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Marc Laidlaw

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For other uses, see Laidlaw (disambiguation).

Marc Laidlaw
Marc Laidlaw.jpg
Biographical information


  • Writer
  • Poet
  • Video game designer
  • Occasional mapper[2]
Time period

July 1997[3] – 2016[4]

"I expect lots of HL influence on future games, but I also expect that only Valve will really deliver the particular kind of thrills you'll get in Half-Life. I'd be happy if this game merely encouraged other developers to be more ambitious about figuring out some new thing they ought to do, instead of doing imitations."
― Marc Laidlaw[5]

Marc Laidlaw is an American writer of cyberpunk-oriented science fiction and horror as well as a video game designer who worked at Valve Software. He is perhaps most famous for writing Dad's Nuke and The 37th Mandala, and for working on the popular Half-Life series.


Laidlaw was born in 1960 and raised in Laguna Beach, California and attended the University of Oregon where he tried, and was discouraged by, punch card computer programming. He wrote short stories and his first novel, Dad's Nuke, was published in 1985. This was followed by several more novels over the next decade, but he worked as a legal secretary in San Francisco for a living.[6]

Laidlaw had played computer and arcade games, but was not intrigued. It was not until Myst was released that his perception of these games changed. He was obsessed over Myst and bought a new computer so that he could play it at his San Francisco home. With his new-found interest, he wrote The Third Force (1996), a tie-in novel based on the world created for the video game Gadget. His favorite PC game of all time is Thief: The Dark Project.[5]

Working with game designers led him to feel that he wanted to help design an actual game. He joined Valve in July 1997[3] while they were developing Half-Life and worked on the game's story and level design. At Valve, he later worked on the Half-Life's expansions (even though his precise input is not clearly known) and Half-Life 2 and its episodes. The latter episodes were co-written with the creators of Old Man Murray, Erik Wolpaw and Chet Faliszek, whom he shares an office with at Valve. All three also co-wrote the story for Portal. He states about Wolpaw and Faliszek on his personal blog that "for years, Chet and Erik were legendary figures of mythic status to me. They still are, except now I can throw things over my shoulder and hit them."[7]

On Valve's official website, his function is described as follows: "Marc Laidlaw joined Valve in [summer[8]] 1997, bringing his experience as an author of weird fiction to bear on creating the Half-Life storyline. He was sole writer on Half-Life and Half-Life 2, and persists as lead writer for the Half-Life 2 Episodes, although he is now accompanied by an actual literary posse in the form of Chet and Erik. His novels include Dad's Nuke, Neon Lotus, Kalifornia, The Orchid Eater, and the award-winning The 37th Mandala, as well as The Third Force (a novel set in the world of the surreal Japanese videogame, Gadget)."[9]

On January 8, 2016, it was announced that Laidlaw had resigned from Valve after 18 years at the company, citing a need "for a break from the collaborative chaos of game production," in place of individual writing projects. The consequences of his resignation on the future of the Half-Life series remain to be seen, Laidlaw himself stating that "where Valve may choose to take [Half-Life] in the future is not in my hands."[4]


  • His name appears in Half-Life as an Easter egg on a Sector C locker. Also, in Gordon Freeman's locker, two actual books by Laidlaw, The Orchid Eater and The 37th Mandala, can be found. The Third Force can also be seen seen in the game files, but is not seen in-game.
  • Mirroring Half-Life, another book by Laidlaw, The Extreme Aggrotato, can be found in Eli's lab at Black Mesa East, although it is fictional.
  • Laidlaw created several experimental maps during the development of Half-Life 2, including ickypop[10] and nether_01.[11]
  • Marc is aware of the existence of Combine OverWiki and visits it periodically. Qualifying the wiki as "clearly creative", he admires the energy brought to the creative efforts of the Half-Life community, also citing Concerned and Garry's Mod. He adds that it is "great to be even peripherally a part of so much energy".[12]
  • Marc has a Twitter account called BreenGrub. It's used by him to publish his non-canon fan fiction story set in the Half-Life universe.

See also[edit]


  1. Marc Laidlaw's personal website
  2. WC map pack
  3. 3.0 3.1 Press Release on Blue's News (July 14, 1997)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Marc Laidlaw on his retirement (January 8, 2016)
  5. 5.0 5.1 Interview with Marc Laidlaw on Gaming Nexus (October 27, 2003)
  6. Laidlaw, Marc by Franco Ricciardiello (biography in Italian)
  7. Not So Few Monstrosities : Links
  8. Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 33
  9. The Valve team
  10. YouTube favicon.png ickypop playtrough on YouTube
  11. YouTube favicon.png nether_01 playtrough on YouTube
  12. Marc's comments under the note "Why So Little Zothique?" on his personal blog

External links[edit]