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Tyler McVicker is the founder and solo producer of the Youtube channel Valve News Network (VNN). He currently also is a fulltime college student doing his major in Journalism. I had the opportunity to sit down with him, and talk for over an hour about himself, the channel and Valve.
“Why don’t you just ask him for an interview? The worst thing he could say is no.”
First of all, what was the reason behind starting a Youtube channel?
“When I started the channel I was 14, and I didn’t have much of a long-term plan. When I started, it was just more completely out of my own obsession with Valve as a company . I saw there was a need for somebody to just spend their day researching as much as possible, compiling the information and reporting it in a concise manner. That’s where the idea came from.”
What would be your biggest accomplishment regarding VNN?
“My biggest accomplishment as of now would be getting invited to Valve. It was incredible and I was very lucky for the things that happened to have happened; I kind of fell into it. Last year around this time, Gabe Newell (founder and current CEO of Valve) did an AMA on Reddit. I submitted some questions, and my girlfriend at the time, now my fiancée, suggested: ‘Why don’t you just ask him for an interview? The worst thing he could say, is no.’ The only thing he responded to was the interview request and he was, like, send me an email.”
Do you have any professional contacts within Valve, and if so how many?
“I think it’s a tough question, since contacts come and go. Right now I could message around 10 people and get a response back quickly, usually with formal emails. I would say I am on good talking terms with quite a few people at the company, which makes my job easier. It legitimizes the whole process.”
Would you say Valve is delivering value to the consumer, though they recently haven’t delivered any shippable products?
“I think right now the only thing Valve is giving value to publicly would have to be the work in the Virtual Reality (VR) market. The work they are doing with that is incredible. They really are the ‘main champions’ of allowing a free ecosystem for development, not ‘wall gardening’ anything, and investing heavily into diverse content. But where exactly those VR games are, I do not know.”
In the Netherlands a hot button issue are loot boxes, which are being investigated by the government for potentially being a form of gambling. Is putting loot boxes into games justifiable?
“Not to defend loot boxes and not to defend Valve’s decision to continually use them -because I do have very negative opinions on them- , Valve’s implementation of a loot box system is backed up a little bit by the fact that you can sell the items on the Steam community market and third party websites. There is an actual monetary incentive. That does actually push it more towards the idea of gambling, and that is where the legislation is required. So, I would say Valve has the best implementation of loot boxes, but it’s still loot boxes. And that is something that as a whole is detrimental to the video game industry.”
Is putting loot boxes into games an example of centralized decision-making within Valve, or is it decentralized?
“I would like to state upfront I am not an official representative of the company, but I do basically know how Valve makes decisions. Essentially it is a majority rule; not one person at Valve has the power to make a large company wide decision like that.”
What personal characteristic do you consider to be your biggest strength?
“I am very proud of the fact that I have melted my personality with my reporting. Watching a couple of my videos essentially gives you an understanding of who I am. Any video that I release I spend a lot of time thinking about. So, I guess the best thing I bring to the table is that I am a crazy person and never switch off.”
Along the way you wanted get a job at Valve. What kind of position would that be?
“I still do. If I were to be hired at Valve, I could fall into a project that I immediately fall in love with, and end up doing something I never expected to be doing. But at the current time I’d love to be able to write. I would love to open some official communication channels, and to be able to champion the idea to just explain everything that happened up until this point.”
What would happen to your channel in this case?
“ Any professional job that I would go after when I get my degree, will in some way relate to what I currently am doing now, which is games reporting. So, if it is not a job at a video game company VNN will continue. And if I ever get the ‘Valve job’ VNN will probably shut down immediately, simply because of the fact of conflict of interests.”
Lastly, what are your future plans for your Youtube channel?
“I put myself on a schedule that I am not adhering to -but at least I can say I have one- , in which I am doing specific topic videos. Switching between four topics every week, you don’t have to watch any of my videos except those four, and you will be up to date with everything Valve does.”
Because of the length of this interview this article is brought down to the key topics. A video with exclusive footage will be posted below of Tyler McVicker answering several extra questions.
If you would like to get information about everything happening with Valve or have a (personal) question for Tyler, do not hesitate to check out Valve News Network on Youtube.