Tell Me Why

Game review by
David Chapman, Common Sense Media
Tell Me Why Game Poster Image
Emotionally charged story invites dialogue and reflection.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Game takes on some tough real-world subjects, including sexual identity, mental health, familial acceptance. It shows the difficulties that come from coping with how others react to situations they don't understand, and the strength it takes to stay true to one's self even in face of those difficulties.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tyler and Alyson are both strong positive characters. Tyler is a strong transgender character who accepts who he has become. He's even shown to be a mentor to other young people who have faced similar problems. Alyson, meanwhile, maintains a strong bond with her brother. Although their relationship has changed in many ways since childhood, the twins support each other, work together to understand the real circumstances that led to their mother's death.

Ease of Play

Gameplay is about as simple and straightforward as it can possibly be. Outside of exploration and the occasional puzzle, the players' purpose is generally just to choose the direction the plot will take.

Violence

Bulk of game is relatively nonviolent throughout, but some scenes are disturbing: flashback scenes of violence involving the twins' mother, including her threatening Tyler with a shotgun. A couple of scenes in which blood is shown on-screen.

Sex
Language

Profanity, such as "f--k" and "s--t," appear throughout the dialogue.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The dialogue makes occasional references to drugs and drug use.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Tell Me Why is an episodic interactive story adventure available for download on Xbox One and Windows-based PCs. The plot deals with some heavy real-world themes, including sexual identity, mental health issues, family, and religious views. These are focal points of the story, showing various points of view from different characters. Parents should be ready to discuss these topics with kids during and after the course of the game. There are a few cinematic moments in the game showing violence and blood, and the dialogue makes regular use of profanity while also occasionally making conversational reference to drug use.

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What's it about?

TELL ME WHY is an interactive narrative adventure that follows twins, Tyler and Alyson Ronan, as they return to their small-town home in Alaska 10 years after the passing of their mother. Although both their lives have been significantly changed in the years that have passed, the trip home forces the twins to confront their troubled childhood, discovering some harsh truths about the real circumstances behind their mother's death. Alternating between past and present, events are viewed through the unique perspective of each twin. Using their unique bond, secrets are laid bare and decisions are made that can alter the twins' relationship forever. Tell Me Why is a story with purpose, showcasing mature, real-world issues and conflicts that can come from cultural beliefs, mental health, and gender identity.

Is it any good?

In gaming, sometimes it's the play that drives the experience, and other times it's the story, but for narrative-driven interactive tales, it's all about the story. Tell My Why doesn't just meet the standard for storytelling, it sets a high bar for future games of this type. What begins as the twins' quest to come to terms with their childhood traumas quickly evolves into an even greater message of understanding, perception, and finding the strength to move forward. The story and its mystery are built on some pretty heavy topics such as mental health, cultural and religious beliefs, and gender identity. And yet, even though these are used in a gaming environment, these issues are never trivialized. They're treated with real respect and shown from multiple points of view without trying to pass any sort of judgment. By giving players the power of choice, and the ability to see how certain decisions can completely alter the lives of themselves and others, it not only gives the players an opportunity to reflect on their own views, but also opens the door for further dialogue.

The gameplay is almost an afterthought to the story, but it's still got some interesting elements. The occasional puzzle pops up to challenge the player's deductive reasoning and problem-solving skills. Sometimes these can be a bit jarring when they interrupt the flow of the story, but they never get in the way of progressing further. The twins' apparent psychic bond is the real twist. There are key times and locations when the twins are able to manifest past memories in a tangible way. It's these moments when they, and the player, can dig deeper into events of the past, uncovering clues and hidden details that can change the course of events. But events recalled by one twin don't always synch with the memories of the other. After observing and investigating both sides, the player is left with the hard choice of deciding which memory to lock in as reality. These branches in the plot affect not only the outcome of the story, but the relationship between Tyler and Alyson. And at the end of each episode, players can see how their choices compare to those made by others, once again giving them a chance to reflect on what led to those decisions, and how those decisions can even give insight to the player as much as the characters they meet.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about representation in media. What are some of the ways that members of the LGBTQ+ community are represented in television, film, and games? Why is it important to have positive and relatable representation? How can such representation help those who might otherwise feel marginalized?

  • How are our decisions influenced by our perceptions of different events or our unique points of view? How might multiple people see the same event but recall it differently? How might perspective be clouded by personal belief or judgments?

Game details

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