When I think back on my life so far, it's all too easy to get wrapped up in everything I haven't achieved yet, or think about all of the things I could have done differently. Sometimes it can be hard to separate your sense of worth from accomplishments, and in doing so, you can lose sight of yourself. You often don't see what everyone else sees in you. I've been thinking about this a lot lately over the past few days, and it's all thanks to Before Your Eyes from developer GoodbyeWorld Games.
The first-person narrative adventure begins on a ship, with a wolf-like Ferryman who has a flock of gulls behind him. With a starry night sky above and a vast ocean surrounding the ship, the water stretches out for what seems like miles, and you can see orbs floating in the distance. You learn that you're a recently deceased person called Benjamin Brynn who's trying to make it to the afterlife, and those orbs are other lost souls trying to find their way. As a shepherd, the ferryman is trying to help you get to the afterlife, but in order to do so, he needs to know the story of your life to justify why you should be granted the right to pass on. So, you begin to relive your life through a series of sequences that capture all of your most important memories.
Blink and you'll miss it
What really sets the experience of Before Your Eyes apart is the way you experience the story that unfolds. Using a webcam, you make choices and move forward through each moment by blinking. The first instance the mechanic comes into the play is on the boat. An eye icon appears above the hand of the ferryman, who asks you to try blinking. After positioning the cursor of my mouse over the eye, I blink once, and suddenly I'm transported into the first memory. In certain scenes, a metronome will appear and begin to tick away. When this happens, the story won't move forward or change until you blink. Sometimes this means that if you blink, you might miss some dialogue or a certain detail, but it's such a unique way to really immerse you into the life of this person and his family, and it plays around with the idea of life flashing before, well, your eyes.
With its own colorful art style, the fantastic voice acting performances really bring the story and its characters to life. It's not long before I'm entirely invested in the narrative, and feel like I'm actually living through the experience. What begins to unfold is a story of a young boy whose mother has such high hopes for him. With musical talents, your mother encourages you to play the piano, and it sometimes feels like she's living out her own unfulfilled dreams through you. Through the blink of an eye, you can decide your own path and choose whether or not you want to make decisions that help you fulfill this hope or go in a different direction. Other choices will present themselves that will change or alter the way people see you, from knocking over a paint board to ignoring a friend who asks for the answer to a question in the classroom. Every decision will change the outcome, which also adds to the sense of immersion, since it makes you feel like you're in control of the story.
But through these blinking flashes, it becomes clear that you're not necessarily seeing the whole picture of Benjamin's life. Certain moments pass on by without you really seeing them or understanding their significance, and it's only until later in the story that you understand why these memories were pushed to the side or skipped over. Since you're seeing Benjamin's life from his own perspective, you're seeing what he thinks is a worthy life story, and one that will justify his right to pass on.
What transpires towards the end of Benjamin's story really got a hold of my heart, and before I knew it, I was crying so hard I could barely blink through the tears. As a game that should be experienced without knowing much more, I don't want to spoil the rest of the story, but the message I took away from Before your Eyes is one that will stay with me. We don't always see our own worth, or realise the impact we have on others when we're focusing on everything that could have been or only seeing what we lack. As someone who's always putting a tremendous amount of pressure on myself, the story really struck a chord with me and served as a reminder that sometimes you can expect too much from yourself and forget what really matters. It's been a long time since I was so moved by a game. With its emotionally driven, bittersweet story and uniquely immersive mechanics, I know I'll be thinking about Before Your Eyes for a long time yet.
Before Your Eyes is out now on PC.