Jim has already linked to the fascinating Valve new employee handbook in yesterday’s Sunday Papers, but the wisdom of the massed Hivemind is that it deserves its own post due to being possibly the most interesting thing on the internet today. In equal parts inspiring and a bit culty, it’s a long, cheerful document that aims to explain Valve’s unusual non-hierarchical structure to nervous new starters. No-one is necessarily anyone’s boss there – even Gabe Newell is just another link in the chain, apparently.
Want to work on a particular project? Then go work on a particular project, if you honestly believe that’s where you can be the most use. Want to move desks? Simply unplug your PC and move your desk. Want to use the sauna? That’s what it’s there for. It also posits that crunch and overtime are a sign that a project isn’t going as well as it should, and thus these dark periods are avoided in favour of a healthy work-life balance. That’s Valve Time explained, really.
It all sounds rather blissful but, I can’t help but feel, comes across a little like all those in-game marketing materials in Fallout and BioShock. The powers that be enthusiastically describing the wonderful safe haven they’d made. And then the fall… Hopefully, in Valve’s case, the fall only means ‘occasionally suffering huge fan protests because Half-Life 3 hasn’t been announced’ and not an apocalypse scenario. Though I can picture Chet Faliszek sitting on a chair of bones and wearing a suit made of programmers’ hair.
The utopian setup described could, any tinfoil hat-wearer may well feel, be a public attempt to convince staff at other developers to apply for work at this superflat happy family as much as it is an internal document. Have a read, anyway. It’s a remarkable artifact from a remarkable company.