“Tyler is a fully-realized...not reduced to simplistic trans tropes.”
November 15, 2019 11:43 AM   Subscribe

Microsoft introduces first lead trans character in a major video game [The Guardian] “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 (developers that produced Life is Strange) will have a transgender man as its lead character – a first for a major game release. [...] “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.”” [YouTube][Game Trailer]
posted by Fizz (29 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Dontnot has tackled some fairly hefty subject matter in that past (sexual violence/rape, alcoholism, homophobia, bullying). For the most part they've been pretty good at how they depict their characters. My only gripe was the ending of Life Is Strange which felt a bit exploitative.

But their characters are really well crafted and so much of that has to do with their voice-acting. They feel like real humans and you become invested in their stories. The game-play for the most part is very search, point, click, fetch. But for me that doesn't matter, I'm here for the characters, to see their stories play out.

I am hoping they do justice to this trans character and that they treat the trans community with respect and dignity. We'll have to see if they can do that. The gaming industry does not have a great track record for this thus far.
posted by Fizz at 11:52 AM on November 15, 2019 [7 favorites]


My only gripe was the ending of Life Is Strange which felt a bit exploitative.

Howso? Max and Chloe went off to live a life of adventure, the ruined town of Arcadia Bay in their wake.
posted by curious nu at 1:17 PM on November 15, 2019 [16 favorites]


(back on topic so to not de-rail thread with quips right off the bat, apologies, Fizz!)

I'll be interested to see how they tackle this. That GLAAD is weighing in positively is a good sign. I had real problems with Remember Me, though, so even if the characterization is good I'm wondering how the ethical issues will be handled.
posted by curious nu at 1:22 PM on November 15, 2019


I don't know, for me, finding out what happens with Rachel's death.

[** Life is Stranger Spoilers**]The entire dark room, the photos, the grisly way they framed it all. Maybe it could have been addressed a bit better with more sensitivity.

It felt really out of tune with the rest of the narrative and kind of there just for shock-value.

I guess this is why I have some concerns, because I'm hoping something similar does not happen with Tyler. I guess we'll see.
posted by Fizz at 1:27 PM on November 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


i'm a little nervous about it being dontnod, if nothing else than because my main memories of LIS are discourse about whether it was bury your gay/gaybaiting/bi erasure and the ableism and the shock value-y stuff. but still, i loved the hell out of it, so i'm probably definitely in. i like the look of the game and tyler's design and voice acting (which is also done by a trans man! good start!)
posted by gaybobbie at 2:04 PM on November 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


Microsoft introduces first lead trans character in a major video game

Samus Aran blinks and okays.

I'm interested how this will be received. People are noting that the studio doesn't have any trans people on staff but they don't appear to be cavalier about it and it sounds like GLAAD will help.

Hopefully they won't kill the trans kid.
posted by fleacircus at 2:27 PM on November 15, 2019 [3 favorites]


I've heard they hired a consultant. GLAAD is all well and good, but surely there was a trans-specific org they could have sought an endorsement from instead/as well?

Putting the character's trans identify front and center as, like, literally the only thing we know about the game at this point certainly feels cynical to me. I don't remember LiS treating "we have lesbians!!" as the entirety of their marketing, but I might be misremembering? Hopefully, it's just the marketing team being tin-eared and the actual in-game writing is appropriately sensitive and nuanced.
posted by tobascodagama at 2:52 PM on November 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure that's the only thing we know from the trailer. We are told that the main characters are twins who share some form of psychic bond, whose mother is absent and likely dead, and who are investigating a mystery arising from that. We know quite a bit about the setting and art style of the game, and can reasonably infer quite a bit about the gameplay. Only one line in the trailer makes it clear, or even refers to the fact, that one of the main characters is a trans man.
posted by howfar at 3:50 PM on November 15, 2019


It's great to hear about this. I didn't know dontnod was working on another game. I adored Life is Strange, and always love to see more queer people represented well in media.
posted by No One Ever Does at 4:02 PM on November 15, 2019


The name of the game being discussed in this post is, apparently, Tell Me Why.
posted by glonous keming at 4:13 PM on November 15, 2019


While it isn't 100% unanimous, I'd say the majority of trans game dev people I follow on twitter are I think understandably upset that while yes there is/are trans consultant(s?) apparently none of the writing team is trans. The thrust of the sentiment is "hey let us tell our own stories instead of profiting off the trauma/lived experience of someone else" which sounds about right tbh.
posted by juv3nal at 4:19 PM on November 15, 2019 [6 favorites]


I think an illustrative hypothetical would be what if a game about the black experience of police brutality was put out which had a black consultant or two but zero black writers on the writing team. That'd be pretty weird, right?
posted by juv3nal at 4:23 PM on November 15, 2019 [3 favorites]


Samus Aran blinks and okays.

In other places, I saw them say "playable trans character," and I thought of Poison as well.

