What's the deal with Virginia? *spoilers*


#1

I just finished playing Virginia for the first time, and typically those kinds of games are my jam. Love Gone Home, thought Firewatch was excellent, but there’s things that are really bugging me about Virginia. Like really, really, bugging me. I’m going to be spoiling pretty much the whole thing here, so you’ve been warned.

The first half held my attention fine - I didn’t think that it was at all ground breaking, just solid - plenty of stories that I love start off relatively slowly. I was digging both the internal affairs investigation, and the main investigation held enough mystery that I was keen to see where it was going, but the moment that your partner discovers that you’re investigating her it just completely lost me. You are literally walking around with her case file where she can easily get it, and she opens the door and it just so happens to just drop out. Why didn’t you just leave it at home! You didn’t need to be carrying it everywhere! It just feels like a lazy way of having your partner find out, and there could have been plenty of other ways that it could have come out.

From here it gets… strange (but not the strange it wants to be) it kept throwing out more and more characters from the town, which would be great, but at the end of the game I literally knew nothing about them. The Mayor, the police chief and the general all seem to be very important in the cult scene at the end, but the game fails to say why. The only character in town who I can clearly understand from A-B is the father of the missing child - the priest. Having an affair, then the kid goes missing when he discovers - I can dig that! But at the end there’s this montage of these characters all caught up in some emotional moments, which weren’t earned, or even really hinted at throughout the entire game.

I think it comes down to one of the main stylistic choices this game makes - no dialogue. By removing this, it relies solely on the game itself to do the heavy lifting, and while it fleshes out the relationship between the player and her partner really well, it functionally doesn’t work for the town and mystery. Especially when it dives into the supernatural elements, and things just make even less sense. Anything to help give me more about these people, about their motivations, would have helped tremendously.

I love David Lynch. The Twin Peaks revival is so up my alley it’s not funny, and Virginia clearly wants to invoke those same dreamlike logic to the game, but I feel like narrative just fails to do that. I think what I’m saying that when I watch a critically acclaimed film that I don’t like, I understand why people would enjoy it, or think it’s excellent. But I feel like I’m missing something in Virginia - am I not getting it?


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#2

I’m resurrecting this empty, year and a half old thread so I finally have a place to put my Virginia theories where someone might read them. I wrote this when the game came out, and it’s the first post I ever made on Reddit. Strap in, this is going to be a long one.

First, some overall thoughts

First, and most importantly; there is nothing supernatural happening in the game. No UFOs, no animal-sacrificing cults. Every “hallucinatory” thing Anne sees was either a vivid dream, hallucination, acid trips or symbolism; a version of events Anne’s mind constructed based on evidence and events surrounding the case.

Oh, but there is one HUGE conspiracy.

The big thing that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere else is why Maria Halperin’s mother, Judith Ortega, was investigated and discredited by the FBI. (Quick aside - I think Halperin is just Maria Ortega’s married name. We know she was Maria Ortega when she joined the FBI because her files got moved at some point from “Ortega” to “Halperin.” If you’re trying to hide from your legacy, it doesn’t do much good to change your name after you join. We also know she was previously married because she dumps her ring off on Anne when they go to a bar and she decides she’s going to hook up with the first guy she sees there; although she ends up just dancing with Anne, and Anne spends the night at her place. {I suppose it’s possible she just used the ring as a Get Out of Unwanted Attention Free card like Anne does.} I initially took the medical equipment in the house to mean she had been caring for her terminally ill husband, but in retrospect, realizing Maria is living in her mother’s old apartment, I think it’s more likely she was caring for her elderly/terminally ill mother and this drove a wedge in her marriage.)

Some unanswered questions

Before I get to the conspiracy, there were some things I wasn’t entirely clear on, including some weirdness around the scene where Anne is seeing through Our Father Fairfax’s eyes as he’s getting a Hail Mary under his desk.

  • The woman he’s with seems entirely nonplussed about getting caught. She doesn’t act the least bit surprised, and when Dad is running after Danny, she just casually sits on his desk and grabs a smoke. Was it a sting? Was Danny trying to out his dad?

  • While we watch her smoke the cigarette, there is a female figure in the hallway outside the door. What’s going on there? At first I figured it was Mrs. Fairfax, but it looks like a child.

  • What’s the deal with the guy who assaults Anne and Maria outside the cave? It seems like it’s out of nowhere. Anne goes to bum a light off someone and she gets sucker punched, then the guy shoves Maria and rips off her locket. Were we supposed to know who that guy was and I just missed it?

