Valve's learning sign language for Half-Life 2: Episode 3

8:30 PM on 08.07.2009

Jim Sterling

Former Reviews Editor

Valve's Gabe Newell has been moving his hands around in very fast, repetitive motions in a room full of people. By that, I of course mean that he's been practicing sign language, and is looking at how to implement it in videogames, most notably Half-Life 2: Episode 3.

Why is Gabe doing this? First of all, it's a bid to develop and improve animation in videogames. Secondly, it fits in with Half-Life heroine Alyx Vance's backstory. She knows sign language, and Valve wants her to pull it off convincingly. 

"[Alyx] had a crush on someone who was hearing impaired, so she taught Dog how to sign so she could practice," explains Newell. "Something happened, maybe, the person is off fighting the Combine someplace else, but that's why she and Dog would start signing with each other when they wanted to communicate without making noise, or communicate without other people knowing ... It gave us the excuse to build the technology for signing."

This sounds like it'll be an incredibly ambitious undertaking for Valve's animators, especually given the nuances of sign language. It would be a very positive step forward for videogames, with potentially far-reaching implications, so I hope they pull it off. Check out a video of Gabe in action here. Video credit and image belongs to Samuel Sandoval.

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