Gabe Newell on modders: "Traditional" credentials don't always predict success

Patrick Carlson

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Given the importance and success of games like Counter-Strike, Team Fortress 2, and more recently Dota 2, Valve's modding DNA is pretty iron-clad. A new interview with co-founder Gabe Newell in the Washington Post gives some insight into just why it is that modders—and their work—seem to find a home at Valve.

It's not about having a "PhD from an Ivy League school," but rather seeing what people can accomplish on their own, according to Newell. Grades, for example, "don't tell you anything," he says.

"Well, the traditional credentialing really doesn't have a lot of predictive value to whether people will be successful," Newell says. "One of the things you have to do to be successful in our business is to be responsive to reactions that people have. You can give ten people the same set of forum posts and only one of them will actually take it in a productive direction. So the fact that somebody has been able to build something and ship it and not get sort of bogged down and give up and then deal with the gush of responses you get, filter through that in a useful and productive way and iterate is really the core of product design and development in our world."

While he points out that successful people often earn good grades, those who "have shown that ability to engage and entertain and respond to an audience" are demonstrating a vital attribute for people interested in working at Valve.

"So when you see somebody who has already done that, especially if nobody was teaching or leading them to do that it's a really good sign that they're going to be successful," Newell says.

It's worth noting that we've seen other cases of modding work taking a person to a job at a large game company. Remeber Alexander Velicky and his Skyrim mod ? He works for Bungie now . You can also read here how Philipp “Benzenzimmern” Weber went from modding the Witcher 2 to a job at CD Projekt RED.

The entire interview, the first of two parts, is a good read for anyone interested in how the industry-leading company functions on the inside. Newell touches on the process of relating to customers, what he learned from the Diretide situation, as well as more on what it takes to get talented people to commit to Valve. We'll be keeping an eye out for part two when it surfaces.

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