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'Tell Me Why': Video game features transgender lead character

The narrative adventure centers on transgender man Tyler Ronan, who reunites with his twin in their Alaska hometown after their mother's mysterious death.
The character Tyler in "Tell Me Why."
The character Tyler in "Tell Me Why."Dontnod Entertainment/Xbox Game Studios

In an industry in which transgender representation is still rare (but increasing), the new video game "Tell Me Why" stands out.

"Tell Me Why," a three-part narrative adventure by Dontnod Entertainment, the studio behind "Life Is Strange," features Tyler Ronan, a transgender man who reunites with his twin sister in their fictional Alaska hometown following their mother's mysterious death. According to the studio, "Tell Me Why" includes the "first playable transgender video game hero from a major studio and publisher."

The game's first chapter was released Aug. 27, and the remaining two are set to debut on Thursday and Sept. 10. All three chapters will be available on Xbox Game Pass, Xbox One, Windows PC and Steam.

While the game does not center on Tyler's gender identity, the gameplay does not shy away from it, either. The game's creators acknowledge that there are instances when he faces "ignorant comments and microaggressions" and that after a decade away from his hometown, he is met with offensive reactions from some neighbors who are seeing him post-transition for the first time.

On the "Tell My Why" site's FAQ page, the team behind the game said trans, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming staff members from Dontnod and Xbox made "countless key creative contributions," including in "character design, narrative and dialogue." The team said that it worked closely with GLAAD, a national LGBTQ media advocacy organization, in creating "Tell My Why" and that the transgender actor who voiced Tyler "made significant contributions" to the final product, as well.

IMAGE: Scene from 'Tell Me Why'
The character Tyler, right, in "Tell Me Why."Dontnod Entertainment/Xbox Game Studios

Game director Florent Guillaume said authentic representation was crucial, in part, because video games can "put you in the shoes of characters that you don't necessarily relate to."

"I think that's really powerful, because you may not be an astronaut or a firefighter or anything, but you can still, in a game, be that character, connect to that character, and I think that's really important, because it creates empathy," he said in a video shared on Xbox's YouTube account.

In the same video, Nick Adams, GLAAD's director of transgender representation, who was a consultant for "Tell Me Why," said authentic media portrayals of trans characters can be a powerful tool for acceptance and understanding.

"When we see real characters in film, TV, games that are made with care that just show trans people as we actually are and not the stereotypes of the past, everyone who plays the game will have the opportunity to be a trans person, even in this tiny, little, small way, even in the context of a game," he said.

August Aiden Black, the actor who voiced Tyler, said his character is "so much more than just a trans character."

"His transness brings value to the story," Black said in a takeover of GLAAD's Instagram account this week.

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