Gabe Newell says games don't need to be realistic: "I have never thought to myself that realism is fun"

Gabe Newell in Half-Life 25th Anniversary Documentary
(Image credit: Valve)

Valve founder Gabe Newell has shared his thoughts on realism in games, revealing that he's never thought of it as "fun."

In the recently-released Half-Life: 25th Anniversary Documentary, the Valve CEO reflects on the development and history of the studio's beloved game. During one portion of the documentary, Newell talks about realism in games, and how he's not really a fan for a pretty understandable reason. 

Talking about Half-Life's development, Newell said: "You'd have these conversations where you'd be sitting in a design review and somebody [would] say, that's not realistic." The developer continues: "And you're like, 'okay, what does that have?' like, 'explain to me why that's interesting.' Because in the real world, I have to write up lists of stuff I have to go to the grocery store to buy. And I have never thought to myself that realism is fun. I go play games to have fun." 

I can totally see where Newell is coming from, that being said I am guilty of trying to pay a mortgage to a cartoon tanuki for a house I don't actually own - something many Animal Crossing: New Horizons fans can relate to. 

It seems the Valve founder's words have resonated with a lot of fans. For example, DUSK developer Dillon Rogers shared the quote along with the caption: "I need to pin this at the top of my Steam forums. So many people do not understand the difference between something being realistic vs. something being engaging." Continuing in a thread, Rogers explained: "Something can be a great and in-depth simulation of something real."

Talking about the bread-making goblins in Arkane Studios' Arx Fatalis, the developer adds: "'Realism' is not always the goal. Realism would be 'it should take hours to bake.'" Rogers then goes on to summarise the difference between realism and something being realistic in games: "A simulation evokes the feeling and logic of something, and operates on its believability. It can be designed to be a compelling representation of an action. But that is not the same as 'it is realistic.'" 

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Gabe Newell isn't the only person revisiting Half-Life on its 25th anniversary. Dario Casali, who started working at Valve back in 1996, has also been taking a trip down memory lane over on their YouTube channel - revealing that Half-Life could have been called 'Fallout,' as well as other surprising names like 'Dirt', 'Bolt', or even 'Trash'.

Elsewhere in the documentary, Gabe Newell echoes that famous (and fake) Shigeru Miyamoto quote: "Late is just for a little while. Suck is forever."

Hope Bellingham
News Writer

After studying Film Studies and Creative Writing at university, I was lucky enough to land a job as an intern at Player Two PR where I helped to release a number of indie titles. I then got even luckier when I became a Trainee News Writer at GamesRadar+ before being promoted to a fully-fledged News Writer after a year and a half of training.  My expertise lies in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, cozy indies, and The Last of Us, but especially in the Kingdom Hearts series. I'm also known to write about the odd Korean drama for the Entertainment team every now and then.