Gabe Newell sits perfectly still, leans forward. His hands are laid on his lap. Only his eyes are moving. They shift rapidly from left to right and back again. He’s physically here, he’s sort of listening, but I’d say he’s also somewhere else, mentally untangling the knots of the future.
The way he talks bears this out. He’s unscripted, exploratory. He ranges far from corporate dogma and empty visionary horseshit. He admits when he’s been wrong in the past, or that he might be wrong right now about one of the biggest gambles of his career.
I like this about him: the act of engaging with journalists without a script, enjoying an actual conversation, prodding ideas that might be important outside the confines of a media event.
While I wouldn’t go as far as putting Gabe Newell on the same pedestal as tech personalities like Bill Gates or Linus Torvalds, I do feel Gabe is a similar sort of person. He worked on the first few releases of Windows at Microsoft, and then, as we all know, founded Valve, one of the most influential gaming – and therefore, technology – companies in the world, responsible for some of the best games of all time, and one of the most successful – if not the most successful – game platforms of all time.
While Valve is far from perfect – Half-Life 3, customer service, etc. etc. – I do feel the company has managed to create a great platform with Steam, which, even though it uses DRM, seems to be unobtrusive in its implementation and truly made PC gaming better, if not outright saved it in the face of ever-better consoles.
Let’s face it, at one point or another we have been angry enough at publishers, or poor enough, or whatever to have pirated a game or two.
Even at times when you would purchase a copy in a store, you’d come home to find out that whatever draconian DRM they slid onto the disk prevented you from enjoying the game. I know I’ve done this many times.
Enter Steam. Suddenly the DRM is far less obtrusive, no nasty root kits, nothing that prevents other software from working, or causing overall stability issues for the computer.
Plus the Steam sales are phenomenal.
A nitpick: Valve does not force publishers to use DRM. One can perfectly well release a game on Steam without any, there is nothing stopping one from doing that, and there are plenty of such games there. The decision whether to use Steamworks DRM is entirely up to the publisher.