The Day Steam Vanished

We should have expected it. When all remaining employees at Valve stopped answering their phones on that fateful day in November 2022, we should have known something was wrong. There had been signs for months. Gabe Newell had retreated from public life a whole 6 months previously. According to his steadily thinning entourage of advisers and programmers, he was perfectly fine. In reality, he was one of the first to go. By the time the world learned about the rash of missing persons at the videogames giant, it was too late. Steam had vanished from everyone’s desktop.

We all remember the first few hours, as we turned to Twitter and Facebook with our irritation, blasting our complaints into the void and sending death threats to people who would never respond. When one egg tweeted “Hey, @steam_games, I am going to throw your dog off a cliff! Fix your servers!” he received only an error message in return. “This user,” it said, “does not exist.”

The staff of Valve were likewise nowhere to be found. A worried househusband, whose spouse worked for the developer as a senior concept artist, drove to the company’s headquarters in Bellevue, Washington, only to discover that the building too was gone. He got into his car and drove home, muttering about download times. “tell them 2 fix steam,” he texted his wife. “I want 2 play bejewelled ffs”. He crashed his car into a ravine because he was texting and driving. He was the first casualty of the Collapse.

For the rest of us, the end came slowly. Annoyance turned to fury, fury became sadness, sadness morphed into confusion, confusion transmogrified into shock and then turned back into confusion again, then confusion was run over by denial in a truck, denial went home and made a sandwich and the sandwich had a filling of lettuce and hysteria, hysteria went to sleep and woke up as ambivalence – it was the beginning of the end for PC gaming. But yes also the whole world.

Today, we know better. Now that electricity has returned, all videogames are printed on scale-plated USB sticks, and manufactured by children with tiny hands in a factory somewhere in the Smoke Zone. Never again (god willing) shall hordes of sleepless students prowl the countryside, searching for GOG coders and Uplay executives to torture and eat. The myth that consuming the heart of a digital distribution worker will bring back your Steam account has been thoroughly debunked.

But other threats still linger. The Half-Lifers still stalk the abandoned streets of New York City, Rome, London, Seattle, Paris and, yes, Washington Bellevue – armed with some of the last firearms, spreading their poisonous religion to all poor souls who listen. “Half-Life 3 is confirmed!” shout the megaphones, “join us and receive salvation!” We survivors who know better stay quiet as they pass, hiding in abandoned coffee shops and hairdressers. Everyone has very long hair now, everyone is furious in the morning for, like, the first hour of the day.

Some day the world may return to “normal”, if anyone is alive to remember what that feels like. But right now we will have to satisfy ourselves by playing the LCD games of the Smoke Zone. Some speak of a tribe in Sweden who, in their isolated desperation, turned to Origin, but those are just rumours, right? We, who stare at our dusty laptops, screens flickering during the power outages, who fix our eyes on the place on the desktop where the Steam icon once sat – we won’t become such monsters…

Will we?

This article was originally written in October for the RPS Supporter Program.

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38 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Harlander says:

    I always suspected you were the kind of heathen who’d deny the holy truth of Half-Life 3, Caldwell.

  2. Premium User Badge

    keefybabe says:

    Present day Sheffield.

  3. Premium User Badge

    particlese says:

    So this is what happens when I sleep in? I didn’t even get a chance to download all my good old games. :(

  4. Premium User Badge

    AutonomyLost says:

    Good stuff. I am glad I support this site.

  5. pepperfez says:

    Musing on the apocalypse is getting less and less entertaining every day.

  6. int says:

    I think not even the resurrected Hieronymus Bosch can depict the utter bedlam and abandon which will be the end of Steam.

  7. Emeraude says:

    One can only wish…

  8. reggiep says:

    I like how Twitter still exists in this dystopian future. ;)

  9. Halk says:

    It WILL of course happen some day, and when it does, all the DRM-supporting Steam customers will get what they deserve.

    Fortunately, the cultural goods that computer games represent will be preserved thanks to GOGers, crackers, torrenters,…

  10. SlimShanks says:

    As someone with long hair I can confirm that I am angry for the first hour of every day.

