‘Tell Me Why’ makes history with the first transgender protagonist from a major game studio

Representation in gaming just took a significant step forward, with a brand new title featuring the first-ever playable transgender protagonist.

Announced at Microsoft’s X019 event in London, Tell Me Why is the newest episodic narrative adventure game from DONTNOD Entertainment, the studio behind Life Is Strange.

Set in a small-town in Alaska, the three-chapter game lets you play as both 21-year-old twins Tyler and Alyson Ronan, who come together after 10 years of separation. Unlike most regular twins like myself, the pair are able to wield the powers you all somehow think twins genuinely have to share thoughts and memories — in this case, it helps to investigate a mystery from their apparently turbulent childhood.

“The core mechanic of the game is the special bond Tyler and Alyson share and is also a theme strongly anchored into the DONTNOD storytelling approach,” said Tell Me Why game director Florent Guillaume in a press statement.

“Over the course of the story, players will explore the identical twins’ different memories of key events and choose which memory to believe. Ultimately, the choices players make determine the strength of the twins’ bond — and the future course of their lives.” 

Making history, Tyler is the first playable protagonist from a major game studio and publisher who is also transgender. Not only is the voice actor for Tyler transgender too, but DONTNOD worked closely with both Microsoft and LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD on the game, making sure to shape Tyler both as an authentic representation of the trans experience, and a nuanced, multi-dimensional character in his own right. 

“Microsoft and DONTNOD have approached Tyler with a real commitment to authenticity,” said  Nick Adams, director of transgender representation at GLAAD in a statement. “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.” 

“Tyler is a fully-realized, endearing character, whose story is not reduced to simplistic trans tropes.”

“I think what they’re doing here is really uniquely special. It is the first-ever openly transgender playable character in a video game. And I think in today’s day and age, it’s great that we can bring that to market in a really thoughtful and inclusive way,” Aaron Greenberg, general manager, Xbox Games Marketing, told Mashable. 

“When you do take a sense of responsibility to do these things for the first time, you want to try to do it right. We’ve tried our best to do that. But ultimately, the most important thing is that it’s a great game,” he added. “I think we have a sense of team pride about it, because it’s so unique … hopefully, fans and the transgender community and the LBGTQ community will respond positively to it as well.”

DONTNOD released the debut trailer for the game on Thursday, in which you can get a peek at the crisp Alaskan landscape, as well as hints of the mystery the twins will unravel. If all we’re going off is the heavy realism of Life Is Strange, and the snippets of repressive family conversation and loaded guns from the trailer, we’re expecting things to get pretty dark for Tyler and Alyson.

Tell Me Why is coming to Xbox One, Windows 10 PC, Xbox Game Pass and Steam in summer 2020. The three chapters will come out one after another, but DONTNOD promises there won’t be big gaps between them.