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'This raises the bar': Microsoft introduces first lead trans character in a major video game

Guardian Technology 14 Nov 2019 10:43
‘We were very naive at first,’ says the game director, who consulted with the trans community and Glaad on character and story development. Photograph: Dontnod

At Microsoft’s X019 event in London on Thursday, the company revealed a range of major new titles for the Xbox and PC. But in an industry which has often struggled with representation and diversity of lead characters, one announcement stood out.

The latest narrative adventure game from the acclaimed French studio Dontnod will have a transgender man as its lead character – a first for a major game release.

Named Tell Me Why, and launching in spring 2020, the game follows identical twins Alyson and Tyler Ronan, who grew up in a small community in Alaska and are reunited after a key event drove them apart 10 years ago. Through the game, the player has to understand what drove the characters from each other, investigating their shared memories while exploring the town and talking to local inhabitants.

“The twins are connected by strong supernatural bond, which allows them to share their thoughts and feelings,” explains the game director, Florent Guillaume. “They also have the ability to interact with past memories – to recall and relive them. There are questions of perspective – the two characters see things and remember things differently and you get to choose which you believe, and that shapes the story.”

According to Guillaume, the character Tyler wasn’t always going to be a trans man. “We wanted these characters who were born identical to have lived very different lives, and it was while exploring this path that we came up with the idea of having a trans character.

“Tyler is a fully realised, endearing character, whose story is not reduced to simplistic trans tropes,” said Nick Adams, director of transgender representation at Glaad. “Creating a playable lead trans character – and taking such care to get it right – raises the bar for future LGBTQ inclusion in gaming.”

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Tyler RonanFlorent GuillaumeMicrosoftGlaadDontnod