This past sunday, Steve Jaros took to Twitter to announce he was leaving Volition, after working there for 10 years, in order to take a job with the folks at Valve.
During his time with Volition, Jaros wrote the first three Saints’ Row titles. After Volition’s owners THQ went under, and the studio was acquired by Deep Silver, Jaros acted as lead developer on the fourth game in the series
“The past 10 years at Volition have been life changing,” Jaros tweeted in his public announcement. “I’ve gotten to work with amazing people and made friends that will last a life time.. I’m super proud of the work we did on Saints Row, and am excited for what Volition does in the future, but it’s time for me to move on… I’m looking forward to new adventures at Valve Software.”
Alright alright, the man has chops for writing wacky video games. So what will he be working on at Valve? Sadly, Valve has been characteristically tight-lipped about any projects Jaros might be involved in. While the knee-jerk speculation will probably result in the internet shouting “Half-Life 3!” at the top of it’s lungs, the simple truth is that we don’t know.
What should be interesting, however, is how Jaros’ penchant for irreverent, over-the-top humor will connect with Valve’s brand of storytelling. Don’t forget this is a man who wrote a game in which you could gleefully beat someone to death with a massive purple dildo.
To be certain, Valve has gone to some pretty dark places in their games – I’ll never forget plumbing the sewers of City 17, only to come face-to-face with a lifelike charred corpse. But while Valve definitely have a reputation for zany humor, it’s worlds apart from the kind of madness that made Saints’ Row: The Third such a hit. While even Portal 2 had some seriously dark undertones, I don’t recall being able to launch a granny out of a circus cannon. Something for Valve to consider for the next game.
Whatever next project Steve Jaros has in store, it should be interesting to see how the Saints’ Row series fairs without its lead writer. The series has felt Jaros’ influence from its inception, and it is a little daunting to think of what might happen to it without him there. Then again, many thought that the fourth Saints’ Row title would signal the series descent into painful mediocrity without the backing of THQ – ultimately, that was not the case, as Nic pointed out in his review of Saints’ Row 4.
The gaming industry has seen a number of high-profile departures as of late. That in and of itself shouldn’t be surprising – people’s personal lives, financial needs, or any other number of reasons will force them to shift jobs from time to time. What is more surprising is that people like Jaros, or Marty O’Donnell, worked with their companies for decades, sometimes since the companies were founded.
The only reliable conclusion we can draw from that is that our industry is at something of a crossroads. Not only the release of a new console generation (despite the money involved that’s a process the industry has gone through time and again at this point), but the myriad of ways people access and play games has changed the industry significantly. More importantly, people who game are connected with the folks who make their games like never before – it’s not a surprise, in this day and age, that Jaros’ announced his move to Valve on the public venue of Twitter.
What all this means for the future of gaming – both Jaros’ departure and the curious state of today’s gaming industry – is anybody’s guess. One thing is certain, however: it’s an interesting time to play games.