There is definitely something unsettling when a slow moving buffalo ambles up to go face-to-face with you. Welcome to the small town of Kingdom, Virginia.
Playing Virginia is like being in a movie that mixes Twin Peaks and the X-Files, only you are the main protagonist and you forgot to read the script before filming. It’s more of an experience than a game as you do interact with the world, but you are ultimately caught up in the flowing current of the narrative, being swept along until it’s mind-bending conclusion.
The story in Virginia follows rookie FBI officer Anne Tarver as she is given two cases. The first is an internal affairs case in which you have to investigate Maria Halperin, the office pariah who has been moved to the basement to conduct whatever investigations she is currently working on. The second is the case of a missing boy from the small town of Kingdom. The two cases intertwine as you are guided through the narrative via a series of jump cuts similar to that of a movie.
Players only have a limited amount of agency in Virginia, as you can move around the various areas and interact with a very limited (and very particular) set of items in order to move the story on. Whilst this can sometimes seem frustrating, it is short-lived, as the game only take around three hours or so to reach its climax. However, if like me, you were left with questions at the end, a second play through is a must, in order to pick up on the subtle nuances you missed the first time around.
Virginia blurs the lines between the real world and a dream world and you are never really sure which plane of reality you are moving through. The game has no dialogue or subtitles and the game uses the player’s in-built need to make sense of the world to piece everything together into a coherent story.
After a second play through I think I got it, but I still turned to the internet to check my theory against that of other players, who might have used the search term ‘Viginia game ending WTF’.
Overall, I think I really enjoyed experiencing Virginia. I like to be surprised, moved and most of all, I like games to make me feel something. Virginia gave me intrigue, confusion and curiosity in equal measure and as I go back to my first person shooters and platform puzzlers, I feel the experience has helped me grow as a gamer and widened my gaming spectrum.