When Alex Carey plays video games, he often wonders about the people behind them and how they came up with their ideas.
This week, he’ll get a chance to find out.
The 17-year-old from Cumberland is in Washington state this week with his family, and he will spend a day touring Valve, a software company based in Bellevue.
“I’m so excited,” he said just days before his trip. “I’m absolutely just pumped to go now.”
Carey has spinal muscular atrophy, a life-threatening neuromuscular disorder for which there is no cure, and he is getting a chance to tour Valve and meet some of the company’s staff this Thursday through the B.C. and Yukon chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“It’s definitely one of the things where the reasoning behind why you get to go is kind of, not depressing, but one of those bittersweet things — getting to go to this because of the other challenges in my life is kind of like forced compensation,” said Carey. “That’s me being pessimistic. The fact that we get opportunities like this is phenomenal. Without them, life would suck even more.”
Based in Bellevue, Valve is a highly-respected entertainment software and technology company that produces award-winning games, including Counter-Strike, Half-Life, Left 4 Dead, Portal, and Team Fortress. Valve also created Steam, an online platform for PC and Mac games with more than 30 million accounts worldwide.
“I really enjoy video games,” said Carey. “I really see them as kind of a developing art form. It’s a narrative story. It’s interactive; you’re able to experience things in a video game that you can’t in a book or a movie because of the interactive and reactive experience.”
Carey says Valve is up there in the top three when it comes to making video games.
“I’ve always really liked Valve games because they’re really story-drive and really quite compelling,” he said. “You’re always like, ‘This is so cool. How did they come up with it? What kind of mind comes up with the steps for it?'”
Carey and his family left Cumberland on Tuesday, and they were going to spend three days in Seattle and Bellevue.
They were going to tour the Valve offices on Thursday, and Carey was excited to see that his itinerary said that hands-on experiences were planned.
“If I get to see their new projects, I will be so happy,” he said.
Carey was most looking forward to meeting the people who work at Valve, such as co-founder Gabe Newell and Robin Walker, the lead designer of Team Fortress, which Carey says is probably his favourite Valve game.
He was excited to hear what they are doing next, and he was also looking forward to seeing the lobby of Valve.
“They have a machine gun turret in the lobby, and it tracks you when you go in,” he said. “I would go to Valve just to see the turret. It’s pretty awesome.”
Laughing, Carey says he’s been interested in video games for “too long.”
His favourite Valve game is Team Fortress 2, a first-person, class-based online shooting game. He also likes Portal, a first-person puzzle game, and Half-Life 1 and 2.
Carey is interested in pursuing a career in visual effects.
“Visual effects is more film and TV-oriented, but a lot of the skills are transferrable — it’s just how you apply them,” he said. “I am maybe more focused on visual effects for film and TV. Animation’s hard. Two-dimensional effects are a lot of fun.”
The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.
The B.C. and Yukon chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation was formed in 1983 and was the first chapter formed outside of the United States. Since its inception, the B.C. chapter has made more than 1,400 wishes come true for children with life-threatening medical conditions.
This is the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s first request for a visit to Valve, and staff at the software company is thrilled to have the opportunity to grant Carey’s unique wish, according to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.