I’m Mad as Hell at Valve and You Should Be Too
I’d like to share with you something I wrote back in 2009. This is a 100% genuine Facebook status from seven years ago, and has not been artificially created or modified in any way:
Since that revelation that did not take place, I have had two kids, changed jobs three times, moved twice, sold a truck, bought a car, traded in that car, totaled the car I got for it, biked to work for three years, bought another car, saw my wife’s car totaled, bought a van, graduated from college, haven’t had to do homework for six years until I started helping my now-six-year-old son with his kindergarten homework, wrote for a video games website for two years, moved over to Rectify Gaming for the past year, finally attended E3 for myself in 2016, to once again be disappointed that Valve did not unveil Half-Life 2: Episode 3 at E3 2016.
Well, I can’t honestly say that I was disappointed this year. To be disappointed I would actually have to be expecting something. For years I had high hopes that “this year is going to be the year!” that Valve actually shows up to E3 and delivers on their long-standing promise that Half-Life will continue. I’d pay attention to every rumor and grab up every hint of a news story, not even letting my hopes crash down until after E3, even during those years where it was announced a month beforehand that Valve would not be even be attending.
Not anymore. I am no longer hopeful. Now, I’m just mad.
Half-Life 2: Episode 2 was released on October 10th, 2007. What has happened in the world of gaming since then? The entire Mass Effect trilogy, including most of the 5-year hiatus between Mass Effect 3 and Mass Effect: Andromeda. Every Call of Duty from Modern Warfare on, including this year’s announcement of Modern Warfare Remastered. Nine Assassin’s Creed games. Every Rock Band. 26 Just Dance games. All of the Borderlands franchise and all of the Uncharted franchise. And, lest we forget, nearly EVERY IPHONE GAME EVER MADE (the first iPhone was released just four months before Half-Life 2: Episode 2).
Despite this, Valve has been the recipient of an unprecedented amount of the benefit of the doubt. And it’s true that the games that they have created are nearly universally considered among the best games ever made. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to find a credible list of the best games ever made without at least two of Valve’s extraordinary titles. Team Fortress 2 has been running for nine years and has only recently been challenged in its own element by Overwatch. Portal has been considered by some to be as close to a perfect game as any game has ever been, and Portal 2 is not far behind. When it comes to zombie games, the Left 4 Dead series has its own large contingency of fans begging for a third entry.
But all of that legacy comes down to the flagship, the first, the breakout hit: Half-Life. When it comes to storytelling and innovation, Half-Life, Half-Life 2, and its two episodes did far more than simply raise the bar for other games. This franchise changed the rules to such a degree that gamers who were not around when they were released simply know those changes as the way games are. From the way a story is presented to the player through the eyes of the protagonist, to video game physics, narrative pacing, incredible set pieces, a reserved soundtrack used with surgical precision, believable yet brilliant characters, to the gravity gun itself, the Half-Life series rightly belongs in the minds and hearts of gamers as among the best ever created.
And it used to be that I placed its creator, Valve Software, as not trailing behind Half-Life one bit in greatness. Not anymore.
I’m sick of it all. I’m sick of the near-annual “leak” where we see Valve has half a dozen file names with a “hl3” prefix that ultimately comes to naught. I’m sick of Valve’s policy of saying absolutely nothing at all regarding their games. There isn’t another developer on Earth who hasn’t at least said “We don’t have any details to show yet, but we are working on it,” or at the bare minimum “When it’s done.” No, Valve’s policy has been to not even confirm whether the game, be it the over-a-decade-ago-announced Half-Life 2: Episode 3 or the long-theorized abandonment of the episodic formula Half-Life 3, even exists in any form.
And that, I think, is what I’m mad about the most. Valve has taken its fans for granted. They string us along year after year, happy to let us ask and beg and hope and theorize and languish in defeat as yet another request for comment goes unanswered and another question responded to with “We’re not talking about Half-Life.”
Yet despite all that, Valve is still considered one of the best companies in the business. Valve fully expects that no matter what they do not say and do not do, their fans will never turn their backs on them. What’s worse though, is that they’re right, as the Left 4 Dead 2 “boycott” so clearly demonstrated. Maybe Valve won’t change. Maybe we’re destined to go another decade of disregarded inquiries and ignored pleas. Maybe Half-Life will never continue. I don’t know, and I can’t control that. But what I can control is this:
Valve, and Gabe Newell especially, you have treated your fans terribly. You are not being decent or kind by neither confirming or denying the existence of another Half-Life game. You do not deserve all the quarter that has been granted to and accepted by you by your long-suffering fanbase, and you have lost a significant amount of my respect. And while I will certainly purchase and play the next iteration of Half-Life should there be one, and I will evaluate it solely on its own merits, it will take an immeasurably long time for me to forgive you for the way you have treated us. However, it is in your power to set things right with us by opening a line of communication with us. If you could just be honest and open for a single interview, article, statement, or tweet, we could start to get past this. Maybe, then, healing can begin.