Portal funnyman Erik Wolpaw leaves Valve

Erik Wolpaw, one of Valve’s famous funnymen, has left the studio. The co-founder of cherished games site Old Man Murray is known at Valve for his writing on games like Portal, Left 4 Dead, and the Half-Lives, though Valve’s mysterious free-floating structure means he may well have also served coffee, written Gabe Newell’s e-mails, and bred a genetically-engineered pet fed with Steam microtransactions. We may never know. What’s next for Wolpaw? He says he’s going to work at his niece’s juice shop, and I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t take that at face value. Juice on, Erik!

Wolpaw’s last day was Friday, as brought to our attention by a screencapped Facebook post shared by the Valve News Network. It’s all over the place by now but feels a bit creepy to share a non-public post. Creepy me. His public profile does say his time at Valve is over and he’s commented on all this so, y’know, it is real, just feels a bit rude. Here’s me joining in the rudeness.

“I’m gonna move back to Cleveland and work at my niece’s juice shop,” Wolpaw told Polygon on Friday. Last we heard, Erik Wolpaw was working on Psychonauts 2 (he wrote for the first game) but clearly family and freshly-squeezed juice come first.

Wolpaw’s fellow Old Man Murrayer, Chet Faliszek, is still at Valve. And, contrary to initial reports, fellow Valve funnyman Jay Pinkerton is still there too – for now.

We’ve gabbed with Wolpaw a fair few times since 1873. We interviewed him with written words in 2007, chatted with voices in 2008 and 2009, he’s told us a tragic story about the handheld Mattel Football, then we talked game stories with him and Double Fine’s Anna Kipnis in two parts in 2012.

31 Comments

  1. BobbyDylan says:

    Why does “Work at my niece’s juice shop” sound like a euphemism for something?

    • PanFaceSpoonFeet says:

      .. He’s shagging his niece in her ‘juice shop’?

    • April March says:

      I was thinking about a way to turn it into a stupid joke about Episode 3 being announced, but it is such a bizarrely specific thing that I am now convinced that this is either the very stealth release of an ARG leading up to whatever his next work will be, or he is actually going to work on his niece’s juice shop.

  2. Ross Angus says:

    This is selfish but any time someone I admire leaves Valve, I think “perhaps now I’ll get another chance to enjoy their work”, because I’m a Single Player kind of human. See also Clint Hocking.

    • gunrodent says:

      Totally agree. How can Valve be a company fostering respected and admired writers when their output of games where great storytelling and writing is exactly 0 and has been that since forever? Valve is the problem. I have stopped buying games on Steam. Hope that Wolpaw spends his ice cream shop down time to write some nice words the rest of us get to see or enjoy one day.

    • Boozebeard says:

      But are you a juice kind of human?

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      MajorLag says:

      Well they are taking the latest gen of VR pretty seriously, and that’s going to be a single-player only space for some time I think. Of course, there’s that $1500+ entry fee to contend with.

      • Rich says:

        Also, you’re screwed if you’re one of the people who just can’t do VR, for whatever reason.

    • Shazbut says:

      What on earth was he getting paid to do? They haven’t released a game he’s been credited on in 6 years.

      I don’t understand game companies.

      • TheManfromAntarctica says:

        Those Dota 2 lore snippets ain’t gonna write themselves, mate.

        • wyrm4701 says:

          Between those and the biannual 1000-word TF2 blog updates, it’s a wonder there’s any time to write video games.

  3. int says:

    Ol’ Man Murray, that Ol’ Man Murray
    He must know somepin’, but he don’t say nothin’

    He just keeps rollin’, he keeps on rollin’ along

    • Shazbut says:

      I still go back and read the Freedom: First Resistance review from time to time

  4. scorza says:

    Am I missing the funnyman humor of the racist 9/11 screed on his front page? (emphasis mine)

    it’s time to come together. That means all of us: Blacks, Whites, Mariah Carrey, Mexicans, and as much as it pains me to say it, Arabs.

    To “our especially devout Muslim friends”:

    Enjoy! You murderous cunts. Attack [the Statue of Liberty], and Uncle Sam’s gonna plant his submarine-lauched-missile-shaped foot up Ganesh’s [sic] giant elephant ass so hard it’ll make this last attack on the World Trade Center look like the first time you Arab idiots bombed it.

