Dontnod Entertainment's Tell Me Why got a new trailer today, alongside a roadmap of when its episodes will roll out this summer. Ahead of launch, the studio released a series of questions and answers today, addressing how it's going to tackle the sensitive topics surrounding its twin protagonists and their lives together.
Tell Me Why centers around twins Alyson and Tyler Ronan. After reuniting for the first time in a decade due to their mother's death, they meet back up at their childhood home in rural Alaska and begin to uncover truths about their shared past. It's a narrative adventure, similar to its previous series Life is Strange and its sequel.
Much like Life is Strange, especially the sequel, the narrative of Tell Me Why appears to not take place in a vacuum either. Tyler is a transgender man; one character, Michael, is a queer Tlingit man; and due to its setting in rural Alaska, the story takes place in a setting that is home to many indigineous communities.
Stories with these topics and characters have had issues with proper and honest representation. Dontnod's FAQ gets out ahead, laying out both non-spoiler and spoiler answers to many questions one might have about Tell Me Why's content, especially some that might be traumatic for those who have lived certain experiences.
For example, in the non-spoiler marked sections, the FAQ affirms that Tyler's birth name, or "deadname," will not be used anywhere in the game. Tyler is referred to as Ollie in flashbacks, though this is due to his first choosing this name for himself as it sounded similar to his sister's nickname, Aly. It also affirms that Tyler's transition is not a result of childhood trauma, and mementos discovered in the Ronan's home will reflect the ways Tyler expressed himself as a boy in the past; "the idea that being transgender is caused by trauma is a stereotype that has no basis in fact, and it plays no role in Tyler's story," Dontnod writes.
The studio also says Michael's character won't depict violence against him. For the indigineous representation, Dontnod says it partnerered with the Huna Heritage Foundation to ensure that Tlingit culture is portrayed "respectfully and responsibly," informing aspects from sounds and pronunciation to customs like funerary rites. Several Huna Tlingit artisans were commissioned to create objects, murals, and designs. It was also reported last year that Dontnod has been working with organizations like GLAAD on its representation of queer and transgender characters.
All of this combined puts forward a strong case that, at the bare minimum, Dontnod is doing its due diligence. The studio received praise for its portrayal of real-life issues in Life is Strange 2, as well as its Latinx characters, and it's nice to see the work being put into representation here as well. It's something else to see a studio be proactive about these things, rather than reactive, and hopefully those good intentions come to fruition when the first chapter of Tell Me Why goes live on August 27 for PC and Xbox One.