Fans of the 1974 horror film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre know that its famed antagonist, Leatherface (aka the Cannibal), has a gruesome penchant for wearing the faces of his victims as masks, a detail that developer Behaviour Interactive incorporated when it introduced him to Dead By Daylight as one of the game’s killers in September 2017. This ability is now being removed, Behaviour Interactive has announced, a decision which comes after many players argued that one of the masks was used to perpetuate harmful, racist harassment in-game in the form of blackface.
In Dead By Daylight, the Cannibal can unlock and equip one of four masks based on the game’s original survivors: Claudette Morel, Dwight Fairfield, Meg Thomas, and Jake Park. You must kill each one at least 25 times as the Cannibal to get their respective faces as wearable masks. Unfortunately, it’s the face of Claudette, a Black woman and botanist, which saw the most usage as a mask by Leatherface players.
According to a developer update, Dead By Daylight players have reportedly used the Cannibal with the Claudette mask to “target and harass” others. The studio said it “absolutely condemns” this behavior while admitting to feeling uncomfortable when masks are “used as a tool to spread hate.” As a result, all four unlockable masks will get removed in the game’s upcoming update.
“Anyone who has ever played the Cannibal by the release of the Mid-Chapter update will be awarded 6,000 Iridescent Shards to compensate for [the masks’] removal,” Behaviour Interactive said. “We will not tolerate hateful activity and will continue to take every step necessary to protect the community.”
As you can imagine, parts of the community are frustrated by the studio’s decision, with one player saying the Cannibal is a “cannibal and murderer” who’s unconcerned with “the race of the person whose face he is wearing.” Others argue that “context is king,” and in a game like Dead By Daylight, in which the objective is to kill anyone and everyone, “it’s not problematic.” The game’s official subreddit is littered with discussions about the Cannibal’s blackface, with conversations dating back at least two years. Most of the discourse centers around players calling the mask not racist.
Other community members, however, have long stated that many players often wore the mask as a racist act, and agree with Behaviour Interactive’s choice to remove the Cannibal’s unlockable masks. One player said it’s “why people wear Smartface [Claudette’s mask]” that could be a problem, while another wrote a long defense for why the masks shouldn’t be in the game. There was even a nearly 40-minute YouTube video by user sistakaren in November 2021 in which several people of color discussed their experience with racism and the Cannibal’s blackface in Dead By Daylight.
[h/t: For The Win]