    • Ghostwise says:

      As someone with a shaved head I’m angry all the time.

      I think we need more data points, though.

      • gunny1993 says:

        I have half the hair on my head and am angry half the time

        • Darth Gangrel says:

          The length of my fuse is inversely proportional to the length of my hair and I always have more or less short hair.

          • Ghostwise says:

            So you’re like Samson’s mirror universe double ? How do you feel about donkey jaws ?

          • Darth Gangrel says:

            I don’t see the connection between anger levels and donkey jaws or anything and donkey jaws.

          • April March says:

            Well, there should be a connection between donkey jaws and donkey skulls, at least. Even two connections, I should think!

          • Buzko says:

            Samson was a bible hero who hulked out and killed a bunch of folks with a donkey’s jawbone. His power was based on not cutting his hair.

            Christian mythology is just as weird as all the other kinds.

  11. GrumpyCatFace says:

    Interesting… What exactly would be the impact of Steam shutting down? The game files are still on our hard drives, presumably we could still play them as normal.

    Would this be game-specific, as to whether multiplayer still works?

    • Robert The Rebuilder says:

      Brendan neglected to mention that these lifeless waifs were the CS:GO and TF2 fans. The rest of us have been playing in Offline mode for decades.

    • kud13 says:

      Yeah, I get that this fits the mood and all, but large portion of my Steam library I’ve re-bought on GOG already, and for those other single-player games, I’m sure we’d develop “steam-less” cracks, just as there were “Live-less” ones for many games saddled with GaFWL.

      All those games in your library that you didn’t download would probably be gone forever. But whatever was available in offline mode would still function.

  12. MadTinkerer says:

    Fortunately, all games were on GoG, and everything that couldn’t be run natively on Linux had a solution figured out by 2022. Then Microsoft went bankrupt when Windows 13 was revealed to be incompatible with Windows 11 apps and everyone bought Raspberry Pi 6s. The End.

  13. Siannah says:

    Oh you conspiracy terrorists. What’s next? Trump winning?
    oh, wait…

    • dahools says:

      Come on this is obviously set in a world of fallout in the post the Trump era. Where everyone’s laptop screens are flickering running on battery? ;)

  14. LewdPenguin says:

    The truth of the outcome is far more terrifying perhaps than that suggested in the article, as thousands of devs would be herded into cages as they presented themselves at the infernal offices of the Windows Store and uplay, the soon to be extinct species formally known as ‘gamers’ being forced to part with $50 a month simply to have the privilege of either option accessible to them. Of course this state of affairs would last only a short time, the hordes of caged devs being culled as the money men realised there’s actually relatively few people that can be bothered dicking around for an hour trying to coerce whatever title they wanted to play into running after innumerable undocumented errors are constantly thrown in their path by arcane DRM solutions, the entire video games market collapsing to a few thousand hardy individuals willing to spend as much or more time immersed in settings files as actually playing a game.

    A small largely overlooked incident involved one Alec Meer, whom passed away mysteriously with his face frozen in glee, pressed hard against his monitor displaying a 404 error whilst trying load sales figures for steam.

  15. Fade2Gray says:

    Meanwhile, LGR remains hidden away in his walled fortress, giggling as he pets his mint-in-box copy of Zork.

    • Someoldguy says:

      I held out on keeping all the games I bought on 5.25″ and 3.5″ floppys for many, many years. Sadly the arrival of next generation human 2.0 finally put paid to my hoarding as even more cupboard space was requisitioned.

  16. Tayh says:

    Ah, the sweet, sweet tears of valve fanboys.

  17. robertlepervers says:

    I didn’t know I reached a fanfiction website.

  18. snowgim says:

    See, this is why I don’t uninstall games I’m not currently playing, I just buy HDDs instead. I currently have ~450 games installed on 60% of a 6TB drive.
    If this does ever happen, at least I’ll still have all the files.
    Hey, I might even be the only one with all the files, then I would be your God!

  19. Premium User Badge

    corinoco says:

    I think I just woke up from an alcohol & strong cheese-fueled nightmare.

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