Virginia (video game)

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Virginia Key Art.jpg
Developer(s)Variable State
Publisher(s)505 Games
  • Jonathan Burroughs
  • Terry Kenny
Producer(s)Carlos Aguilar
Programmer(s)Kieran Keegan
  • Terry Kenny
  • Mikael Persson
  • Abby Roebuck
  • Steve James Brown
  • Matt Wilde
  • Stephen Brown
  • Jonathan Burroughs
  • Terry Kenny
  • Lyndon Holland
Composer(s)Lyndon Holland
ReleaseSeptember 22, 2016

Virginia is a 2016 first-person mystery adventure video game developed by Variable State and published by 505 Games. The game follows graduate FBI special agent Anne Tarver as she investigates her first case: the disappearance of a boy in rural Virginia.

The game was directed by Jonathan Burroughs and Terry Kenny, with music composed by Lyndon Holland. Burroughs, Kenny and Holland co-wrote the screenplay.[1]

The game was first announced in July 2014 and originally slated for release in 2015. A game prototype was showcased at the 2014 Future of StoryTelling summit[2] and at the EGX Leftfield Collection[3] that year. On August 30, 2016, it was announced that video game publisher 505 Games would be publishing the game. A game demo was released on Steam to coincide with the announcement.[4]

Virginia released on September 22, 2016 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows and macOS.[4]


A view of Virginia's non-playable character Maria Halperin, sat in a car with a packed lunch arranged on the dashboard.
Players experience the game from the first-person perspective. The game features a large cast of animated characters, such as the player's FBI partner Maria Halperin.

Virginia is a first-person mystery thriller adventure game that takes place in a fictionalised Virginia in 1992. Players take on the role of Anne Tarver, a graduate FBI special agent who is assigned a partner, special agent Maria Halperin.[5] Much of the game involves the player, as Tarver, in the company of the non-playable Halperin, travelling between locations, interacting with other characters and with objects in the environments. Scenes transition using real-time cinematic editing, with cuts and dissolves occurring as dictated by the story, to propel events forward and to juxtapose moments for dramatic effect.[6]


Set in the last days of summer 1992, players investigate the disappearance of Lucas Fairfax, a young boy from the fictional rural town of Kingdom, VA. The game is experienced through the eyes of Anne Tarver, a graduate FBI special agent assigned to her first case. As a rookie detective, she's paired with an experienced partner, Maria Halperin, whom Tarver's superiors instruct to keep a watchful eye on. As the story progresses, the pair's trust in each other is tested, and their investigation takes a supernatural turn.[5]


Virginia is the first game developed by Variable State, a British independent game developer founded by Jonathan Burroughs and Terry Kenny, former developers with DeepMind Technologies. Lyndon Holland joined the project early in development in the role of composer and sound designer and is responsible for creating the entirety of the game's music and Foley. Virginia is developed in the Unity game engine.[7]

Variable State is a virtual studio, with all of the team working remotely and coordinating each morning over Skype.[8]

Upon forming Variable State, Burroughs and Kenny initially pursued a range of game ideas, but met with frustration, deeming early concepts to be too ambitious. Progress resumed after the developers played Brendon Chung's Thirty Flights of Loving for the first time and found themselves inspired by its creative use of cinematic editing in the context of real-time gameplay. In combination the team's shared interest in American television and films of the 1990s, in particular FBI noir productions such as Twin Peaks, The X-Files and Silence of the Lambs, this gave the developers a stepping off point from which they could fashion an original story.[6][9]

The developers took the unusual decision to omit dialogue from the game. This was due to the Burroughs' and Kenny's desire to keep the team small and agile and keep the focus on the cinematic editing, a technique that would require experimentation to get right. Spoken dialogue was perceived to be risky because of how many factors were involved in achieving quality; the writing, the choice of actors, the performance and the dialogue systems themselves. Instead of dialogue, Virginia conveys its story through the physical performances of its large cast of characters.[10][11] The large animation workload required Variable State engage the help of Niamh Herrity and Aoife Doyle, Irish animators who run Pink Kong Studios animation company.[12]

During development, Variable State expanded the Virginia development team to include programmer Kieran Keegan, the lead programmer on Kitty Powers' Matchmaker. Additional contributors included technical artist Matt Wilde, 3D artist Stephen Brown and animators Abby Roebuck, Steve James Brown and Mikael Persson. 3D artist Wayne Peters assisted in an outsourcing capacity.[12][13]


On Metacritic, it holds a score of 82% on Xbox One, 77% on PlayStation 4 and 76% on PC.[14][15][16] The Daily Telegraph awarded it 5 stars, saying "It is the game that titles like Dear Esther, Gone Home and Firewatch have hinted at, but in a way that evolves the interactive narrative form way beyond anything we’ve seen before."[17] TIME awarded it 4.5/5, saying "what gorgeous, reverberant moments there are in this game, empowered by its absent words and explanations."[18] Game Informer awarded it a score of 9.25/10, saying "Virginia is a taut thriller that strikes a fine balance between storytelling and interactivity in a way that narrative-driven first-person adventure games have not accomplished since their inception."[19] PC Gamer awarded it a score of 72%, saying "A slick cinematic thriller, but interaction is limited and the story loses focus in the final act."[20] Caitlin Cooke of Destructoid agreed, saying the game "sadly sacrifices the player's ability to absorb what's happening around them for the sake of cinematics" and that the story "falls apart towards the end".[21]


