I have written about Beyond Eyes (Tiger and Squid / Team17 Digital Ltd, 2015) before, and mentioned briefly that it is about a blind girl searching for a stray cat that hasn’t come by her home recently, named Nani. What I didn’t mention was that Beyond Eyes has one of the most arbitrarily cruel endings in the history of storytelling.
Surprising, right? The game’s art style—which resembles what The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Nintendo EAD, 2011) might look like if pumped up into gorgeous HD—suggests a kid-friendly aesthetic, as does its gentle, generally challenge-free exploratory mechanics. But man, that ending is brutal. And not just in a sad, Old Yeller sort of way. The ending of Beyond Eyes is thoroughly rotten with nihilism. I can’t resist: I’m going to spoil it thoroughly below the fold.
I’ve written about synesthetic interfaces before: that is, interfaces that perform a sensory substitution, translating the information normally associated with one sense modality into the phenomenal forms normally associated with another. In my previous work, I’ve usually focused on forms of nonhuman perception and certain modes of perceptual expertise. The release of Perception (The Deep End Games, 2017) yesterday, however, gives me an opportunity to dip into a new topic: disability.
Perception is a horror game about a blind woman exploring a haunted house. Unlike a game such as Papa Sangre (Somethin’ Else, 2010), however—an experiment in audio-only digital game design that has sadly been taken off of the iOS App Store as of this writing—Perception doesn’t court blind and other low-vision players. Rather than featuring robust, binaural sound localization simulation, Perception re-imagines the auditory perception of its blind protagonist Cassie as a kind of sonar vision, thrown up on the player’s screen in spooky, warbly monochrome.
This isn’t the first time games nominally about blindness have been served up to sighted players. In this post, I take up a comparative investigation of Perception alongside Beyond Eyes (Tiger and Squid / Team17 Digital Ltd, 2015), which drops the horror angle in favor of child-friendly, colorful adventure.