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- Tell Me Why
Dontnod recently announced its next title, Tell Me Why, which is an episodic game that seems in a similar vein to the Life is Strange games. However, one difference lies in one of the protagonists as Tyler Ronan is a transgender man. This is a first for the medium, at least when considering products put out by big publishers. There’s a lot of pressure on Dontnod, but it said it will commit to authenticity for the character.
Characters inside the LGBT community haven’t always had a strong representation in media, especially within gaming and doubly so for transgender people. But Dontnod is seeking “guidance from LGBTQ, cultural, and mental health advocates” to help portray a sense of authenticity to Tyler’s character avoid common media tropes transgender people often fall victim to. Director of Transgender Representation at GLAAD, Nick Adams, also said as much about the Tell Me Why transgender representation.
“Microsoft and Dontnod have approached Tyler with a real commitment to authenticity,” stated Adams. “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.”
Dontnod has tried to make more inclusive games in the past. Both Life is Strange and Life is Strange 2 let players pursue queer relationships, while also exploring other storylines related to LGBT issues. Life is Strange 2 also stars two Hispanic boys and welcomes a whole host of typically underrepresented groups in later episodes.
The Hollywood Reporter reported that August Black, a trans voice actor, is voicing Tyler, which is part of Dontnod’s way of find actors in a “representative and authentic way.” However, it isn’t clear if Dontnod has trangender creatives in the room guiding the game, which is a key part that lends the authenticity that the team is striving for. While it wasn’t feasible to have teenagers in the room for the first game, Dontnod was heavily criticized for Life is Strange‘s clunky, fake teenager dialogue that couldn’t accurately portray how people in that age group speak. Hopefully, the French developer has learned from its shortcomings and realized that it’s often more authentic in these situations to include creative people with first-hand knowledge or experience with the topics at hand.
Vice asked Microsoft if transgender people were on the team. While the answer from Xbox Game Studios Senior Director Joseph Staten was essentially a long “no,” he did say how they brought in transgender players, colleagues, and friends for “research, testing, and feedback.” He also reiterated that Adams was with the project “from the very beginning” and helped consult with “story, dialogue, character design, environmental design, and voice casting” to avoid nasty stereotypes.