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‘Tell Me Why’: Microsoft’s inclusivity initiative is a lazy marketing gimmick

‘Tell Me Why’: Microsoft’s inclusivity initiative is a lazy marketing gimmick
As part of its ‘Gaming is for Everyone’ initiative, Microsoft and Dontnod announced ‘Tell Me Why,’ boasting that it is the 1st game from a major studio to ever feature a trans lead. This is due to its female-to-male protagonist.

Both companies are marketing it as hard as they can to a woke crowd that will suck it up because ‘gender benders’ are currently en vogue. Websites such as Mashable are already touting it as a “significant step forward” for representation. Never mind the fact that we don’t yet know how well the character will be written and no gameplay has been shown. 

Identity over gameplay

On that front, what we do know is that it is a narrative adventure game mechanically similar to ‘Life is Strange.’ In this one, players take on the roles of twins Tyler and Alyson as they try to come to grips with a seemingly troubled past and blah blah blah blah. From the sounds of it, it’ll be on par with the adventure games Dontnod is known for. 

While speaking to IGN, the director even said that it’s a simple game as to be accessible to everyone, which is exactly what Microsoft cares about most right now. The company has the aforementioned ‘Gaming is for Everyone’ initiative, and it is a cringe-inducing mess of disingenuous pandering. On its website it has articles such as ‘Microsoft wants to make Xbox safe for gamers who aren’t white men.’

Now, I’ve been gaming for a very long time, and it is far from an exclusively male-dominated space, let alone a white one. What we’re simply seeing this company do is beg for attention from the modern woke-scold community who cry that games aren’t inclusive enough. And in doing so, they are turning identities into arcade tokens. 

I had to look up what the gameplay to ‘Tell Me Why’ is. I assumed it was an adventure game, but I didn’t know for sure. Meanwhile, I knew all about the trans character. Headlines about it are everywhere, and not just from gaming rags. The Hollywood Reporter, the Sydney Morning Herald, and the Guardian all have pieces about it, just to name a few. 

This isn’t the first time Microsoft has relied on LGBT activism to sell a game, either. When Gears 5 was released, articles about it featuring 19 different Pride flags were everywhere. In an attempt to garner good will from those that’ll get on their knees at the slightest whiff of rainbow advertising, the game represented such widespread and well known “sexualities” as abrosexual, neutrois, pangender, and polysexual. Whatever the f**k any of those mean. 

As is to be expected in the current gaming journalism climate, while the goodwill was rolling in, few journalists focused on its microtransaction-laden multiplayer. All that mattered was inclusivity! Good job Microsoft. Mission accomplished, I suppose. 

The inauthenticity of GLAAD

In regards to ‘Tell Me Why’, as was revealed in an IGN interview, when they set out to make the game, there were no plans for a ‘tranny’. They just wanted a protagonist that was ‘unique’, and eventually this is what they settled on. Somewhere along the line GLAAD got involved and was a key component in shaping him. As the game’s director has expressed, they worked with the activist group to develop an authentic trans-man.

What is an authentic transgender though? As a right leaning trans person I am considered inauthentic. To groups like GLAAD I don’t exist. The far left audience being catered to calls me a self-loather. One web forum frequented by game journalists labels me transphobic. This is the same website that praises the Gears 5 flags.

GLAAD represents the over-reactionary side of the LGBT community that deserves no recognition, and the organization is most certainly not one which properly represents any group. Earlier this year they pressured Ubisoft into changing DLC in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. The added content featured a storyline where the main character hooks up with someone with the goal of having a baby to carry on their lineage, but because the game allowed players to be gay, straight, or bi, it was deemed a heterosexual retcon. Or a ‘hetcon’ as it was stupidly labeled. 

There was even a trophy/achievement called growing up, an obvious reference to the baby, but the alphabet babies took it to mean Ubisoft was saying being gay is a phase you grow out of, and they threw a tantrum. As is the new norm, the company lost their balls quicker than a trans person on an operating table, and announced changes to the story, to which GLAAD thanked them for listening and announced it was an important step towards “mitigating the damage” done by the game’s DLC. 

“Mitigating the damage”? Okay GLAAD, this is why you’re not a serious organization. Though perhaps such absurdity makes them the perfect fit for Dontnod, who if their writing is any indication, have very little in the way of actual nuance. They seemingly run on the same nonsense as the people they’re trying to draw in. Their most recent game, Life is Strange 2 has an actual scene where an old white guy tells the Latino protagonist “you’re the reason we need that wall.” 

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If that’s the level of writing we can expect for the trans character in their next game, then I look forward to him screaming about how men get periods too, or whatever else they dream up. Which is a shame as this could be an interesting perspective for gamers to experience. 

Unique characters are good when they’re more than their marketing

There’s nothing inherently wrong with having a trans character in a game. One of the best parts of gaming is that it offers something for everyone, and having unique protagonists is part of that magic. The problem is that beloved characters feel genuine, and token marketing is not genuine. No matter how hard they try to sell someone as multidimensional, the moment they become a gimmick to turn some coin on a product, they become entirely 1D. These are ham-fisted attempts at diversity where certain leads only exist to check a box and to tout how progressive a company is. It is one note, and 100% fake. 

Dontnod, by their own admission, didn’t set out to tell a trans story, but somewhere along the line that changed, and now it’s all that’s being reported on. It’s fraudulent inclusivity. There’s no value to it. And the same people who call those who go against their doctrine ‘tokens’ are buying into it. Which sure says a lot that they’re the ones being enticed by a shiny tranny painted gold.

By Sophia Narwitz, writer & game journalist from the US.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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