Leatherface is a serial killer from the Texas Chainshaw Massacre franchise who likes to wear his victims’ faces as masks. In the horror survival game Dead by Daylight, first released back in 2016, Leatherface — aka The Cannibal — has unlockable achievements. One of those achievements is that if you kill one Survivor 25 times, you get a “skin mask” made from their... well, face. While this is intentionally disturbing, it’s even more disturbing when you consider the fact that players have been running around wearing the skin mask of the game’s only Black Survivor, Claudette, with the intention of “targeting and harassing” other players.
Developer Behaviour Interactive addressed the issue in a vague and roundabout way a few days ago by choosing to remove all of Leatherface’s unlockable skin masks. It acknowledged that the masks were being “used as a tool to spread hate” in the game and decided that all skin masks will be removed from The Cannibal’s wardrobe.
Players who had unlocked the masks — including those who used them to spread hate — will be rewarded with 6,000 Iridescent Shards when the masks are deleted. This begs the question: why is Behaviour indirectly rewarding bad behavior? Are they taking action against those who acted openly racist in games? Who knows. The company says they “will not tolerate hateful activity,” but rewarding racist players with Shards doesn’t really seem like it aligns with that goal.
Obvious harm — When you think about the racial implications of a white man running around in a game with a Black person’s face on as he torments other players of color, the situation takes on a whole other level of disturbing. Unfortunately, gaming culture has a history of racist and incel behavior, so it’s not exactly a surprise that some players used the Claudette “mask” as a chance to be assholes.
Bad guys — While it might be obvious to some that a blackface mask should have probably never been added to Dead by Daylight in the first place, Kotaku has pointed out that many Redditors believe the mask is not, in fact, racist because The Cannibal, who some call Bubba, “doesn’t discriminate in who he kills, he just kills.”
But some gamers disagree with this sentiment, arguing that “if the cosmetic is used in a racist way, such as harassing a POC streamer or player with it... it should probably be addressed. It’s a massive dogwhistle.” Apparently, it’s an unpopular opinion to believe that “anything that has been turned into a tool for racial violence in a game should be altered or taken away.”
Finally — Back in November, a group of Black Twitch streamers discussed this blackface mask and explained why and how it is harmful to the Black community. Now, their voices are finally being heard, but the larger problem of systemic racism in gaming remains.
Hopefully, more game developers will be more cognizant of the racial implications of their cosmetic items in the future and respond to concerns quicker when items are used as symbols of hate.