Five years ago, a livejournal friend gifted me a copy of a brand new game she was obsessed with. It was a multiplayer game and she said it was really fun with friends. I downloaded it and took one look at the spooky, dark setting and got very nervous. I played the tutorial with my headphones on, as recommended and ended up freaking myself out and deciding it just wasn’t for me. And so it sat, in my Steam inventory…waiting.
And then, in late June of this year, another online friends mentioned in a Discord server that he was going to play ‘Dead by Daylight’ and asked if anyone wanted to join. I recognized the name of the game and opened up my Steam library…there it was…not installed because I had switched computers ages ago…but I had the game. Here was my chance to play with a friend, the time was right (a bright and sunny Sunday afternoon) so I figured why not, easy enough to quit if it was too scary.
If you’ve never played ‘Dead by Daylight’, I wouldn’t fault you for thinking it sounds awful from the description – you play as either one of four survivors hiding from a supernatural killer trying to sacrifice you to The Entity…or you’re playing as The Killer and trying to hunt down the four survivors and putting them on hooks until the Entity stabs them with it’s…legs – Tentacles? Fingers? – and sucks them up into the sky. Sounds like fun, yeah??
Everyone in the game is played by someone out there – no NPCs, no VS the computer. If you and a friend join a match as survivors, then you get two other random players to fill out the story and another player is the killer. I think this is the big appeal is that you’re up against other humans so you either manage to outwit them or they you. You can’t blame the computer for cheating – though they could apply perks that give them advantages (though technically the matchmaking system should be setting you up with equal players but as my friend pointed out, it never quite works the way you hope).
The difference between trying to jump into this dark and grisly game on your own versus joining up with a friend in a voice chat who has been playing for years, can explain strategy and understands the subculture is HUGE. Instead of being alone and scared, I was laughing and yelling as I ran away from the killer or ran towards my friend to rescue him before time was up. He also told me the “secret communication” of not wriggling when the Killer picks you up at the very end of the game, as sometimes they take pity on the final survivor, dropping you at the exit or escape hatch. (not always though…sometimes they need to reach their daily goals too!)
Is DbD for everyone? No. Even with the laughter to ease my nerves, there are very tense moments when you realize the killer is running towards you and you are frantically trying to finish up the last generator that will power the exit gate. In a recent game, I was doing just that and as I spun the camera around my character, I saw Ghost Face (the killer from the ‘Scream’ franchise) peek out from around the corner, crouched and sneaking towards me. Not going to lie, I let out a yelp and started sprinting away before they could strike. But it was SO satisfying after that game when the player left me a “gg!! wp!!” in the chat (that’s “good game, well played” for those not verse in the gaming lingo).
If that kind of tension, the same tension you get from a horror movie, isn’t your thing then you probably won’t enjoy ‘Dead by Daylight’ as a lot of the game consists of holding down a mouse button while I bar slowly fills up, listening for the heartbeat of the killer as they approach and also trying to complete “skill checks”, random quick time events that pop up every now and then. Any sound can alert the killer to your location. Playing as the killer brings its own set of frustrations and tension, as you try to chase survivors around the map, hoping to knock one of them down before another can complete a task.
I have been amused by how many of my online friends have popped up to tell me they play and offering to party up. Even without voice chat, it is somehow comforting to know that the person who just joined your team is someone you kind of sort of know, even if it was just a match you played together and both survived.
All I know is that I started playing this game a little over a month ago, and I’ve already logged 45 hours. There’s something about it that keeps me coming back – maybe it’s the drop in/drop out sessions, where you can easily play a quick round before dinner. Maybe it is trying to complete a challenge to earn just enough points to level up your character or a silly cosmetic add-on. It’s somehow very addictive and fun and if you approach it with a sense of humor, that your bad games means the other team had a good game so someone out there is happy, then it’s hard not to enjoy it on some level.