June 8, 2021

Supporting our LGBTQ+ Community

Lindsey Tropf

In recognition of Pride Month during June, we wanted to explain the ways we've incorporated LGBTQ+ inclusion into the design of Tyto Online.

Inclusive Character Customization

Unlike many kids' games, we don't have students pick a binary "male" or "female" when they create their character. They simply choose from many body types which could be interpreted as either, or as androgynous.

This is a subtle change, but gives students a cue about their acceptance and allows students who don't feel they fit into these binaries or traditional body styles for their gender to be included. This also meant that as we built out the rest of the customization options, we made sure all hair styles and clothing options were available on any body style, so there was no "gender locking" that can be frustrating in many video games.

"My gender fluid students embraced the ability to create an avatar that reflected themselves." - Mark Davis, Barrington Middle School

Importantly, this design aspect has been there from the beginning for us, because our LGBTQ+ team members suggested it!  We were thrilled recently when Mark Davis from Barrington Middle School told us that his LGBTQ+ students had noticed and appreciated the design choice. These are the sorts of impacts and inclusion that happen when you have a diverse team that are empowered to speak up about product decisions, and ensure what you're building represents the students you serve.

Also, as students' identifies change over time -- we do focus on middle school, after all! -- we made it easy for students to change anything about their avatar's appearance at the Whipper Snippers salon!

Inclusive Character Representation

We've also built our stories with inclusive characters, of course! For example, we have nonbinary characters who go by they/them as a standard part of some of our content, part of an authentic aspect of our game world.

We've also built characters with LGBTQ+ families into our storylines of content, such as Arthur who is adopted by two moms and is exploring his genetic predisposition for sickle cell anemia.

As we continue to build out Tyto Online, inclusive LGBTQ+ representation will be an essential part of our approach! We're thrilled to be able to have team members share what would be meaningful to them for representation in our game, and listen to our community as we build and expand. Let us know if you've noticed these aspects while playing Tyto Online, or if you have any other ideas for how we can make all people feel included, supported, and represented as we continue to develop.

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