Critical Play: Mysteries

The Basics

Game: Virginia, a “first-person mystery adventure video game…[following] graduate FBI special agent Anne Tarver as she investigates her first case: the disappearance of a boy in rural Virginia.”

Created by: Variable State, published by 505 Games

Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC, Mac, Xbox One

Target Audience: Virginia’s target audience includes those who enjoy stories and sensation and less so heavily interacting with the environment. Exploring the space is more important than being highly skilled. Older audiences may appreciate the game more as certain pieces of the story are more difficult to piece together, which younger players may find unappealing.

Formal Elements

First scene the player sees when entering the game.

After being immediately thrown into the game, there is no stated objective, but it’s clear that our goal is to explore and find more information. The space is

structured in such a way that you can look around with some freedom, but you are directed to the next step in the story fairly easily (it’s clear what you can and can’t click on via the changing cursor). This is a single-player game so there were no other real players that were in the game. However, interacting with the other characters did sometimes feel like I was interacting with real people — it was quite immersive! No strict rules or resources governed the game, though I was limited to walking around and clicking things for the most part. The spaces I was in were rather limiting, as such, there were clear boundaries of where I could and could not go.

Types of Fun

Vivid colors immerse the player into the game.

Virginia incorporates narrative, discovery, and sensation very well. The entire game is essentially a story that you are slowly uncovering. Because we don’t know what’s happening, we are urged to discover more pieces of information and push the narrative forward. The game is both visually and auditorially appealing. Since there is little to no dialogue, we are focused on the vivid colors and music that immerse us deeply in the game.


Red room within the closet.

Finding pieces of info that triggered sensational events was very satisfying. Some examples include pulling back the closet to reveal a hidden, red room and pulling off wooden boards to trigger a collapse of a cave.

Failures & Improvements

There were times when I wished I could review the information I had gathered or utilize that information more. I had to remember all the previously gathered info (and apart from remembering there’s not much we do with it!). Since I only played the demo version, it’s possible the full version allows for deeper interactions with our environment and the objects!

About the author

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.