name Sammy is often considered a nickname, but “…in Arabic, it means of a higher caliber. It actually has a beautiful meaning.”

While he culturally relates to Zarina, Sammy admitted that Dead by Daylight might benefit from additional queer representation among its characters. “For a game that has so many queer people playing it, why not have one of them be somewhere under the umbrella?”

Sammy compared the experience of watching a Dead by Daylight stream on Twitch to watching “a mini horror movie” and mentioned the popularity of the horror genre within the queer community. “When it comes to Dead by Daylight specifically, you can be a survivor being chased by a killer. In a way, that is an allegory for queer folks who run away from the cishet society’s views of what their life should be.”

Joe, who streams as justsaynotojoe, was drawn into playing Dead by Daylight by watching other people stream as the survivor. “I think the thing that appeals to me about Dead by Daylight, is the same thing that appeals to me about a lot of horror movies. You’re rooting for that survivor. You’re rooting for that final girl, especially. Gays love a strong female character surviving at the end.”

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