How Valve works as a game developer
Valve Corporation is the company behind legendary games such as Half-Life, Counter Strike, Dota 2, Portal and more.
The company was founded by Gabe Newell, whose biography also includes working at Microsoft for 13 years. To say that Valve Corporation is an innovative company is an understatement. It is, perhaps, “more innovative” than many who consider themselves as such. And this applies not only to development and directly to the activity itself, but also to what the company is like from the inside. After reading a few principles of Valve Corporation internals, you may be thinking “what the hell is going on there”, or you might want to work there yourself.
New hires at Valve Corporation often have a hard time understanding what’s going on for the first few weeks on the job. They came to work in the company, but why does no one give them specific tasks? And they won’t be given. The company does not hire people to do a specific job. She recruits simply promising and talented. And they themselves must understand and decide what useful they can give to Valve Corporation. The famous programmer Michael Abrash recalls his first weeks at the company: “I thought that I would immediately be assigned some task. But I only heard a couple of suggestions from employees as to what I might need to do … These were just their thoughts, not direct instructions for action. Days passed, and no one gave me any concrete work. And then I realized that everything is arranged in a special way. I need to find my own “place” in Valve Corporation”.
Everyone is involved in the search for new people
Finding new employees is the top priority for the entire company. You will never hear “Valve Corporation does not require any specialists now.” They are always required, and the process of finding new people never stops. Moreover, absolutely the entire staff is involved in this. And the sooner the employee begins to attract new specialists to the company, the more the management will like him. The company has this rule: “If you are currently busy looking for a new employee, conducting an interview, or something else related to the recruitment process, then you need to postpone all your other tasks and not even think about them.”
No bosses and subordinates
Gabe Newell, founder of Valve Corporation, believes that in innovative companies there should be no traditional relationship between employees on the principle of “boss – subordinate”. This is only suitable for the military sphere, where soldiers must clearly obey the orders of the commander. Or a manufacturing sector where it is necessary to constantly produce the same product. The modern computer industry does not fall under either option. Valve Corporation does not have the organizational hierarchy familiar to many, there are no bosses, subordinates, and even no positions. Sometimes Valve Corporation employees themselves come up with the name of their position so that they can write it on a business card, since many people will not be able to take a specialist seriously without a position.
Not even Gabe Newell himself has a position. Once in an interview, Greek Coomer, one of the company’s earliest employees, said that he did not know what position Newell was in: “Following the logic, he is probably the CEO. But I can’t say that with certainty.” Each new employee at the company is given a small handbook-guide to Valve Corporation, which says that “no one in the company is your boss, and Gabe Newell is not in the greatest degree.”
Tables with wheels
Since at Valve everyone can do what they want, their workplace can be anywhere. That is why every desk in the office should have wheels so that it can be easily moved to a convenient place. So employees can quickly team up and work on one common task. Or simply move their desk to where they think they will work better and more comfortably. In the same manual for new employees, there is a paragraph about moving tables around the office: “Unplug the computer cable from the outlet, move your desk, plug the cable into another outlet. Now we can get back to work.”
The more interesting and unusual past the employee has, the better. That is why the company employs a former actress of a children’s puppet theater, the creators of a satirical website about video games, a developer of special effects for the film “The Lord of the Rings”, an artist who draws cool graffiti. And there are a lot of such people in the company. To get a job at Valve Corporation, you do not need to have knowledge in the field of video game development, but you must be interesting and creative.