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Screenshot from Virginia.

A Guy and His Games: Games like 'Virginia' remind us all why we should support the little guy

I love independently crafted work.

Indie movies.

Indie games.

Indie books.

Indie food (there's probably food out there considered "indie").

I love cheering on indies — or, you know, the little guy. Their messages are simple. They have character. They grab your attention, tell you something quick (and thoughtful) and let you go.

And I love new, hot-off-the-presses, indie darling Virginia. It’s exactly what I love about independently made products: A gripping, thoughtful game with an easy-to-digest design.

Virginia, developed by Variable State and available on Steam for $10, is a first-person mystery thriller adventure following Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Anne Tarver in a fictionalized Virginia suburb.

Tarver, new to the FBI, tracks a missing boy in a linear, story-driven game that sacrifices dense gameplay for a storytelling method that is engaging and refreshing.

Sure, players won’t actually do much in Virginia. You point with a mouse cursor and use the WASD keys to navigate Tarver through crime scenes and emotional cutscenes. Most interaction comes just by clicking onto something.

But Virginia dares to be different. And it works.

The gesticulations, facial expressions and minimalist dialogue from Tarver and the rest of the characters help push an engaging story. Yes, the fun wears off — as Virginia doesn’t overstay it’s welcome for too long — but the game is a nice reminder of why independently made products are important. They push envelopes and break down niches.

Stylistically, Virginia uses odd polygon-textured graphics coupled with some volumetric lighting and blur effects for a noir-style feel. No, it isn’t BioShock Infinite, but it isn’t trying to be. It’s trying to change how we think of storytelling in games. It serves as a reminder of why games developed by small teams are so important to support.

Whether it’s a creative art style (looking at you, Cuphead) or a gameplay element that challenges conventional, AAA-gaming (Braid as well as Papers, Please), indies are vital to gaming. 

Independent gaming is to AAA-game developers what bloggers are to professionals journalists. They outnumber by the hundreds and make mistakes, but they keep those in the profession honest.

And it’s that exact reason why Virginia is a must-play.


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