At Microsoft's X019 event in London on Thursday, the company unveiled a number of major new Xbox and PC titles. But in an industry that often struggles with the portrayal and diversity of key characters, one ad stands out.
The latest narrative adventure game from acclaimed French studio Dontnod will feature a transgender man as the main character – the first to release a great game.
Called Tell Me Why, and released in the spring of 2020, the game follows identical twins Alyson and Tyler Ronan, who grew up in a small Alaskan community and reunite after an important event that separated them 10 years ago. Through the game, the player needs to understand what motivated the characters, investigating their shared memories while exploring the city and talking to the locals.
"The twins are connected by a strong supernatural bond, which allows them to share their thoughts and feelings," explains game director Florent Guillaume. “They also have the ability to interact with past memories – to recall and relive them. There are perspective issues – the two characters see things and remember things differently and you choose what you believe and shape the story. "
According to Guillaume, the character Tyler would not always be a trans man. “We wanted these characters who were born identical to have lived very different lives, and it was by exploring this path that the idea of having a trans character came up.
“We loved the concept and were determined not to run away from it. We did a lot of research, we searched the community, we wanted to understand their journeys; we consulted the charity Glaad, which usually works with media companies on LGBT + representation. We were very naive at first, and they brightened us up, helped us revise the script and the characters, and reach out to people. "
"Tyler is a captivating and captivating character whose story is not reduced to simplistic trans-tropes," said Nick Adams, director of trans representation at Glaad. "Creating a main character trans – and being careful to get it right – raises the bar for future LGBTQ inclusion in games."
Glaad also helped cast Tyler, who is played by trans actor August Aiden Black, and the game was tested by trans players – although Dontnod does not confirm whether the development team includes any trans teams.
"The story is emotional and intimate – we wanted to touch them," says Guillaume. “There is a lot of responsibility. We wanted to represent the community accurately. This is not a game about the trans journey, but it is certainly a facet of the game. "
As a publisher, Microsoft also supported the game's trans story. "We're really committed to the idea of playing for everyone," says Joseph Staten, creative director of the Microsoft publishing team. “We need to bring several experiences. It has been very important to do it the right way, to do it carefully.
“Tyler had to be authentic, but also just a brave, strong and wonderful character. Together with your sister, this is an interesting new set of video game characters. This comes from the top: We want the Xbox to be a place where everyone can play, but we need to demonstrate it in significant ways. "
Guillaume sees Tell Me Why as indicative of a growing understanding that video game player characters need to be more representative. "I think the industry has reached a level of maturity where we can delve into many stories and experiences," he says. "Video games have a special ability to connect you to the characters, allowing you to live like someone you couldn't be. Through games, we can give players a bridge to the characters – to connect with them, to be comfortable with them. . ”
• Tell Me Why is scheduled to be released in three separate downloadable chapters on Xbox and PC from spring 2020.