Lonely towns, supernatural kids and pine-filled forests at the top of America? Why, it could only be another episodic narrative from Dontnod Entertainment, couldn’t it? The first episode of moody magical adventure Tell Me Why arrives today, following the Ronan twins as they untangle a murky childhood mystery deep in the heart of Alaska.
Frankly, it’s a crime neither Dontnod nor the moneymen at Xbox Games Studios never licensed the Backstreet Boys for at least one of Tell Me Why’s trailers. I’d want it that way, is all I’m saying.
In line with the studio’s stable of supernatural small-town American narratives, Tell Me Why follows the Ronan Twins, Tyler and Alyson, as they dig into childhood memories back in their Alaskan hometown. Beyond folksy family drama and a magical world known as “The Book of Goblins”, however, the key here is that – following Life Is Strange‘s focus on queer relationships – Dontnod are now taking on a trans narrative with lead character Tyler.
Now, Dontnod seem to be taking this theme very seriously – claiming they don’t want to tell a trans story “rooted in pain or trauma”, and going so far as to put together a (potentially spoiler-filled) FAQ regarding the game’s queer rep. But for all the good the first Life Is Strange did in putting queer women on screen, both it and prequel DLC Before The Storm relished in repeating harmful tropes and worn-out tragedies. I’ve not followed too much of Tell Me Why’s pre-release marketing, but as a big ol’ trans myself, I can’t say I’m overly excited for “the Dontnod trans game” – nor the discourse that’s sure to follow.
But hey! Maybe I’m being too pessimistic. That FAQ was recently updated to explain how trans people were involved in the game’s development, with GLAAD’s director of transgender representation Nick Adams offering “foundational guidance” at every level of the story, casting and script for over two years. It also offers reassurances on the game’s indigenous Tlingit representation, though I’m very much not in a position to speak on that.
Tell Me Why is out now on Steam and the Microsoft Store as a complete three-part bundle for £25/$30. Episode 1 is available today, with Episode 2 arriving on September 3rd, and Episode 3 on September 10th.