Valve doesn’t owe you squat

The following is a reprint of an article I wrote in October of 2003 for the now-defunct (a nice little site in its day).  This piece was written in […]

The following is a reprint of an article I wrote in October of 2003 for the now-defunct (a nice little site in its day).  This piece was written in response to a wave of emotional outbursts across various Half-Life related forums, following a hacking incident shortly before Half-Life 2 was originally set to be released.  It would, in fact, release over a year later.

Those who were around at the time will probably remember that a person (or persons) allegedly infiltrated Valve’s internal network and stole a snapshot of the current codebase (then compiled, bundled and redistributed it) with the intentions of exposing the non-readiness of the pending release.  The general hue and cry was that Valve had deceived its customer base when they knew all along that the game was far from completion; and because of this, the code theft was justified and they were somehow owed something in return.

If the tone of the article sounds contentious, that’s because it is.  It may not be the best article I ever wrote (hopefully), but it did make its way around the internet and thousands of people were talking about it.  Since first and foremost, the job of a writer is to write things that people will read, it far exceeded my expectations.  In other words, I wanted to get something off of my chest but I had no idea of the stir it would cause.

It’s one of the few pieces I have written which doesn’t seem to be archived anywhere on the interweb.  It is for this reason that I am archiving it here.

In the wake of recent post-September 30th events, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time as a community journalist keeping up with all of the industry hoopla. What I’ve come to find, sadly, is there seems to be a predominant theme right now which basically boils down to three little words “Valve owes us.”

This mantra has become the rally cry of many consumers in the community, is being fed daily by many of the fan sites, and even (more shockingly) used as legitimacy for the recent theft of the Half-Life 2 source.

Quite frankly, I find this attitude appalling. During the last few years as a freelance writer, I wrote several articles for Planet Half-Life. At the time, research showed that the demographic of the Half-Life community was predominantly boys ages 13-16. This editorial is not necessarily directed at you, if you fit that profile. After all, as a parent myself, I expect children to act like children and want everything now. And pout when they don’t get it.

This is for those of you who have a reasonably well-adjusted sense of fair play and the ability to reason beyond your disappointment at not being able to play the latest game in your favorite franchise.

When you buy a video game (or anything else for that matter) and take it home and use it, and it meets or exceeds your expectation, the transaction is over. Saying, or otherwise DEMANDING that you are somehow owed more the more you use it is not only selfish, it is absolutely backwards thinking. It’s like telling the manufacturer of your car that he owes you more because you use your car more. If you’re getting a lot of great mileage out of your car, that’s a testament to a well-built car! You certainly got what you paid for.

And so it is the same with Half-Life. It’s amazing to me that people who have played a game several hours a week for 3, 4, or 5 years somehow feel that the company who made the game now OWES them something. You got your money’s worth, in spades, a long time ago.

Now don’t take that to mean that I don’t think that Valve’s lack of communication isn’t a PR nightmare, and I wouldn’t personally do things differently were I them. But let’s not forget for one moment that Valve is the victim here. This is a point that gets significantly downplayed and more often than not, ignored entirely. Their decision to retrench while they figure out what they want to do about the situation they find themselves in is their call. Again, not a good call by my estimation, but considering the flurry of daily events, it is certainly is a waste of their time to answer up 4 times a day.

I’m not even going to go into the theft of intellectual property issue, as many reputable writers have already written volumes of well-thought articles on the subject. But for those who take the stance that all of the leaked source, screens, and other such illegal activities are justified due to Valve’s silence, you are the epitome of self-absorption.

“Valve lied to us”

I don’t ever remember anyone from Valve making any official statements on or near 30 September that the game was nearly ready to be shipped. And if you are taking the word of people who steal from other people (over the word of the people they stole from) as your basis for argument, you aren’t thinking too clearly.

And finally, to those of you who assert that Valve is digging their grave by not responding as you feel appropriately to all this: 9 out of 10 of you will buy this game, conservatively speaking. If it weren’t so, you wouldn’t be spending as much time as you do trolling for Half-Life 2 tidbits. And I’ll bet at least half of you will be in your local Best Buy the day it finally comes out. Not to mention the world-wide publicity Valve has garnered since the theft of their game code.

So, buy it or don’t buy it. But shut up about what Valve owes you, because they don’t owe you SQUAT!