When was the last time you saw a company logo like this? A company logo which immediately inspired a thoughtful reaction of you? When was the last time a logo made you think about what a company does, rather than the name of the company?
A logo serves as a universal representation of a product or brand. A logo exists to give the logo/brand that posseses it an instantly recognizable identity. Valve Software's logo is no exception. What it is the exception to, however, is being only a representation of the name "Valve Software" itself. Using very intelligent atmospheric and artistic design elements that are present in a wide variety of the company's products, Valve has established their logo as a veritable mission statement, symbolizing everything they set out to achieve as a game developer.
With this logo, Valve means to siginify that they are the stimulus for a revolution of how video game players perceive games. The valve is a lever which makes the flow of ideas readily accessible; Valve Software's existence provokes thoughtful interpretations using interactive medium. The valve is present and the flow of innovative ideas will commence when the player begins to move through Half-Life 1. So why is the Valve placed on the man's eye?
This first logo, the one that appears at the start of Half-Life 1, was first revealed in 1998; a time when the N64 and the PSOne were still alive, where the most basic of 3d environments were created. Developers put a focus on managing the existence of these environments, not utilizing their full potential. Using 3d games to communicate an artistic vision a la BioShock, as a three-dimensional painting if you will, would not occur until years later. Half-Life 1 doesn't count because what contributed to the atmosphere was the way the player navigates through the game world, not the game world itself. The story and characters were extraordinary; the environment, Black Mesa, was not. Half-Life 1 was groundbreaking because of the way it influenced perception, not necessarily insight.
It was not until 2007 (when The Orange Box was released) that Valve stopped using this logo. Why? After all, Half-Life 2 and the Source engine had existed for years by the time The Orange Box was released. [EDIT: I've noticed an inconsistency. The old Valve logo was used in Episode One, which was released in 2006. The 360 was already out at that time. I still stand by my analysis, however.]
Because the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3, or rather, the current generation of interactive media technologies did not exist when the old logo was in effect. Games are no longer just places now. They are living, breathing environments with mass and depth, and Valve has changed the representation of their position as a developer (their logo) in accordance with this change.
This man's facial features, while obviously present, are not immediately distinguishable. Instead of a system which involves only the components of the man's skin-deep sensory reactions, this valve allows thought to flow through the system of the mind, which accumulates and contrasts the senses gathered by the components of the man's face. While perception plays a role, it is secondary to the processes of the mind. Valve has again made creative use of texture and detail as to instil a thought provoking atmosphere, as is done with games such as Half-Life 2. The difference is that this time the system occurs in a different sector, and the way insight circulates throughout the mentality of those who play Valve's games has been subjected to variations. Another point of reference is that the scalp of the man reflects light into the eyes of others, not the eyes of the man himself. This reflection is recieved by our eyes and helps the flow of insight continue without inhibition, as our eyes are part of the system of the mind. In this second logo, the beginning of the system is not located at a facial feature, so the system can not be self-contained and we as gamers are forced to contrast our views with other gamers. In the case of modern gaming culture, there is a greater interdependence amongst the ideas of all gamers than ever before. Through the creation of the second logo and the establishment of Steam, Valve has taken note of this.
Am I completely bullshitting myself? Does Valve Software just like using plumbing terminology to give itself a name? Perhaps. Even so, there is an aspect of these two logos with undeniably segregates them from the crop and and they deserve recognition thereof.