TIME,[22] The Washington Post[23] and The Telegraph[24] included Virginia in their respective lists of the top 10 games of 2016. Mic included Virginia in a list of the 10 most underrated releases of 2016.[25]

Year Award Category Result Ref
2016 Fun & Serious Titanium Awards Best Indie Game Nominated [26]
Best Soundtrack Nominated [26]
Global Game Awards Best Adventure Nominated [27]
Best Audio Nominated [27]
Best Indie Nominated [27]
Unity Awards 2016 Best Desktop / Console Game Nominated [28]
2017 Independent Games Festival Best Audio Nominated [29]
Excellence in Narrative Nominated [29]
Excellence in Visual Art Nominated [29]
The Nuovo Award for innovation Nominated [29]
Writers' Guild Awards 2017 Best Writing in a Video Game Won [30][31]
13th British Academy Games Awards British Game Nominated [32]
Debut Game Nominated [32]
Music Won [33]
Develop Awards 2017 New Games IP Nominated [34]
Animation Nominated [34]
Visual Design Nominated [34]
Music Design Nominated [34]
Creative Outsourcer (Pink Kong Studios) Nominated [34]


  1. ^ "Detective Thriller Virginia Could be This Year's Her Story". Kotaku UK. Retrieved 2016-09-09.
  2. ^ "Favorite Projects from the Future of StoryTelling Summit - Information Space". 2014-10-13. Retrieved 2016-09-09.
  3. ^ "6 alternative games to see at EGX London". 2014-09-27. Retrieved 2016-09-09.
  4. ^ a b Frank, Allegra (2016-08-25). "Virginia looks like a Twin Peaks fan's dream game, and you can try it now". Polygon. Retrieved 2016-09-09.
  5. ^ a b "Virginia - 505 Games". Archived from the original on 2016-09-24. Retrieved 2016-09-09.
  6. ^ a b Robinson, Martin (2016-08-25). "Virginia, one of 2016's most promising games, is coming to Xbox One, PS4 and PC next month". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2016-09-09.
  7. ^ "Virginia | Made with Unity". Made with Unity. Retrieved 2016-09-09.
  8. ^ "'This is the indie developer narrative no one talks about': In conversation with Variable State". Retrieved 2016-09-09.
  9. ^ Smith, Adam (2014-07-08). "A Mysterious State Of Mind: Virginia Interview". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 2016-09-09.
  10. ^ Webster, Andrew (2016-07-21). "How Virginia uses the language of film to tell a different kind of video game story". The Verge. Retrieved 2016-09-09.
  11. ^ Koper, Adam (2015-09-29). "A Variable State of mind". Nouse. Retrieved 2016-09-09.
  12. ^ a b "Virginia Territory: Variable State's indie debut". Retrieved 2016-09-09.
  13. ^ "Variable State is looking for an Ireland or UK based contract animator to work on Virginia | Pegbar". Retrieved 2016-09-09.
  14. ^ "Virginia". Metacritic. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
  15. ^ "Virginia". Metacritic. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
  16. ^ "Virginia Metacritic listing" ( Metacritic. Accessed 27 September 2016.
  17. ^ "Virginia review -The X-Files meets Twin Peaks in a remarkable interactive thriller". Retrieved 2016-09-26.
  18. ^ Peckham, Matt. "Review: If You Love David Lynch You Have to Play 'Virginia'". Retrieved 2016-09-26.
  19. ^ "Virginia Review – An Elegant And Riveting Thriller". Game Informer. Retrieved 2016-09-26.
  20. ^ Kelly, Andy, 22 September 2016, "Virginia Review" ( PC Gamer. Accessed 26 September 2016.
  21. ^ Cooke, Caitlin (September 22, 2016). "Review: Virginia". Destructoid. Retrieved October 6, 2016.
  22. ^ Peckham, Matt. "The Top 10 Video Games of 2016". Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  23. ^ Byrd, Christopher; Thomsen, Michael (2016-11-30). "The best video games of 2016: 'Inside,' 'Superhot' and 'Doom' come out on top". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-12-15.
  24. ^ "The Telegraph on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  25. ^ Mic. "Best Games of 2016: Top 10 most underrated releases". Mic. Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  26. ^ a b "The list of finalists for the Fun & Serious Titanium awards has been revealed | Fun & Serious Game Festival 2016". Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  27. ^ a b c "Virginia Global Game Awards Nominee 2016". Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  28. ^ "2016 Unity Awards Finalists Announced! | Virtual Reality Reporter". Virtual Reality Reporter. 2016-10-07. Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  29. ^ a b c d "2017 Independent Games Festival announces Main Competition finalists!". IGF. 2017-01-06. Retrieved 2017-02-07.
  30. ^ "Writers' Guild Awards shortlist - Writers' Guild of Great Britain". Writers' Guild of Great Britain. 2016-12-06. Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  31. ^ "Writers' Guild Award winners 2017 - Writers' Guild of Great Britain". Writers' Guild of Great Britain. 2017-01-23. Retrieved 2017-02-07.
  32. ^ a b "Nominations List for the British Academy Games Awards in 2017 (Plain Text)". Retrieved 2017-03-12.
  33. ^ "Uncharted 4 wins best game at Bafta awards". BBC. April 6, 2017. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  34. ^ a b c d e "Develop Awards 2017: The Finalists". Retrieved 2017-05-12.

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