V is for Valve Corporation

Incoming, unverifiable gush: Valve Corporation is the most prestigious of all video game developers.  We might be able to compare Valve to Pixar in terms of respectability, but that wouldn’t be fair.  Because Valve didn’t release Cars 2.  Pixar did.  Valve is privately owned and has no disinterested board of fat cats that lead them into ruin (ie: most successful developers).  They are in it to make games.  They do no care that their product is delayed for months (nay, years) at a time because they want to get it right.  They do not care to appeal to everyone (ie: Granny and her beloved Nintenbox) but somehow manage to appeal to everyone anyway (ie: Portal).

Valve also brought us Steam.  Steam, while buggy and harsh in its initial release (disregard any comment in the previous paragraph that might imply their having attained perfection), but has to come to be one of the best ways to play and find games on your computer.  Frequently Steam has amazing deals.  It gets particularly wild around the yearly celebration of Christ’s birth (discounts as low as 90% sometimes).

More importantly, Valve has brought us very good games.  I won’t be able to rave about their multiplayer games because I don’t play those.  People (ie: everyone including me) have black hearts and radiate their true colors behind the far end of an internet connection.  So Valve, as good as they are, can’t manage to fix people like Christ can.  That would make them oddly normal.  Which is okay.  I don’t shoot the lady who cuts my hair because she is not the bread of life.  But I will make sure to tip her and point people her way.

But I do adore their Half-Life(s) and their Portal(s) and their Left 4 Dead(s) and they are each wonderful in their own ways.

Half-Life(s):  You play the theoretical physicist Gordon Freeman who is out to save the world (multiple times) from an oppressive extraterrestrial force.  Freeman is completely mute through the games (even in the interaction with side characters) so you can actually put on Freeman as an identity.  Many games attempt this, but, outside of the Half-Life(s), I’ve yet to encounter any that are as wonderfully bound up within the DNA of the games themselves.  Half-Life is a game about shooting aliens and commandos, but on a deeper level it’s about free will and destiny.  And we see these subjects touched in each portion of the gameplay with the focus and deviation on trains, on the complete absence of objective cutscenes, and the violently still, cathartic interactions with the mysterious G-Man in the game endings.  (Note: Freeman is never a free man, except when the player lives out their own freedom through his digital chains.)

Left 4 Dead(s):  You have a gun, shoot some zombies.  Pick a character and it doesn’t actually matter but it actually does.  If you want to play the squirrely white girl you can and if you want to play the beefy black guy with a tude you can and if you want to play the redneck teenager you can and if you want to play the grizzled war veteran with half a soul you can and it totally doesn’t limit or change your ability to shoot zombies.  Wonderful.  Suck in the life of these people’s struggles with a Shiner and three friends.  Enjoy.

Portal(s):   You are Chell.  No last name.  Left click and out pops a blue portal.  Right click and out pops an orange portal.  These are linked holes that upon passing through one will always lead you out the other (momentum always being conserved).  You are expected to perform test experiments by the very (ahem) colorful AI GLaDOS.  The Portal games are also notorious for their sharp wit and black comedy but have the maturity to not lean on that comedy.  Portal 2 had the chance to cannibalize the humor from its lightning in a bottle predecessor, but took the high road with a whole new funny set of tools.  Sometimes the first game is actually free on Steam.  Get it if you have any interest in things with plugs.

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7 Responses to “V is for Valve Corporation”

  1. No, no, no. Left for Dead is a very bad game. It makes me dizzy and also makes me hear things outside after I go to bed. Zombie things.

  2. Gotta say, it’s nice to get the ol’ Alex blog fix every once in awhile. Keep it up! As for this post, I’d wager to say Valve is a good game company, but comparing it to Pixar? Got to disagree! The Portal games are great, yes, half-life is pretty good (although if they really took forever to “polish” games, why do I get stuck in one place walking by a wall in the 1st game? Buggy!) and left 4 dead is your basic mindless killing game, while still fun, offers nothing story wise or even that unique. If there was a company to compare with Pixar, Bioware would have my vote. They seemingly took a couple of alrighty large profile franchises (star wars, sonic) and made arguably the best games from those franchises. Add other great games to there library (Mass Effect, Jade Empire, Dragon Age) and you got a track record that’s hard to beat. Although, Dragon Age 2 was deemed pretty mediocre… Won’t deny that. /End opinion 🙂

    • Thanks for the reply Brian. You might actually be doing well to prove my original point which was Valve cannot be compared to Pixar because only one of them has a stinker (Cars 2). So Pixar’s Cars 2 could easily fill the stinker role filled by BioWare’s Dragon Age 2. Therefore, BioWare and Pixar might be neck and neck in terms of track record. This is, however, going completely off the opinions of other people. I’ve never played any of the modern BioWare games beyond KotoR (fun, but a buggy mess) and don’t plan on it. Too much skin for my eyes.

      • I admire your conviction to stay away from such games. Way to set an example!

        I’ve actually never played any of the Dragon Ages, so I can’t officially say they’re either good or bad, I’m just basing my limited knowledge of them off a variety of reviews. So while Cars 2 might be a stinker, Dragon Age 2, as far as my knowledge, could be far superior or far inferior in comparison. Which kinda debunks my whole argument that Bioware is the “Pixar” of video games, I suppose.

        Anyway, really diggin’ the stuff you post!

      • Thanks for the encouragement!

  3. Left 4 Dead is also a game that took a pretty big step revolutionizing cooperative gaming. If you can’t work together, if you go off alone, if you can’t think of the group first you will likely die and take everyone else along with you. Its a great way to show people how incredibly selfish they can become as you said when their behind the wall of the internet.

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