So having not played this game, and understanding that Danielle is being purposefully vague to avoid spoiling the story, and seeing that she points out other ways in which the game seems to be treating a trans character poorly or, at a minimum, in a stereotypical way, I do have some comments on just the “Don’t deadname. Ever.” line.
Using a deadname as a password, “reveal”, plot twist, etc. is pretty shitty. But just having a deadname in a game about a fictional character in a game in a context in which the deadname would normally be found in the real world, such as old documents, emails, communications from before the person transitioned seems like a valid thing to have, as long as the context is appropriate. This is a real thing that real trans people have to deal with in real life. There are old documents, pieces of paper, databases, forum posts, websites, whatever, that are going to contain their deadname forever.
More generally, my, perhaps incorrect, understanding is that the concept of the “deadname” is primarily a cultural thing that the trans community has adopted for a lot of extremely valid reasons. They just want to be themselves, for starters, and reminding them of a version of themselves that didn’t feel true to themselves is obviously going to be uncomfortable, but also it can open them up to harm in their every day lives, negatively affect their ability to function in society due to being surrounded by either transphobic or ignorant people, and because it’s one way that bigots specifically use to go out of their way to cause harm by othering, belittling, and dehumanizing trans folks.
Imagine a Gone Home-style game with a trans character. Let’s say you know from the start the character is trans so it’s not some kind of “reveal” or “gotcha”, but you’re going to be going through the environment of the characters’ parents’ home, finding old documents, notes, pictures, videos, photo albums, etc. in which that character is naturally going to be depicted in a pre-transition state. Their deadname is going to be in that game in that context merely due to the fact of the passage of time and the ephemera that we all live behind as we live our lives. So to try and apply the mantra of “Don’t deadname. Ever.” to that context of that story just wouldn’t make any sense.
I also appreciate that in the course of writing an article like this, you’re going to have readers who may not even know about the concept of a deadname or the cultural faux pas (which is probably much too weak of a term in this case, but I can’t think of a better one right now) that it represents, so I can completely understand and appreciate feeling the need to strongly make that point for readers who may just not know. And in the context of this particular game, it seems, they do use it in an inappropriate or trivializing way (turning it into the solution to an adventure game puzzle). (Also, sidenote, that’d be a real fucking insecure password!)
Anyway, I just feel like in the course of talking about fiction, especially interactive fiction, there’s room for a little more nuance than the phrase “Don’t deadname. Ever.” seems to allow for. Especially taken out of the context of the article and put into a tweet.