Join Liv as she discusses her experience with the emotionally moving game Tell Me Why.
Developer: Dont nod Entertainment
Release Date: 2020
Time to Complete: 10 hours
My Playtime: 25 hours
DISCLAIMER: This game deals with sensitive topics regarding childhood trauma and mental illness.
Are you a fan of the Life is Strange series? If so, I have a game for you! Tell Me Why is an episodic game about a pair of twins, Tyler and Alyson, who have the ability to communicate with one another telepathically. After a traumatic childhood event, Tyler and Alyson have been separated for 10 years. After their separation, they reunite in their hometown and investigate the death of their mother. This story is very emotional as it handles dark topics, but the message and representation in the game is important to share.
When I was growing up, there was barely any LGBTQ+ representation in the media. If there was, then maybe I would have realized who I was earlier in life instead of struggling for years. I always thought I was going to “come around” to dating men. I recall an assignment in college where we had to choose a book to be put on a bookshelf in schools for teenagers to read. My pick was The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith. The Price of Salt was the very first book I read where a woman was with a man, but fell in love with a woman. It is not the perfect love by any means, but it is the first time I was exposed to a female character questioning her sexuality. At the time, mainstream media mostly showed heterosexual relationships, so how was I supposed to know how I felt was normal? It is important to show that being a member of the LGBTQ+ is normal.
In LGBTQ+ media, oftentimes the characters are ‘throw away characters', meaning they do not have meaningful screen time or are killed off after brief screen time. In Tell Me Why, one of the lead protagonists, Tyler, is a trans man. Tyler is voiced by a trans male actor, Aiden Black, which was important to the developers because they wanted to ensure an authentic and respectful portrayal of a LGBTQ+ character. This inclusion was very important to see because there are instances of not crafting LGBT+ characters with care. In previous video games, being a member of this community is nothing more than a label whereas Tell Me Why integrates being trans as a core story element for Tyler’s character. As more games become more inclusive and diverse with their characters, Tyler’s character will always have a resounding impact on me.
Childhood trauma is a difficult topic to cover in all forms of media. We often see it as an element to a horror story. However, Tell Me Why does not take this approach. Tyler and Alyson remember the course of events differently, so the player has to decipher which story to believe. The player’s choices impact the narrative of the game and the relationship between the twins. Therefore, I would categorize Tell Me Why as a narrative mystery game. I find the mystery aspect of this game very interesting. What happened that night? Who was in the wrong? What’s everyone thinking? Does anyone really know what happened? These are the questions that run through my mind as I carefully choose which option to make at every junction in the game. I deeply cared for both Tyler and Alyson, so it was essential that I pieced together this mystery as it unravels in front of me.
As this is a choice based game, there are multiple endings for Tell Me Why. The player has the agency to give Tyler and Alyson a happy or unfavorable ending. I have played through this game multiple times and I cannot bring myself to play it to get the sadder ending. I appreciate that Tell Me Why allows you to experience a traumatic experience and come out on the other side of it with a positive ending. Not every hardship has to be faced alone. There can be light at the end of a tunnel.
For all of the praise I give Tell Me Why, I truthfully only have one complaint. My only wish for this game was it received the typical 5 episode treatment opposed to the 3 it received. I don’t necessarily believe that the game needed to be longer, but I would’ve loved to spend more time in this world with these characters. Within the 3 episodes, Tell Me Why certainly accomplishes what it is set out to do. It tells an emotionally compelling story while giving the player the agency to influence how the story goes. No matter what ending you get, Tell Me Why wraps up the story and doesn’t leave the player with a cliffhanger. As much as I loved this game, I don’t think it’s feasible for there to be a sequel. The game left me feeling satisfied with the notion that it was a complete story.
I often find myself recommending Tell Me Why to others who enjoy choices based games with great plot lines. It’s a shame many people I know haven’t played it! The story and characters are unique and interesting. The message of the overall game is important. With the heavy hitting topics at hand, Tell Me Why handles them with care. If you are looking for an emotional choice based game, then Tell Me Why is the perfect game for you!
Tell Me Why is available on Xbox Game Pass and PC
About the Author:
Liv is the co-host of the Between 2 Gamers podcast with her friend Frewy. When she's not gaming, she's watching sports!
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