Watch this, help the children
Gabe Newell and I have lived very different COVID-19 quarantines. I’ve been chained to my desk blogging about games for the 105th consecutive month. Newell went to New Zealand because it seemed nice, became so enamored that he lobbied the government to let him move Valve there, and then got bored enough to blast a gnome into space.
The gnome, colloquially known to you and me and Gnome Chompski, got there safe and sound. Partnered with Rocket Labs, Valve’s favorite lawn ornament hitched a ride to space as part of the “Return to Sender” mission. Oh, and by “safe and sound,” I mean he’s definitely dead (or will be soon). The rocket is designed to reenter the atmosphere and burn completely. No passengers will survive.
For anyone simply wondering “Why?” there are two good answers. First, it’s the real-life reenactment of a legendary Half-Life 2: Episode 2 achievement where players unlocked “Little Rocket Man” by arduously carrying Gnome Chompski all the way through the episode before finally placing him in a rocket. It’s, to put it mildly, a giant pain in the ass. Gnome Chompski also makes cameos in Half-Life: Alyx and Left 4 Dead 2. Valve likes him a lot.
(Actually, Half-Life 2: Episode 2 got a new Steam achievement as part of the Rocket Labs launch. It’s called “Gnome Alone” and the description reads “If you are reading this achievement, Gabe Newell has successfully launched Gnome Chompski into space. If you did not also receive the achievement ‘Manufacturing Ascent.’ Newell has abandoned his plans to shoot Noam Chomsky into space.” The achievement art is pretty ace.)
The second answer affects people still on this planet. Newell pledged to donate $1 to the Starship Children’s Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand for every person who watches the launch. Right now, that tally sits around 225,000. If you want to help the kids and watch a gnome go all Sally Ride, click that video up top. Hell, refresh it a few times. Gabe’s good for it.