Valve employee handbook released

April 23, 2012 // 10:20 a.m.

Tags: #employee #gabe-newell #games-industry #industry #valve #valve-employee-handbook

Gamers have been afforded a rare insight into how gaming giant Valve operates, with the publication of the Valve Handbook for New Employees.

Subtitled "A fearless adventure in knowing what to do when no one's there telling you what to do," the handbook - first published this year - is provided to all new Valve employees as a means of indoctrinating them in the attitudes and approaches of one of gaming's biggest names.

'So you've gone through the interview process, you've signed the contracts, and you're finally here at Valve,' the handbook - illustrated in the manner of a classic children's book - begins. 'Congratulations, and welcome. Valve has an incredibly unique way of doing things that will make this the greatest professional experience of your life, but it can take some getting used to.'

The book starts by offering up some facts which are public knowledge, but perhaps not as well known as they could be: the fact that Valve is entirely self-funded, for example, and that it owns all its own intellectual property following an agreement with Half-Life's original publisher.

The book also claims that Valve operates an entirely flat hierarchical structure, with no official chain of management. 'We do have a founder/president,' the handbook explains, 'but even he isn't your manager. The company is yours to steer - towards opportunities, and away from risks. You have the power to green-light projects. You have the power to ship products.'

Other sections of the book give further hints about the flexibility of working at Valve: desks are given wheels, both as a symbolic reminder of the freedom an employee has and also as a means of actually moving the thing - something which happens incredibly often, and at very short notice as employees seek to position themselves wherever they can offer the most value.

'We've heard that other companies have people allocate a percentage of their time to self-directed projects,' the handbook continues in clear reference to Google's famous '20 per cent time.' 'At Valve, that percentage is 100.'

For a video games company, in an industry where 'crunch' - the period weeks or months before shipping where developers are asked to work insane hours to fix last-minute bugs in the code - is distressingly common, Valve's approach to overtime is refreshing. 'While people occasionally choose to push themselves to work some extra hours at times when something big is going out the door, for the most part working overtime for extended periods indicates a fundamental failure in planning or communications. If this happens at Valve, it's a sign that something needs to be reevaluated and corrected.'

Other revelations indicate that getting a job at Valve is something to which every coder, artist and gamer should aspire. 'Sometimes things around the office can seem a little too good to be true. If you find yourself walking down the hall one morning with a bowl of fresh fruit and Stump- town-roasted espresso, dropping off your laundry to be washed, and heading into one of the massage rooms, don’t freak out. All these things are here for you to actually use. And don’t worry that somebody’s going to judge you for taking advantage of it—relax! And if you stop on the way back from your massage to play darts or work out in the Valve gym or whatever, it’s not a sign that this place is going to come crumbling down like some 1999-era dot-com start- up. If we ever institute caviar-catered lunches, though, then maybe something’s wrong. Definitely panic if there’s caviar.'

The full handbook can be downloaded in PDF format, if you're curious.

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