Valve, as ever in PC gaming, continues to thread its own path throughout the industry. As well as operating the de facto PC distribution platform Steam, it seems to have finally cracked the hardware side with the Steam Deck, and continues to support some of the world’s most popular games while steadfastly refusing to use the number ‘3’. Tell you what though: it’s not as funny as it used to be.
There’s funny in the context of games, and then there’s just funny period. Valve is in the latter camp and, for me, hit its richest vein of form around the Orange Box era. Portal was hilarious, everything about Team Fortress 2 raised a smile, and then Portal 2 arrived shortly afterwards and to this day remains the funniest singleplayer and co-op experience I’ve ever had. Perhaps it was pining for those days that led me to watch Valve’s new video for a Cave Johnson announcer pack, and realise that the studio’s still got it.
Okay it is six minutes long. But what sights: a look behind-the-scenes on Gabe Newell’s motivational process for voice actors. Employees wasting away on dog food. Studio kidnappings! And then the coup de grace of Gaben on a yacht, in a lovely pink shirt, playing Steam Deck with a cocktail and making his man flunkey bring over the potato phone.
This is full of Portal 2 in-jokes, as one might expect, with a particularly nice touch being Gabe licking the potato phone before use. Despite its length the video doesn’t showcase a huge amount of Cave Johnson’s singular presence, but it’s pretty clear that J.K. Simmons is back and not a moment too soon.
The only bad news, of course, is that you have to be one of them there Dota 2 players in order to have Cave Johnson barking along in the background. At least the rest of us get to gaze on Gaben in all his glory.