Slow paced games of a certain nature, have a bad reputation, all too often if somebody hears that a game is slow they ignore it, thus failing to see what it was that it had to offer. There are so many games like this that can be considered slow, especially for the sake of experience, Gone Home, Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture, Dear Esther and much more. The thing with these games is that the slow pace is a part of their expert design, focusing more on narrative and meaning than traditional gameplay.
The sad thing is, while there is certainly an audience for these types of games, many simply just ignore them because of a lack of game mechanics and “slow” progression calling them non-games. Yet I would argue that these types of experiences are ones that mean more because of their design, and they actually affect you.
While Gone Home, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, and even Dear Esther have found a certain fan base, (however minuscule,) there is one particular game that I feel is all too often forgotten and yet it is the most beautiful one of all. A story of friendship, isolation, loneliness, depression, and in the end, a touch of joy. It’s a game that (excuse the joke) goes Beyond Eyes, exploring so much in a wonderfully gripping (and yes) slow paced experience, which to me is a highlight of its genre.
Beyond Eyes told the story of Rae, a young girl who was blinded by a firework that went wrong, this sent Rae into isolation facing the trouble of her new found ailment, and no longer being able to face the world. She was left alone, and spent her days in her garden wallowing in her own self-pity until the day a cat turned up, this cat didn’t care about her problems and became her friend spending its days coming and playing with Rae and helping her have a companion and finally be free again. But as the months wear on her friend stops visiting, causing Rae to venture into what is now the unknown world to seek out her lost friend.
To respect these types of games, the so-called “walking simulator”, you need to respect narrative and be willing to take the time to try to engage with the story. While people have managed to connect with some of the major titles in the genre, Beyond Eyes is one that I feel far too many turn their back on, failing to appreciate the difficulty of the narrative and the struggles of our protagonist, which is an idea that is perfectly simulated in its design and gameplay.
Beyond Eyes is not a game about solving a mystery and uncovering a hidden narrative, fighting through a zombie apocalypse or dead city, or simply interaction. Beyond Eyes is about nothing more than the journey we take to reach the end goal, why ThatGameCompany’s game Journey worked so well was because of the way it stood out, the mysterious world that lay before your eyes, and the rough adventure that Journey took you on to get to the end goal. Beyond Eyes is like Journey just more indirectly, in this game we perceive the world through the eyes of our protagonist only being able to visualize things in such a way that she can feel or imagine, suddenly the world is a harsh place but with strong determination you persevere in order to find your friend.
Beyond Eyes is about its journey, forgetting anything that may be deemed wrong and that breaks typical game conventions, it’s about getting lost in Rae’s lonely world. There is nothing else to it, you need to simply step into this with a mind open to exploration, and tough ideas, and be willing to put aside your individual perception to just enjoy it for how it has been crafted.
Just because Beyond Eyes is not what many would perceive as a game, does not make it worth avoiding, is this why so many called Gone Home, a non-game? No, Beyond Eyes is more than the sum of its parts. It is the developer trying to communicate with the player and invite us into this world to see the character. It is a two way conversation which works to offer players what they need to know and understand while telling its tale.
All too often we try to dismiss games liked Beyond Eyes but the point with these is that they are supposed to tell a story, to teach, to catch you in a moment of emotion and go through the many hardships that one might face. It’s not about gameplay, it is about becoming one with the story and perhaps learning or even owning the experience and cherishing it. So next time you see this game or something similar, why not simply try, and maybe you might just find yourself in something truly special.