Zero Punctuation

Zero Punctuation
Yahtzee Visits Valve, a Travelogue

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 21 Nov 2007 12:00
Zero Punctuation - RSS 2.0

Friday, November 16, 2007, 11:00 p.m.
Room 1704, Hyatt Regency Hotel, Bellevue, Washington

Yahtzee (left) and Gabe Newell
Yahtzee (left) and Gabe Newell

I've had the chance to chat with Gabe Newell on a couple of occasions so far, and it was pretty nervy for me.

"How are you doing?" he asked, the first time we met.
"Intimidated," I replied, then immediately hated myself for it. I'm supposed to be a game industry person now, for crying out loud; this would be a good time to learn how not to get the willies around game industry people.

Newell strikes me as a very businesslike fellow. "What questions do you have for me?" he asks, rather than "do you have any questions?" since the fact that I would have questions appears to be self-evident. Certainly, having been on the wrong end of an interview desk at a number of other game companies, I wonder how Valve gets by with no traditional corporate structure, no defined roles, no orders from on high. The theory is that every employee is carefully analyzed to make sure they have both a great personal passion for the medium and that they're sufficiently grounded in reality to see a product through to the end. But there's got to be more to it than that. Good leadership, perhaps. The right words in the right place and making sure there are always plenty of brownies in the kitchen.

Mind you, there's a lot of whimsy about Newell, too, at least that's the impression I get from the anecdotes that surround him. I've heard things about a room full of knives next to his office. On reflection, perhaps I shouldn't look too deeply into that.

Completed the experience of America this evening when Elan Ruskin of the Orange Box programming team took me down a firing range. I got my hands on a lightweight Glock 19 - the same sort of thing used in Half-Life 1, at my specific and incredibly nerdy request - and spent an enjoyable hour or two working my way through a box of 9 mm bullets. Fun, and not a little empowering. I feel grateful in that I am that little bit more prepared for the zombie holocaust.

Sunday, November 18, 2007, 6:43 p.m.
Seattle Airport Departure Lounge


Customs flagged me for additional searches for some ungodly reason, so only now can I get some time out after getting unreasonably molested by men with big hands. Flight leaves in an hour. Going home.

I've given Americans a lot of shit throughout Zero Punctuation, with phrases like "cheeseburger-inhaling Yank" being thrown around and my personal image of the gun-toting cretin who unironically gargles words like "liberty" until they lose all meaning. But now I think I've undergone a change of perspective. I've eaten at some very fancy restaurants worlds away from cheeseburgers. I've rubbed shoulders with some lovely, mild-mannered people as they fired round after round into juddering paper targets. Maybe this isn't the kind of bitter snideness I'm known for, but I really think my cynicism for the United States has tempered somewhat.

Sunday, November 18, 2007, 6:48 p.m.
Seattle Airport Departure Lounge Burger King

"Medium," "Large" and "King Size"? What the fuck is that? How the fuck can "Medium" be the smallest? Do you even know what the word "Medium" means? This is why you're all so fat, you bunch of road sign-shooting Yankee pillocks.

Comments on