Feb 27

Gabe Newell: The Willy Wonka of Gaming

GabefaceHold your breath. Make a Wish. Count to three. Today we’re going to talk about one of the most popular men in gaming. The Illustrious Gabe Newell of Valve and Steam fame. If you’ve ever been into PC gaming you’ve  undoubtedly come to know this man, his company, and his legacy. So instead of going over that stuff, I think it’ll be fun to look into some of the stuff he’s been up to lately.  To adventure into the cult of personality that Gaben has acquired and see what the internet has done with the gifts he’s given us.

Let’s start off with some fast facts before we get into  the meat and beans of our article.

  • Gabe is 50 Years Old
  • Dropped out of Harvard and worked for Microsoft for 13 Years (Working on the first three releases of Windows)
  • Co-Founded Valve in 1996 with Mike Harrington
  • Inspired to do this by seeing the success of Doom
  • He has an estimated net worth of 1.5 Billion dollars (That’s billion with a B)

So with that out of the way, I want to go over his Gabens recent talk over at the University of Texas, as chronicled by Polygon. This article is a great look inside the mind and history of Valve. Gabe is known for not pulling punches, whether being critical with certain consoles (*Cough* PS3 *Cough*), or even in referring to gamers in general. A quote that might get any other CEO dethroned is looked at with admiration and understanding. As such I want to quote the best part of the article: “Single-player games are like a feature film where your lead actor is retarded and autistic, but you can think of it like a feature film”. Who else would have the balls to call their base retarded and autistic, and get away with it? The funny part is that it doesn’t seem to bother people all that much, as a gamer, I find it hilariously true. The hand holding the average gamer requires these days is astounding, and I’m more than guilty of being stuck on a puzzle only to realize the simple answer and feeling retarded later. Go read that article, it’s filled with great information that anyone who likes Gaben and Valve would get a kick out of!

It’s Gabe’s cult of personality that protects him from the barbs that normally would wound other…smaller men. But you can’t build up such adoration on the Internet by having thin skin (and while I could make another fat joke here, I’m not going to.) Gabe has endured endless fat jokes, scathing comments from all manner of CEOs and internet trolls. Even taking the concept of “Valve Time” and not only acknowledging it, but joking about it on their own blogs. It’s his ability to take hits as well as dish them out that endears him to us. In a world where Political Correctness has run amok, Gaben is a welcome alternative to those who’s feelings control their every action.

One thing that I personally love the most is how much he supports Indie developers and new technologies. If you haven’t already heard the Oculus Rift is a new consumer VR headset being created, and that Gabe thinks looks promising, going so far as to urge developers to get on board. As well, Steam has been a unique platform for indie developers to distribute to the masses. In the past where a physical market could be overwhelmed by the sheer number of titles available it’s a great way for small developers to get their works straight to the desktop of Steam’s 56 million active users.

For good reason Steam makes up 50-70% of the digital distribution market for video games. With the growing support for Linux and Mac, it’s likely we’ll only see more success as these two popular operating systems have been notoriously lacking when it comes to game compatibility. He’s also got one of the best outlooks on Piracy that I’ve seen, saying that, “Piracy is almost always a service problem and not a pricing problem.” Check out that link for more info and a cool look into how Steam gets one over of piracy. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the Steam Sales. Many gamers, especially poorer college kids and younger gamers who can’t afford the nigh exorbitant prices of modern games, the sales giving them a respite.

Steam and Valve have grown under the guidance of Gaben. New features coming out left and right in the past few years. Software sales on Steam have started, rather than being video game only. Greenlight has begun to give even the indiest of the indie developers a chance to get their product into Steam. Big Picture Mode, an interface designed for HDTVs and is a stepping stone towards Piston. The wildly popular Source Filmmaker was a really cool piece of software that has since spawned thousands upon thousands of videos. Some of them actually pretty funny. The feature list of Steam seemingly grows by the day. And with competition such as Origin, it’s no surprise to see the user base of Steam grow by millions each year.

So, It’s not hard to see how a man who has helped create something so beloved on the internet is as popular as he is. He even collected a massive card put together and hand delivered by a certain ass of the internet. Showing that even the ever famous hate machine can come together in its love of the legendary Gaben. And If you think this article has come off as a little fellating, well that’s because it was. I’ve found myself impressed with the man and his company time and time again. In these days of developers being eaten and ruined by monsters such as EA and Activision, it’s refreshing to see a man and his company remain so grounded to their original goals and the gamers they serve. And if you’re wondering if all the joys and visuals of Valve aren’t quite Wonka enough, check out this video to assuage your doubts.