Note: This piece contains spoilers for Before Your Eyes as well as the sensitive subject of terminal illness in children, which some readers may find distressing. Please continue only if you feel comfortable doing so.
The idea of playing through a game just by blinking is a fun one, so I thought. Maybe the odd staring contest may push me to the limits of what my eyelids can do? Maybe I won't be able to blink fast enough? Well, I figured whatever lay ahead for me couldn't be too difficult. It turns out I was quite wrong.
See the trailer for Before Your Eyes here
Before Your Eyes is an innovative, stirring game from developer GoodbyeWorld Games. You play as Benjamin Brynn, a soul who is reliving the events of his life one blink at a time. Through this memoir, you'll experience the highs and lows of Benny's existence. You'll create works of art, form relationships and make decisions about where this adventure goes. That last part was my first warning that something was amiss here.
The ability to choose how Benjamin's life unfolds suggests that this isn't a story about what's happened. Instead, it's a story about what could've been. It turns out Before Your Eyes is telling a far more tragic story than I anticipated.
Benny died when he was a child. He lost the fight to an unnamed illness that kept him bedridden for a year. The realisation of this is a powerful moment in Before Your Eyes. As the reality of the situation begins to take hold, you find the ability to blink no longer helps you. What was once a way of progressing through the game has now become what's taking you to an end you never set out for, that you would've never imagined.
As the illness gets worse, Benny struggles to move. Using the mouse to direct his gaze, you feel powerless as he can no longer look around with the same ease we took for granted in the earlier stages of the game. It's as harrowing as it sounds. Benny doesn't deserve this. No child does. Before Your Eyes conveys this sense of injustice masterfully.
The reason this hit me so emphatically is because when I was a child, my cousin Amy passed away. She was 14 years old when she lost her battle against leukemia. This was the darkest moment our family had ever faced. It shook us all. I remember being told she was gone. I remember her mother crying. My father, who had a special connection with his niece, was hollow.
To this day, I've never processed it fully. I can't. To think of what she went through, what the illness did to her. She was a kid. She had so much she was capable of. But leukemia didn't care about that. It was indifferent to her youth.
Before Your Eyes made me relive that. It made me face something I didn't want to face. I have to thank GoodbyeWorld Games for that, because I needed the push. I needed something to tell the message of what happens to children like Amy. To show others how it feels to lose someone who wasn't here long enough to even imagine losing.
Before Your Eyes takes all of this pain and somehow manages to also portray the beauty in life. Even with a devastating storyline, it's a game that captures the wonder of existence. There are happy moments that resonate gloriously. There is a joy to be found within the trail of blinks that tells you that, despite everything, there is a reason to smile. That there's something more than tears when we look back at the life of someone who was taken far too soon. There's a story worth remembering.
Dedicated to Amy Smith, forever in our hearts. Before Your Eyes is available on PC/Mac.
Featured Image Credit: Skybound Games
Topics: Indie Games
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