At Microsoft’s X019 event today in London, the company announced a new game in partnership with Life Is Strange developer Dontnod Entertainment called Tell Me Why, a game set in “small-town Alaska” where twins Tyler and Alyson Ronan will “use their extraordinary bond to unravel memories of a loving but troubled childhood.” One of the twins, Tyler, is a transgender man, which is tragically uncommon among big-budget video games.
The core of the game, according to Dontnod, involves the player helping Tyler and Alyson explore their individual interpretations of past events and choose which one really happened.
In the press release, which claims Tyler is “the first playable videogame hero from a major studio or publisher who is also transgender,” Tell Me Why game director Florent Guillame said he was “grateful” for Microsoft’s “support, openness and help regarding Tyler’s identity and character.” Dontnod reportedly worked with the LGTBQ media advocacy group GLAAD to craft Tyler’s character.
“Microsoft and Dontnod have approached Tyler with a real commitment to authenticity,” said GLAAD director of transgender representation Nick Adams in the prss release. “Tyler is a fully-realized, endearing character, whose story is not reduced to simplistic trans tropes. Creating a playable lead trans character—and taking such care to get it right—raises the bar for future LGBTQ inclusion in gaming.”
It’s currently unclear if Dontnod hired any trans creatives to work on the project, but a report from The Hollywood Reporter notes trans actor August Black is voicing Tyler, and the goal is to "find people in the localized languages as well and make sure we have a strong, representative performance no matter where in the world you might play the game."
Update: When asked if trans creatives are involved in developing Tell Me Why, Microsoft passed along this statement from Xbox Game Studios senior director Joseph Staten:
“We brought many transgender players in for user research, testing, and feedback throughout development, which has been invaluable. We also received guidance and feedback from transgender friends and colleagues to build genuine and authentic characters.
In addition, DONTNOD and Xbox Game Studios partnered closely with Nick Adams, GLAAD’s Director of Transgender Representation, from the very beginning of “Tell Me Why’s” development to ensure that Tyler is an authentic hero and to help create an inclusive gaming experience that invites more people to play.
GLAAD has been a terrific partner, as Nick has consulted in story, dialogue, character design, environmental design, and voice casting as everyone took great care to ensure Tyler is a genuine, multi-dimensional character, avoiding the many harmful transgender stereotypes.”
Tell Me Why is a three-episode story to be released entirely next summer. Episodic games, including Life Is Strange, have traditionally struggled to release new episodes at a consistent pace. Life Is Strange 2, for example, will take more than a year to deliver its five episodes.
Follow Patrick on Twitter. His email is email@example.com, and available privately on Signal (224-707-1561).