On GDC Part Deux…

Valve doesn’t talk much outside the realm of their glass interiors, but no one argues the fact that even when they’re silent, something sinfully amazing is brewing.  While it takes some odd years before they emerge from their secret-service vault with another acclaimed title to put under their belts, each venture is like some fine-aged brandy with wafts of spectacle creeping into my senses. So when a few of their esteemed employees decide to stop by and say a few words, they have the floor.

With the exception of the well-informed, I believe Mr. Laidlaw and Wolpaw (fantastic last names by the way) dropped a bit of a bombshell on the gaming masses and broke our presumptions that Valve has a strict science to everything they do. I mean, when looking back at their road to success, how can they not? It’s almost akin to an auditory dose of ecstasy when they reveal their misshapen creative road to the memorable train sequence at the beginning of Half-Life. Rather than maintain the traditional approach, Gabe Newell sees the development process of any game as more of a spiritual journey for each employee in which they literally do what they want to do. Then, with a balanced chi and shockers aligned, they reunite and make another fucking awesome game. After the panel concluded, the only question I was left with was how I can get to whatever parallel universe they came from.

Although each 3rd party developer comes from a different walk of life, Valve stands alone from its American brethren in that there is no limit to what they will do “for the greater good of the game”. While there are a handful of tales in which the oddest turn of events lands the unassuming nerd in the corner the biggest job of his life, I’ve never heard of a company openly willing to pay an employee to take time off in the face of possibly crippling medical dilemmas. And what’s more, Wolpaw admitted even he didn’t know what he would do when he returned six months later. If leaps of faith like these are something Valve does on a casual basis, I would like to renounce my doubts on God and baptize myself a follower of Gabe Newell.

Corporate structure is paramount to success for many people, but after Laidlaw and Wolpaw adjourned to a roaring applause, I breathed easier and smiled bigger knowing that one of the most-renowned video game developers in the world is not only lacking said structure, but is happy doing so. They’ve done just fine without it so far, so why bother fixing something that isn’t broken? I agree, I commend, and I salute you Valve.


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