We tease Valve for not making games any more, what with their not making games any more, but it’s really starting to look most peculiar as the company loses its fourth big-name writer in less than two years. According to a Facebook update on Jay Pinkerton’s timeline, he left the company last night.Pinkerton, who came to fame as a writer for Cracked.com, joined Valve in 2008 at what was the heyday for their wider written output. In the wake of The Orange Box, the company found great legs in producing additional materials to dramatically increase the tails of their games, such as the completely splendid “Meet The…” series for Team Fortress 2. Teaming up with Erik Wolpaw, Pinkerton co-wrote many of the incredibly funny bits and pieces that were a huge part of earning Valve their reputation for throwing out armfuls of wonderful free extras years after the sale of a game.
Of course, that doesn’t quite describe the Valve we think of now. They still produce the comics, written by Pinkerton and Wolpaw until now, and old games are amazingly supported, but the Valve of today comes across much more as a company focused on tech and tournaments. And perhaps that’s a part of the reason why we’re seeing what is now an exodus of writing talent from the company?
Chet Faliszek, originally hired as a writer who went on to be a senior bossman in the company that pretends it doesn’t have bosses, left in April. His former writing partner at Old Man Murray, Erik Wolpaw, moved on in February. And last January saw Half-Life writer Marc Laidlaw leave the company after eighteen years. Add in Ted Kosmatka who left after finishing writing the DOTA 2 lore, and Valve has only Steve Jaros left on its roster.
Valve is a famously closed and secretive place, and people who leave the company tend to maintain that disquieting quiet – we’ve not managed to prise (sensible) reasons for leaving from Wolpaw or Faliszek – but it’s impossible not to call it a trend when all their big-name scribes walk in eighteen months. Maybe it’s just that all four were close enough that once their companions started moving on, it made the door look wider to those who remained. Maybe the lack of narrative gaming from the company means their ambitions are unlikely to be realised these days. We can only guess. We’re obviously reaching out to Pinkerton to see if we can find out more.