Before Your Eyes uses webcam tech to tell a brilliant, tragic story
“Blink and you’ll miss it,” is something of an old expression, generally recommended to an occasion taking place so quick that you’ll require to focus your total attention to really witness it. This is how publisher Skybound Games picked to provide among the trailers for Prior To Your Eyes, a video game that utilizes a video camera to track the gamer’s blinks to advance the video game.
While this mechanic was initially conceived in 2014, prior to a Kickstarter appeared in 2016 for Close Your (the title that would ultimately end up being Prior To Your Eyes), it wasn’t up until 2021 that it would launch as a totally recognized job. The video game sets soft, rounded visuals with a melancholy story that shows what the death of time can suggest to a private person. It likewise takes on the terrific concern of what follows death.
Gamers presume the function of Benny Brynn, an errant soul roaming the afterlife, newly plucked from the river styx by the enigmatic Ferryman — an unusual, dog-like animal that discusses the property of the video game. To acquire passage to the afterlife, gamers need to experience Benny’s life from his very first memory to his really last. Through these memories, we likewise satisfy Benny’s mom, whose failure to end up being a popular author makes her job her remorses onto Benny. Nevertheless, Prior To Your Eyes rapidly spins what might be a foreseeable story of a kid acquiring difficult expectations into an effective tale about the lies we inform ourselves to survive our darkest minutes.
The narrative also heavily interrogates the societal expectation (in some cases, cultural) that we must leave something grand behind after we pass on. Prior To Your Eyes is acutely aware of how the need for awards, accolades, and praise can weigh on a person — it also understands how rapidly the parent-child relationship can fray as a result. It’s this very tension that strains Benny’s relationship with his mother, and fuels the game’s examination of poignant, fleeting moments that Benny can never get back, despite reflecting on them mournfully.
Before Your Eyes deploys Egyptian mythology as the story’s backbone. The Ferryman draws clear inspiration from Anubis, as he judges the soul of a child so desperate to paint the picture of a life well lived that he lies. Benny did not die an accomplished artist with a substantial legacy, but instead as a hopeful child musician. Benny’s deceit is called out when the Ferryman makes Benny relive his earliest experiences with death. The first finds Benny eavesdropping on a phone conversation about his grandfather’s passing. The second is much more grisly: It forces you to stare, unblinking, as coyotes push around the corpses of kittens you had just moments before watched nurse on the family’s beloved cat.
“The Ferryman is probably a good example of Benny’s fear. He’s the coyote who is constantly trying to pry the truth out of Benny,” Lead Artist Hana Lee told me in a recent Twitter DM. “This directly ties into the very tense scene where Benny sees a pack of coyotes eating his cats. The existential fear that Benny felt from recalling this memory makes the game transition to him telling the truth about his life.”
It is in that taste of existentialism that Benny finally begins to confront his own mortality. These short, but increasingly meaningful instances draw upon a child’s understanding of life and death; something simple, but sorrowful and harsh. The vignettes are deeply affecting on their own, but by making the player relive these instances in their entirety, it forces them to reconcile with their own understanding of mortality, and how their perception has shifted from childhood to the present. In exploring our own perceptions of death, Before Your Eyes challenges the notion of a “meaningful” legacy. It instead purports that the life we’ve lived is enough, including hardships we may have faced along that journey, and ugly truths we may not have been willing to face otherwise.
Along with the game’s unique use of blinking, Before Your Eyes has created a convincing story that works in tandem with the mechanic. Its storybook-style visuals help soften an otherwise tragic narrative that makes a kid confront one of humanity’s darkest fears. And despite the severity of its subject matter, the game handles this theme with care, opting for hope: It elevates the interpersonal relationships we forge with one another as something worth being proud of. Prior To Your Eyes questions whether awards and renown are the only worthy legacies we can leave behind. Instead, it suggests that maybe, the life we’re living, as mundane as it might appear, is currently a story worth informing.
Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.