This Week on Channel Massive: We <3 Valve

Portal 2 Screenshot

If you’ve been a PC gamer for any period of time, and you like games in first person perspective, you’re likely to love Valve. We do. Your first encounter with the developer’s work may have been back in 1998 with the original Half-Life. Suddenly, first person shooters could have an intriguing story and dramatic, movie-like climaxes and events. Perhaps you got wrapped up in fan-born Counter-Strike, relishing a FPS versus mode that allowed for role specialization, adding a layer of strategy and depth to the generic meat grinder of deathmatches. Or maybe your first love of Valve started with Left 4 Dead (maybe on a console, of all things!), and  you were exposed to truly accountable and devilishly random co-op FPS.

Then again, maybe you got Half-Life 2 compilation The Orange Box solely because you wanted to play a short yet unforgettable game birthed from a tech demo, Portal. Not since Half-Life has a Valve game gotten so much fanfare (though Left 4 Dead did come close), and this week it gets a sequel that expands the original’s world, characters and storyline into a full, stand-alone game, adding in new “fun with science” devices that enable protagonist Chell to navigate ever-trickier and -deadlier first person platforming puzzles. There’s no doubt that we’re excited about Portal 2, and so far this week it has received near-unanimous accolades from critics and an unexpected bubble of curiously bitter feedback from gamers on Metacritic. Will we have such nitpicks to pursue in our review of the game? You’ll find out when Jason posts his review in the coming days.

Yet aside from Portal, there may be one other thing that you know Valve for most, perhaps without actually playing any actual Valve games, and that’s the company’s online game software store and community, Steam. I have to admit I was at first leery of it. As with books and music, I’d grown up relishing when I’d get a tangible game as a gift, or buy one for myself at the store. Tearing off the plastic wrap, getting hit by the recently-printed inks of the game manual, and setting the disc’s case on the shelf next to my other cherished titles. I might even keep the box if it had cool art. Yet in 2011, so much of our pop culture entertainment has gone digital, and as the kids younger than us eagerly embrace intangible products, so too have we, potentially staving off a branch of hoarder culture.

But beyond the personal and earthly environmental benefits of buying games digitally, Steam one-ups most of the competition by letting you install your Steam-purchased game on any PC you have. It also tracks achievements, lets you see what your friends are playing and, man, we cannot forget the twice-yearly bargain basement sales that quickly drain our wallets. It’s a fantastic service, and we’ll talk about why we love it, how it’s changed our gaming lifestyles and what we want from it in the future on this week’s podcast. We hope you like that show, and in the meantime, maybe you’re having a kickass time playing lots of Portal 2. Let us know in the comments below.

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