Dontnod Entertainment has undertaken research and extensive consultation to ensure that the story of Tyler Ronan—Tell Me Why’s trans protagonist—is “carefully crafted” to truthfully represent “people who usually don’t have enough visibility.” (via Gayming Mag).
Announced at Xbox London 2019, Tell Me Why is a mystery game following the twins Alyson and Tyler Ronan when they return to their hometown and explore their troubled past. As they walk around their childhood home, the twins will experience their own visions and memories of what happened, and the player will choose which representation of events is the true one, leading to determinant endings. Tyler Ronan is the “first playable video game hero from a major studio and publisher who is also transgender,” claimed the developer, and the team had consulted with LGBTQ media advocacy organisation GLAAD in order to portray him authentically and considerately.
In an interview with Gayming Mag, game director Florent Guillaume, narrative director Stéphane Beauverger, and lead writer Morgan Lockhart shed a little light on their hopes for Tell Me Why, and the actions they undertook to achieve these aspirations. “Trans characters in media are unfortunately too rare, both in movies or TV shows and even more in video games,” admitted Guillame. “This game means a lot to us, and hopefully will mean something for people who usually don’t have enough visibility. So we totally feel the responsibility we have to portray Tyler in a positive way.” Dontnod did consult with GLAAD regarding the character’s story, but it has also committed to the inclusion of LGBTQ perspectives in each step of the game’s development. “Thanks to Microsoft and GLAAD’s support, we have been able to include transgender and allied players in every UR test, and they have given us invaluable feedback,” said Guillame.
Tyler is voiced by August Black, and he is said to be “an integral member of the creative team.” Lockhart explained that if “a line of dialog or character didn’t ring true to August, then it didn’t work for Tyler,” and Beauverger stated that Dontnod is “working hard to find trans actors for localized language versions of the game.” The level of this commitment to authentic representation is reassuring, as, more often than not, trans characters in media are centred solely around their identity, getting a one-dimensional treatment by the story. “Skepticism is healthy, as the game industry often falls short when it comes to portrayals of marginalized groups. Without an adequate depth of knowledge, it’s easy to fall back on simplistic and often harmful tropes,” said Lockhart. “Given how often these types of portrayals have failed the trans community, we hope we have taken positive steps forward in the creation and portrayal of Tyler.”
“Tyler only being defined by his gender would be the biggest proof that we failed as writers and storytellers,” added Beauverger, saying Tyler “will express hopes, fears, projects, and plans,” just like all the other characters in Tell Me Why.
Tell Me Why is an episodic game set to launch for PC and Xbox One in 2020.
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