But that said, both Samus and Poison were trans-erased in the translation from Japanese to English releases, and Poison in particular isn't a great portrayal of a trans character.
posted by explosion at 4:43 PM on November 15, 2019


Was Samus ever even officially A Trans? I was always under the impression that's popular trans gamer community fan-canon.
posted by egypturnash at 5:04 PM on November 15, 2019


They're gonna catch hell, no matter what they do. Transphobes will be mad, trans people will be mad. Everyone will be mad. This is a video game with a trans lead character, in 2019. Whatever the intentions of the game's creators, it's not gonna make anybody happy.

Not trying to call you out, egypturnash, but "a trans" isn't a thing. A trans person isn't a trans, just like trans people aren't transes.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:14 PM on November 15, 2019 [3 favorites]


I'd say the majority of trans game dev people I follow on twitter are I think understandably upset that while yes there is/are trans consultant(s?) apparently none of the writing team is trans

Dontnod has 166 employees as of 2018. With roughly 0.6% of the population being transgender (by estimates of US population, not French), we can estimate Dontnod as having on the order of a single transgender employee (at all). Looking at LinkedIn, Dontnod has 20 people with the title "writer", which suggests they would have to be roughly four to eight times larger to have a single transgender writer. The standard suggested puts a high burden on making any story including transgender people. This puts companies in a bind - they either make the story (and consult with organizations like GLAAD to ensure representation) or they don't make the story at all. Is the latter outcome preferable?
posted by saeculorum at 5:59 PM on November 15, 2019


Samus Aran is a Transgender Woman.
posted by explosion at 6:02 PM on November 15, 2019


Glad to see this happen, but video games generally aren't very good at portraying any real humans, period. I have not played this studio's other games, but games are not usually very realistic in any way, shape or form. Lacking real actors, they usually resort to loudly telegraphing character traits and identities, even the more subtle games.
posted by SoberHighland at 6:35 PM on November 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


This puts companies in a bind - they either make the story (and consult with organizations like GLAAD to ensure representation) or they don't make the story at all. Is the latter outcome preferable?

I don't know...like..umm, maybe they could...I don't know... I'm just spitballing here hire some trans writers?

Crumbs and Christmas!
posted by howfar at 6:47 PM on November 15, 2019 [15 favorites]


we can estimate Dontnod as having on the order of a single transgender employee

ah yes, the random sampling method of employment
posted by schadenfrau at 6:53 PM on November 15, 2019 [11 favorites]


Which is to say: if you have a particular job that needs doing, you hire people who know how to do that job. Like. Studios don’t just go out on the street with large writer nets and hope for the best.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:59 PM on November 15, 2019 [12 favorites]


I've never found the argument that Samus is a transgender woman particularly convincing (I think there's a better case that she's transhuman, and her gender identity simply doesn't matter except as an artifact of a species she doesn't quite fit into any more) but it doesn't have to be convincing to me. I still accept it's valid: Samus is a mess of a character, there's about four or five different canonical versions of her, and the most recent attempt to authoritatively say who Samus is was pretty terrible, and widely rejected. Samus being transgender is as much of a valid reading as Xena being a lesbian.

I think Poison is the first transgender character, and she's portrayed a lot more sympathetically these days. I think Birdo is technically doing drag? But Kaine from Nier is definitely transgender (and non-binary) and was in a game that came out in 2010.
posted by Merus at 8:39 PM on November 15, 2019


Like. Studios don’t just go out on the street with large writer nets and hope for the best.

Although it does have its appeal as an idea...
posted by howfar at 11:17 PM on November 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


Birdo is considered to be the first trans video game character (though not a lead character)
posted by rajbot at 12:25 AM on November 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


Looking at LinkedIn, Dontnod has 20 people with the title "writer", which suggests they would have to be roughly four to eight times larger to have a single transgender writer.

That's not even remotely how this works. This comment has a writing team of one, and it includes a trans woman. I don't need to be with 79 to 159 other people to exist.
posted by Dysk at 8:28 AM on November 16, 2019 [13 favorites]


Also if we're working with simple ratios, I guess that means that exactly one member of their writing team is just under one-fifth French, right (67million pop. for France vs 7.53 billion for the world, 20 person team, do the maths)? Oh wait, they're way more French than that. Guess statistics isn't a great way to do this shit.
posted by Dysk at 8:31 AM on November 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


Are we really such a small percentage? I feel like that number is low
posted by captain afab at 6:55 AM on November 17, 2019 [3 favorites]


Every time I actually look up stats on queer people the numbers are always from like 10-15 years ago. If you’re lucky you might get something from like 2012?

A fucking LOT has changed in the last 10 years. Even in the last 5 years. Or the last 3. Even more so when you look at young people.

So IME most stats about queer minorities are effectively garbage.
posted by schadenfrau at 7:16 AM on November 17, 2019 [5 favorites]


Right, like, I know at least a dozen people who have come out in the past ten years, that seems statistically unlikely given that older stat!
posted by captain afab at 8:34 AM on November 17, 2019 [1 favorite]


« Older Neutrinos Lead to Unexpected Discovery in Basic...   |   This St. Louisan Became A Female Priest Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments