Dialogue is a major aspect of storytelling across every medium, but often a lack of dialogue can be as telling as spoken words. A glare or pained look can inform you of a character’s emotions and thoughts; entering a quiet room can build tension. Games like The Walking Dead (2012) and this year’s Oxenfree often give you the option to say nothing, to stay quiet, and the upcoming “interactive drama” Virginia features no dialogue at all.
“To play it, you don’t feel like you’re in this strange world, like you walked into a library and everyone’s being incredibly hushed. It’s just the way it is,” explains developer Jonathan Burroughs in a recent interview with The Verge. Virginia drops you into scenes where dialogue is about to start or is already finished, shifting the focus to the onset and aftermaths of moments. In a game inspired by the works of David Lynch and The X-Files, this offset could foster a uniquely unsettling tone, where you’re always in a voyeuristic position relying on context to piece together the game’s mystery.
Since its reveal in 2014, Virginia has gained a more detailed aesthetic, featuring deeper hues, more expressive faces, and stylistic atmosphere, but the story remains the same. Set in the rural town of the North-East, an FBI agent searches for a missing boy, encountering dark secrets and hidden motives. Unlike other narrative-focused games, Virginia won’t unfold linearly, but rather use cinematic techniques such as cuts and edits to tell its story.
Burroughs states Thirty Flights of Loving (2012) as a major influence on Virginia‘s structure. “Games and film have been running in parallel for so long, and films have this established way to use the edit in order to contract time, to contract space, and to be able to use montage techniques to relate scenes to one another,” he explains while discussing the aforementioned game’s style. “But games, outside of cutscenes, outside of non-interactive moments, had really not embraced it at all.”
The montage of switchblades, dead birds in refrigerators, shocked looks, and furtive glances seen in recent GIFs (below) hint at a dark story and enigmatic atmosphere, hopefully enhanced by Virginia‘s dialogue-free narrative and cinematic format.
Virginia is expected to release this year on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Visit the game’s site here for more details.