It’s rare that a medium focused on what you can see addresses the issue of not seeing, and over the last year two games on this topic have either come out or been announced. The first of these is Beyond Eyes, which I played this last Sunday.
Overall, the game is very accessible because it doesn’t really rely on you to see things as much as a game that requires say, shooting does. The game has a certain darkly whimsical tone to it which I maybe am putting on it as a player because of my own experience as a young blind person – but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The game is about a girl named Rae, whose eyesight is lost in an accident with a firecracker. I’m not a big fan of this trope, because it sets up the loss of vision as always a tragedy, we never seem games like this about people who simply have always been this way. Perhaps it feels more dramatic to have her eyesight taken away so violently, but it isn’t always that way. I have never known a world with two eyes, and it wasn’t because of some massive tragedy.
Not one I experienced anyway.
Rae meets a very sweet kitty named Nani, but after the winter Nani doesn’t come back to visit Rae in her walled garden (I have feelings about this) and so she ventures outside the safety of her walls to find the kitty.
My biggest issue with this game is that Rae doesn’t have a cane. Not having Rae have a cane actually gave me a rare level of anxiety while playing what is not a shooter. The idea that she didn’t have a cane actually really upset me throughout the game,. and I wish they’d had it. A little blind girl reaching aimlessly for objects in her path was just hard to experience – partially because that was my childhood. I spent a lot of time with my eyes focused on the ground and my hands reaching for obstacles. It was not my favorite.
My second issue – which I think is more relatable for a wider audience – is that I didn’t like the “gotcha” visuals. As an example, there is a point at which you hear water running, and in the distance the watercolor imagery is a fountain. When you walk right up to it, however, it is a storm drain covered in moss. It sort of bothered me to have the visual world of Rae “corrected” by the artists. If Rae chose to imagine the world that way, then it should stay the way she would think it was, not the way it is.
But what did I like?
I loved the representation of blindness. I loved that it was a blank canvas of a world, rather than the darkness. Rae’s world wasn’t absent of color or imagination, it wasn’t absent of anything but rather a canvas for her imagination to paint upon it with images from her memories of being fully sighted. Much of this game made me feel like I could ask someone to play it and they might understand a little more of the way that I see. My world is a blur from afar, and sharper up close. So often imagined depictions of blindness are ones that tell us it is a dark and scary place to be – and while Beyond Eyes doesn’t shy away from the scary parts of disability (I commented on twitter that to me from a distance, busy streets really do feel like large scary blurs) it also doesn’t shy away from showing a capable little blind girl as she searches for her cat friend.
The game was a challenging one for me to play in some respects because of how anxious I was for her to be without tools in the world, but it was also an intuitive game for me because I immediately reacted to the sound cues present in the game to direct me places.
Not only is it an accessible game, but it’s a beautiful one. I highly suggest it for a rainy Sunday afternoon – it won’t take you long, and it might give you an appreciation for the world I live in.