I played Virginia as part of the IGF judging/jurying process the last couple of weeks. As I said earlier, it didn’t necessarily grab me as a game overall. (I wasn’t the biggest fan of simply triggering “the next thing”, despite the very, very impressive cinematic/filmic approach.) However, there is one element of the game I keep thinking about, and I find it kind of strange:
The power cable in the FBI director’s office.
You visit the director’s office fairly often, and every time you walk in, there’s this white power cable leading from the far left wall, across the floor, up onto the desk, and into (I think?) his laptop. It is a super awkward piece of cable positioning in an office setting where you’d normally have some sort of more hidden approach, so it really stands out. And because it’s so blatant, it ends up feeling (to me) really naturalistic and interesting.
I guess the most obvious explanation is something along the lines of the temporary nature of the Director’s work setup – he only uses the laptop sometimes, doesn’t have a desktop computer installed in there, and so just plugs in as necessary. And since the only outlet is (presumably) in that wall over there, he has to stretch his power cable a long way to get power – as we have all done many times in our lives I imagine. It’s not pretty, but it does the job.
I wouldn’t want to read any metaphorical depth into the power cable, although the game itself is drowning in metaphor so perhaps it invites it. I just really enjoy how wrong the cable looks in a completely natural way. It’s the kind of ugly ‘decor’ stuff real humans do, and which is often so completely absent from videogame interpretations of living/working spaces. (Frankly, cables of any kind are often pretty absent – perhaps because they’re just a pain to model or something?)
It sings about a real person – it doesn’t tell us much of anything about him, per se (except that he doesn’t give enough of a shit to find a more elegant aesthetic solution to his power needs), but it tells us, just briefly, that he’s real, that “this is real”.
Games often want to do “this is real” of course, but I wonder if awkward details like the power cable here are a secret sauce that aren’t being used enough? Good job, Variable State.