Valve is a famously opaque company, but despite that it has an iron grip on the PC gaming market. Its marketplace, Steam, is synonymous with PC gaming. Other competitors like GOG and the Epic Game Store have popped up, but nothing compares to the Steam monolith. People Make Games conducted a six-month investigation into the company to see what it could uncover, and it seems, despite the apparent lack of managers, co-founder Gabe Newell's absolutist free speech ideology is reportedly the reason almost all games can get on the platform.
The YouTube channel which previously broke the news of all the Roblox child exploitation scandals two years ago posted a hefty 47-minute video earlier today. Former and current Valve employees were interviewed on the condition of anonymity and shed a lot of light on the opaque company.
One of the important topics brought up in the video is if Steam has a responsibility to players due to its market dominance. Even though many games are legal, they can still push harmful stereotypes and hateful views while being sold on Steam. One former Valve employee said, "One of Gabe's arguments was that these games will make a bigger splash if we say no to them, rather than if we say yes and nobody buys them."
It's an argument that almost makes sense until you realise it's a handy way for Valve to never have to take a stance on anything. The ex-employee continued, "But that didn't really sit well with me. I think it's appropriate for companies to take moral and ethical stands, but management did not agree with that."
Another said that while the decision wasn't unilaterally made by Gabe Newell, "It's basically his Libertarian political beliefs directing the flow of the company in a way that a number of employees did not agree with."
The end result was an announcement on the Steam Store that stated, "we've decided that the approach is to allow everything onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling." This is ambiguous enough that Valve can cherry-pick what it does without ever having to take a real stand.
The video discusses how this came to a head during the aftermath of George Floyd's murder, where instead of making a public statement, Valve gave each employee $10,000 to spend how they saw fit on whatever charitable cause they liked.
Other highlights from the video include one employee saying they believe only 10,000 people worldwide have what it takes to work at Valve. It's unlikely many of these will be anything other than white men, however, as diversity issues are reportedly present within the privately owned company. It's nothing new in the tech industry, but it's still disappointing.
One person interviewed said, "People are very insecure at Valve," as they are ranked by their fellow peers and firing practises are very opaque. For those who do get in and stay in though, the salary is high and the yearly bonuses can sometimes be equal to the yearly pay.
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