Valve Corporation

Location: Bellevue, Washington

Founded: 1996


Former Microsoft employees Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington founded Valve Corporation, an independent video game development company. The studio is also responsible for the creation of the Steam online gaming platform, and the Source game engine. Half-Life (PC, PlayStation 2) was the studio’s first release in 1998.

Notable Products

  • Portal
  • Left 4 Dead
  • Team Fortress
  • Half-Life
  • Day of Defeat
  • Counter-Strike

What to Expect

Valve may be best known as a PC game developer—Half-Life was named PC Game of the Year by more than 50 publications, including PC Gamer magazine—yet the studio has also produced award-winning titles for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Mac. Among the company’s many successful titles are Portal (2008 Game Developers Choice Awards winner for Game of the Year, Innovation Award, and Best Game Design) and Left 4 Dead (BAFTA Best Multiplayer Game). In 2011, Valve released the much-anticipated sequel Portal 2 to significant critical acclaim.

The company employs more than 200 people and in 2010 moved into new offices, custom built to accommodate the growing team. The multi-story facility was purpose-built based on suggestions from employees and the specific needs of each department. Valve has implemented what it calls a “cabal” system for dividing office space. Instead of massive open floors of cubicles, teams (or factions) are broken into separate rooms by project. This facilitates open communication within the team, while also minimizing distractions. Each cabal is an intensely focused think tank of creation. Following the goal of open and easy communication, Valve wanted to keep the “walk down the hall” feeling alive in the new, much larger building; contractors broke through five floors to install an open staircase in the middle of the office that seamlessly connects the entire staff. Further emphasizing connectedness within the studio, every Thursday there is a company-wide lunch with free food in the multipurpose kitchen/cafeteria/meeting space. This room was specifically designed to accommodate the massive staff, as well as incorporating a full kitchen, beverage coolers, snack bars, and other amenities. Speaking of snacks, there is a storage room (more like a mini convenience store) dedicated to stockpiling a cache of soda, candy, cookies, chips, and other munchies available to employees.

Valve has a relatively flat corporate structure, where all employees are senior-level. Applicants must have at least three years of professional development experience, with at least a bachelor’s degree in their area of expertise—several on the staff hold master’s degrees. The company does not employ onsite game testers but relies on the entire development team to play and test games during production. Valve does support a thriving mod community and actively recruits mod teams. Gabe Newell has repeatedly recommended that this is one of the most favorable paths to employment within his company. Among the benefits of employment is a full relocation package, where Valve covers the expenses for moving new team members and their families to the Seattle area. If you are interested in meeting the team in person and taking a tour of the studio, Valve accepts advance requests via e-mail. Notices of available positions are posted on the company’s website, and applications may be submitted via e-mail.


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