E3 is the ultimate mecca for gaming publishers. Held each June in Los Angeles, it’s the place where the big guns of gaming show off upcoming games and previously unconfirmed titles, and generally look to make the best argument to separate us from our money. And every year, there’s one conspicuous absence – Seattle based Valve Corporation. E3 is arguably the industry’s biggest event, but Valve, if past history is any indication, will have nothing to announce or present.

Which makes the timing of this latest news rather interesting. Last week, former Valve employee Mihn Le mentioned he’s seen concept art for the most elusive of gaming grails: Half-Life 3. The internet response was to speculate that we might have potential confirmation of a future title. We shouldn’t be surprised; after all, Half-Life 3 is perhaps the most anticipated game, well, ever.

But the response should make us question why Valve’s future is so intensely discussed. For all its success, the company regularly avoids traditional gaming events, yet still manages to consistently engage and please its audience. Granted, it’s responsible for some of gaming most memorable series, and it’s an understatement to suggest that Steam has changed the distribution model for PC developers and publishers. But why is there a special measure of grace granted to Valve?

Interestingly, there’s a Christian principle at the center of this company’s operating practices. Valve embodies a message that few companies – gaming or otherwise – have the discipline to embrace: delayed gratification. Scripture teaches us to recognize and practice the tension of waiting, most often in reference to Heaven: “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:25).

In light of this recent rumor, it’s worth noting that Valve never exacerbates this tension, choosing instead to trust that we understand the dividends reaped in patience. In turn, the company’s founder frequently mentions the reciprocating effect: “We’ve also been around for a while, and I haven’t pissed them off too much. Which they’re grateful for because a lot of their relationships, or things that they’re fans of, failed them at some point or another. We seem to be kind of reliable and trustworthy, and they like that.”

There’s a refreshing candidness to his words. It’s certainly smart marketing to suggest your company rarely fails. But the company has been so consistent with its vision, so careful with its message, that fans have similarly embraced the attitude of delayed gratification as their own. And in a business where products can be announced seven or eight years before even potential release, a company that redefines traditional models of operation continues to demonstrate the wisdom of patiently waiting for things unseen.

Oh, and if Valve shows at E3 – watch out, because it’s going to be good.


  1. Valve exhibits another noteworthy characteristic that differentiates them from the majority of game companies, and it’s something that any sort of artist or creator, be they writer, director, sculptor or what have you, should strive to emulate: excellence of craft. The gaming industry is particularly guilty of mass-producing big-budget, small-soul titles whose allure is not in a particular artistic excellence, but that they are pleasurably stimulating in the most shallow sort of way. Titles like Call of Duty or Wildstar are flashy but mindless. When I play those sorts of titles I can’t help but see mental flashes of a lab rat pressing a button for just one more injection of morphine.

    Valve, on the other hand, takes every element of game design very seriously. They have no interest or desire to “hook” you with the latest yearly installment of a franchise. Rather, they spend ages crafting titles with excellent writing, animation, voice acting, level design, mechanics, and visuals. Their games aren’t long, and they are infrequent, but they are always outstanding. If Pixar weren’t guilty of pumping out shoddy sequels, they’d be with whom I’d compare Valve.

    Dante wrote that “art is the grandchild of God.” Art is a holy thing, and if we engage in it half-heartedly, or by taking shortcuts, or by manufacturing it merely for profit, then we do not attend to it correctly, and that is an unworthy endeavor for the children of God (not that we aren’t allowed to sell it as a means of vocation, of course). I’m not saying that Valve’s output should be replicated by believers or that it somehow embodies Christian virtues – far from it, on occasion- but in an industry that thrives on products designed to stimulate pleasure, Valve stands out as a company determined not to make billions with annual shots of digital morphine, but to craft the best possible game they can.

    (We won’t get into the insidiousness of their wallet-draining Steam Summer Sale.)

    1. Chris, thanks for commenting – it’s certainly the other side of this discussion. We don’t mind waiting since we know the level of dedication within Valve products, which makes even the slightest rumors that appealing. It takes quite a bit of clout and history to maintain such a remarkable following.

      Even if they manage to break our banks with Steam sales.

    2. You had me until you called Wildstar mindless, and compared it to call of duty. It probably has the most content and elder game of any game, let alone MMO, released in the last couple of years.

      “flashy but mindless”… I believe you are talking talking about Guild Wars 2 here. It was hyped to be the biggest MMO and ‘wow killer,’ yet the devs decided to make it a simple mindless leveling experience with no endgame. You should, however, see how much detail the devs put into Wildstar. It was in development for 8 years, longer than any MMO since Wow. There actually is a lot of lore in Wildstar, and the game is purposely hard, trying to get away from the mindless mindless fun most MMOs have turned into. Before attacking a great game, please at least try it for yourself and do some dungeons. Thanks.

    3. In the case of Wildstar, we’re talking about a game that very literally shouts “OH SH**, YOU LEVELED UP” at the player and constantly alerts her to activities SHE SHOULD DO RIGHT NOW. There’s no subtly, just endless possible stimulants. Now, i’m not saying it’s a bad consumer product for all this. In fact, that’s what makes it an excellent consumer product. However, if I were a lawyer charged with defending the artistic merit of video games, you may be assured I would not call Wildstar to the stand. Valve’s Portal 2, however, would certainly be asked to testify.

      Also, I find that neither difficulty nor breadth of content necessarily (or even generally) constitute fine artistic expression. Those might be good selling points, sure, but “best bang for your buck” isn’t what I’m getting at here.

  2. Christ and Pop Culture? Christ is Jesus who is the Son of God, the second person of the…


    1. *Sigh*

      Just say it with me: delayed gratification, delayed gratification, delayed……

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