  • Though I don’t think the Danny we see walking down the road at the end is actually Danny, I do think it’s possible he just ran away. A fundamental religious household (down to the parents sleeping in separate twin beds) where the dad is getting some on the side is probably a really shitty situation.

The game's racial & gender themes

the game is overtly about race and racism. But the argument that “If you reversed the races of all characters, this game would be KKK: The Videogame” is unfounded. [This was a comment in the Reddit thread I originally posted this to.] Context matters. In this case, there is 300+ years of institutionalized racism, both legal and illegal, to provide context.

The flash-forward scene says a lot about this. No, not everyone being targeted is a minority, but they are certainly disproportionally represented. I think the point being made is that even when overt racism is not the proximate cause of a policy, many policies - purposefully or not - end up enforcing the racial or gender status quo. In the cult sacrifice scene, Anne has five men trying to get her to sacrifice a buffalo (the buffalo is Maria). Five white men asking her to kill (the career) of a black woman to further their own personal agendas. (Not that I think they were all involved in the conspiracy, just that Anne sees them all as representatives of “the patriarchy.”) And I think this is one of the reasons Anne chose not to follow that path - she realized that going down that road led to more than just being a life-long snitch, but also to becoming a weapon to reinforce the “white male patriarchy” agenda.

Conspiracy!

Anyway, back to the conspiracy theory. When investigating the locked room in Judith’s apartment, there are a series of FBI files. I don’t remember the exact dates, but if memory serves they were all dated March or May of 1968.

What happened in the spring and summer of 1968 that the FBI would have particular interest in?

Assassinations. Specifically, the assassinations of Martin Luther King on April 4 and Robert F. Kennedy on June 6.

There are long-standing conspiracy theories that the US federal government was involved in both of these assassinations - the FBI in the MLK assassination and the CIA in the RFK assassination. While I don’t remember the CIA being an explicit party in the game, there is a connection: the game takes place in the fictional Virginia town of Kingdom. Kingdom is a rural/suburban town with an Air Force base. There is one Air Force base in Virginia: Langley AFB. Langley also happens to be the name of the area in FAIRFAX County, Virginia that houses the CIA.

So here’s my theory: both Anne and Maria’s parents were involved in the assassinations. Maria’s mom was investigating the federal government’s links to the assassinations, mostly off-the-books. That the files pre-date each of the assassinations by about a month suggests the FBI was either involved or had advance knowledge of the plot. Anne’s dad was involved in the initial investigations and/or operations; the box you destroy contained evidence that would’ve implicated the federal government to some extent. Judith was discredited on trumped-up charges in order to proactively taint any material she would try to release. The real reason IA has Anne investigating Maria is to find out if she’s carrying on her mother’s work.

Maybe this has all been gone over in the time since, but when I played it I couldn’t find any discussion online.

Whew. Feels good to get that out there.

So, what do people think? Am I reading way too much into it?


#4

I think Virginia is a bad game. Its “trick” or whatever, not having any dialogue, doesn’t work at all. It’s just simply confusing, and even worse, uninteresting. You watch vignettes from unknown places and unknown times and I’m sure it’s meant to be real deep. It still managed to be the most shallow experience I’ve had from this type of game.


#5

I think you’re pretty spot-on in your analysis, and I find it odd that so many people found it impenetrable. Up until the LSD sequence, the game’s plot was pretty straightforward for me (although I might not have considered the conspiracy angle as thoroughly as you did). That said, I did find the dossier constantly falling out of Anne’s bag a little silly.


#6

I’ll volunteer as someone who found it impenetrable after my first pass. I think what threw me was how it started off telling a relatively straightforward story before veering heavily into symbolism and abstraction. I don’t think one is necessarily better than the other, but it was absolutely jarring to switch from one to the other so quickly. I appreciated it a lot more my second time through, once I knew what to expect from it and what to look for.

I also think WastelandHound’s points about race and gender are absolutely vital, and very likely the main thesis of the game. Like, if you’re not looking at the game through that lens, I don’t even what understand you’re taking away from it. For me it’s less about trying to piece together the precise nature of the plot, and more about the themes that plot evokes. I remember thinking that opening with your (black, female) character putting on lipstick was a bold choice, and after having played it twice I’m only more convinced of how much that image communicates about the game as a whole.


#7

Yeah, once the game hit the LSD sequence, it completely lost me. The game’s one coherent theme is about structural oppression, but it throws that out the window for … whatever the hell the last 20-30 minutes is. The creators are on record as both not wanting to actually explain it, and saying that whatever meaning players find in it is valid, which … no, just no.

Congratulations to the devs on creating the walking sim equivalent of a magic eye poster, I guess. Those things never did anything but give me headaches.