The lead writer on Half-Life never understood why he was described as its creator

Half-Life 2
(Image credit: Valve)

One of the writers behind Half-Life wants you to know that although he was there when the threads came together, he never felt like the game's creator.

Science fiction author-turned-games writer Laidlaw was one of the lead writers on the project, but when it comes to creatorship, he set the record straight in an interview with Rock Paper Shotgun. “I’d seen bits and pieces of the levels they were working on, but as soon as I heard the name, I just got this amazing buzz,” he said of the cult FPS classic that would become Valve's maiden voyage. 

In short, the project was already taking shape when he got on board. “I could see the whole world they were aiming at somehow, and I felt it was a collective vision," he said. "This is one reason it’s so weird to me when people try to attribute authorship to me that I’ve never felt. It was all there when I got there, in embryo.”

Although the original Half-Life is a whole quarter of a century old this year, it's still being played by thousands. A dedicated team of community modders is still coming up with ways to enhance the outlandish sci-fi realm, including a brilliant ray-tracing mod to add some modern flourish. 

Laidlaw was a key writer on the Half-Life team, having had a plan for the game series up until Half Life 2: Episode 3 as a follow-up to the second episode's 2007 release. The third episode never made it to development, but shortly after Laidlaw left Valve in 2016, he decided to write it up himself. 

The very public short story took the form of an epistolary, consisting of letters written to the player from one of the characters, and though he published them on his own website, Laidlaw regrets doing so to this day. 

“I was deranged,” he said of his mindset while writing up Episode 3. “I was living on an island, totally cut off from my friends and creative community of the last couple decades, I was completely out of touch and had nobody to talk me out of it. It just seemed like a fun thing to do… until I did it.”

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Jasmine Gould-Wilson
Staff Writer, GamesRadar+

Jasmine is a staff writer at GamesRadar+. Raised in Hong Kong and having graduated with an English Literature degree from Queen Mary, University of London in 2017, her passion for entertainment writing has taken her from reviewing underground concerts to blogging about the intersection between horror movies and browser games. Having made the career jump from TV broadcast operations to video games journalism during the pandemic, she cut her teeth as a freelance writer with TheGamer, Gamezo, and Tech Radar Gaming before accepting a full-time role here at GamesRadar. Whether Jasmine is researching the latest in gaming litigation for a news piece, writing how-to guides for The Sims 4, or extolling the necessity of a Resident Evil: CODE Veronica remake, you'll probably find her listening to metalcore at the same time.