Eric Wolpaw began his career as a video game journalist by founding the website Old Man Murray as well as freelancing for other video game websites such as GameSpot. He was then hired as a writer by Double Fine Productions and worked on Psychonauts. In 2005, he joined Valve and has written dialogue and story for nearly every major Valve game since. Incidentally, Gabe Newell hired him based on his indie concept, Alien v/s Child Predator, and wasn't even aware of Psychonauts at the time.
In 2006, he shared the Game Developer's Choice Award for best writing with Tim Schafer for his work on Psychonauts. At the 2007 GDC, he gave a well received speech on writing in video games, along with his fellow Valve employee Kim Swift. They talked about the story development in Portal and here is an excerpt from that talk which was covered by Gamasutra :
Wolpaw introduced the “crackpot theory” which led to this integration: The feeling that games tell two stories: the “story-story” and the “gameplay-story.”
“If you lower the delta (the closer you bring them together)," he said, "it makes the game more satisfying.” So Portal’s narrative design goals were to have a “story-story” that never intruded on, or contradicted, the “gameplay story.” And to do that, less is more: “we were ruthless about trimming the fat.”
Bio at valvesoftware.com:
Erik Wolpaw's father attended Yale, became a successful lawyer, got disbarred, lost everything, and went to jail for a while. Later, he and Erik lived in a horrible ghetto apartment where Erik used the Yale Alumni magazine to smash cockroaches. From this inauspicious start, Erik eventually went on to not graduate high school. Now he writes dialog for video games such as Psychonauts and Portal. Prior to that he was a freelance writer and before that he co-founded Old Man Murray. It's not like he's a surgeon or anything, but it's not too bad, considering.
- Once compared writing stories for video games to "guy who talks between the nude girls at strip clubs". [ Source]
- Has had enough of all the cake jokes. [ Source]
- Erik invented the " Crate Review System" with Chet Faliszek, which rates games based on a "Start to Crate" timer. The shorter the time, the worse the game.
- The creator of the often-mentioned "Wolpaw's Law" for game reviews. While freelancing for GameSpot, Erik would often be assigned some of the worst games ever made for review. During this time, he turned in at least one review where he essentially said that he didn't finish the game and didn't need to finish it in order to determine its awfulness. He supported this claim by saying that even if the payoff or ending was excellent, it wouldn't be enough to redeem everything that had preceded it. Secondly, that even if he had played the game to completion, the review for the game would ultimately be no different. His colleagues at Gamespot (including Brad Shoemaker, Jeff Gerstmann, Ryan Davis and Greg Kasavin) determined that "Wolpaw's Law" was an acceptable reason to not finish a game before completing and publishing a review on it. "Wolpaw's Law" was also employed by Erik Wolpaw while reviewing games on Old Man Murray. One example of this included his review for Freedom: First Resistance where Mr. Wolpaw spent his entire review blaming the game for blowing up his monitor.
- Erik Wolpaw on Valve's collaborative process: "Valve talks a lot about “collective design process this” and “collective design process that” to the point where, if I were me before I worked here and stopped swearing so much, I’d be like, this is some fake-ass marketing-ass Bigfoot-ass legendary bullshit. But, honest-to-God, I’ve seen it with my own eyes." [ Source]