    Or was I supposed to dig through 4 pages of that bullshit to find the ironic part of the racism

    • gunny1993 says:

      It’s either all ironic satirising of the kind of stuff that was published in that period of time (note the obvious easily fact checkable mistakes), or genuine /r racist insanity.

      Fairly sure it’s the former, made me laugh.

    • Makaze says:

      Am I missing the funnyman humor of the racist 9/11 screed on his front page? (emphasis mine)

      Whoosh! That’s not the sound of a hijacked airliner flying by, that’s the sound the entire site going right over your head.

      • Kingseeker Camargo says:

        I used to be such a fan of OMM that I made a custom backup of the site, including stuff that today can only be found by digging deep in the wayback machine archives.

        For some time now I’ve been wondering whether a website so openly vile and universally offensive could even exist these days. Probably not.

    • Frank says:

      Huh, I never read that one before. Yeah, at the time, he apparently thought that was a joke. I’m disappointed not only that he found us-vs-them jokes regarding Arabs, muslims and the “swarthy” a good way to vent at that time, but also that he kept that post on the site verbatim.

      He’s still one of my favorite video game writers and I look forward to his future work, but … ugh.

    • modzero says:

      That’s one of those joke sites where someone tries to be ironically racist, and yet turns out to be just plain racist anyway.

    • Shazbut says:

      It seems that if you’re funny, critical, cynical, and relatable in a kind of pathetic way, you can get away with saying almost anything. I wouldn’t put this down to genuine racism though as much as his schtick. I’d say it’s creative expression and genuine anger but not any actual held beliefs.

      But yeah, not pretty.

    • grimdanfango says:

      Huh, I was feeling along roughly the same lines as everyone else… if it was satire, it was mostly just coming off as actual racism pretending to be satire.

      But then I noticed the reference to launching a rocket up Ganesh’s giant elephant ass…
      Assuming he wasn’t *that* ignorant, I presume it must be genuine satire.

      • Abacus says:

        Satire IS racism, or at least a platform for racism, that’s what the censor-happy regressive left would have you believe. I’m glad the page still exists, Old Man Murray is a wonderful gaming artifact.

        • grimdanfango says:

          *sigh*, does this have to be turned into some inane left/right political gibberish? As much as I don’t agree with it, right wing politics isn’t synonymous with being a biggot (although it’s hard to tell sometimes), and free speech is no justification for being one. It’s idiotic crying “censorship” the moment anyone attempts to debate the subject.

          Nobody’s calling for it to be censored – we’re just discussing it’s effectiveness/questionableness as satire.
          At worst it might be worth the original author giving some consideration to his own personal politics, especially if they’ve changed since 2001, and maybe post an addendum.

          Don’t confuse a regard for basic human decency with censorship/self-censorship. It’s entirely up to the author how he portays himself, and it’s entirely up to other people to decide what they think of him as a result.

          • Jeff Fries says:

            Nobody’s calling for it to be censored – we’re just discussing it’s effectiveness/questionableness as satire.

            You’re finding a way to dismiss it as racist. It was written right after a pretty big terrorist attack, the reaction is authentic and calling it racist is pharisaical horseshit.

      • Urthman says:

        Sadly, winning a rigged single-player hockey video game against the Kazakhstan national team remains one of the more constructive American responses to 9/11.

    • scorza says:

      Broad reply (I’m at work) but ok I skimmed through to the more satirical part. Given that my country has invaded and bombed muslim-majority countries for 16 years now and just started stopping muslims at airports, ironic racism is not something I have patience for

      I’ll also note that I mostly avoid commenting on sites but the replies here acknowledging how problematic it is are super encouraging re why I like rps *thumbs up*

    • Buggery says:

      Man that post was made about 15 years ago – nice work at looking at it with a modern filter. Furthermore it was written during a racially divisive and emotionally charged time in modern history. I’m sure we’ve all at some point said something stupid and offensive that we no longer agree with. It was also a time where one of the internet’s best jokes was “Mr T Ate My Balls” and “There are centipedes in my vagina.”
      Deleting it off the site would be some reasonably pathetic self-censorship so there it stays with all the good stuff.

    • April March says:

      The absurdist satire of fifteen years ago is indistinguishable from the modern day’s statement of intent from the presidency of the United States.

    • Jeff Fries says:

      This was written right after 9/11, carried out by (yes) arabs, and he’s full of rage, as many people were. But never let anybody tell you that indicating your virtue is secondary to appreciating the greatest humor site on the internet.