Valve is a studio rich with secrets, but one of the longest enduring mysteries has been the identities of the two dudes with red hardware sticking out of their heads in the opening credits of every game. Thankfully, one fan saw fit to ask the developer straight up for an answer, and though the names remain lost to time, we now at least know how Valve found its mascots.
In response to an email inquiry from Reddit user vism, Valve's Ray Ueno said that he was part of the original 1995 team who developed the off-beat visuals, recalling:
"Interesting that you should ask about the bald guy. Back then, the casting agencies we were using to find models only had 'supermodel'-type talent. We kept requesting 'heavy-set', 'normal' models, and they kept sending us 'beautiful', 'thin', 'perfect' headshots to review. So, we finally asked them to just go out on the street and pull 'everyday Joes' who were more 'interesting', 'common', and for the bald guy, 'kinda big, heavy-set, and bald.'"
As Ueno remembers it, the search required Valve staffers to hit the streets of Seattle and take photos of the specific type of bald people they were after. Eventually, they found the perfect specimen and invited him to the studio to shoot the iconic image that now graces Valve's opening screen. Ueno noted the same process was used to put together the second shot of a guy with a valve protruding from his eye, rounding out the studio's 'Open Your Mind. Open Your Eyes' brand campaign.
Thinking back on the model's actual identities, Ueno admits, “It's been very long since we did that work, so we don't know who the models were. And the fact that they weren't professional models would make it very difficult to find them - if not impossible for the bald guy (not facing camera).”
We may never know specific names, but at least we have a spiffy piece of videogame history to tell over a few drinks.
Apr 21, 2011