Ellen gets nominated for a VGA award, Part 3: Into the belly of the beast.

Into the gates of Sony Studios!

Okay, first let it be understood that award shows are to Hollywood as Hollywood is to normal human behavior.  That said, it was still really bizarre.  The thought that kept going through my head the whole evening was, “Reality has LEFT the building.”

As most adventures do, ours started unremarkably, I mean, unremarkably for an event where you all climb into a limousine with your wife dressed to the nines.  I was dressed to somewhere around the six and a halves, but the other Valve guys were exquisitely indifferent to the demands of fashion . . . or were they???  Each had on a sport coat from beneath which sprouted the untucked shirt tails of the devout west-coast proletarian innovator/entrepreneur and the blue jeans legitimized  by billionaire nerds.  The statement they made was unmistakable: We actually do things.  We don’t need to look important, we are important. They made me feel like a counter-revolutionary in my black slacks and moderately expensive belt.  The conversation on the way was laced with sentences like, “Does anybody know what we’re supposed to do when we get there?” and “I hope we’re not too early.  I don’t want us to look desperate.”  All these thoughts were predicated on the assumption that the People in  Charge had a Plan.

As we rolled through the Art Deco gates of the fabled MGM Studios (now owned by Sony) I think we all knew that we weren’t in Kansas anymore.  The driver started to look for other limos and someone in a hat motioned us down a narrow alley lined with what anywhere else would be described as shabby warehouses but were actually sound stages.  They were all painted pristinely white, which made them look like shabby warehouses painted pristinely white.

The Red Carpet!

A crowd of people filled the pavement ahead and we knew we had arrived.  Climbing out of the limo I saw a white inflated archway that made me think of the bouncy rooms they blow up for kids at state fairs and strip mall parking lots, but this portentous portable portico led to the Red Carpet!  Which was white, too.  They seemed to have a thing for white.  It was lined with ravenous paparazzi dressed in black who exhorted us to “Look right in here!  That’s it!”  Ellen and I were the focus of dozens of lenses each owned by someone hoping to make a sale to some gaming mag or show biz tattler.  As we moved down the carpet we were guided by a friendly woman toward various people who wanted to interview the voice of GLaDOS.  Ellen was her gracious self, answering questions with freshness and humor sprinkled with her bell-like laughter.   I was very proud of her but not at all surprised.  As we moved toward the end of the carpet our contact with Spike TV found us and reminded us that Ellen was going to be interviewed on the carpet at 4:35, “because (keep this quiet) you’ve won.”  That’s how we found out.  Just kind of standing around on the white Red Carpet with a bunch of other people who were just kind of standing around.

It was 3:10.  Where could we go while we waited for the interview?  Well, kind of nowhere.  We couldn’t go into the studio because we couldn’t get back out.  We couldn’t wait in the Green Room because that was just for paid presenters.  We kind of had to hang there at the end of the white Red Carpet for the next 80 minutes.  So we got to know a couple of the security guards pretty well.  One of them brought a folding chair for Ellen to sit in.  As we watched other people go in it began to become apparent that it was only 58 degrees outside.  I gave Ellen my jacket.  Paid Presenters started to arrive.  I swear I did not see more than three women with inseams shorter than 40 inches or hips larger than 22.  It was like being on an alien planet.  And the shoes!  Nobody and I mean NObody with two x chromosomes was wearing anything shorter than a six inch heel.  These stratospherically-legged women felt the need to enhance their limb length by donning fashionable prosthetics.

Ellen receives her Vector Monkey, the VGA for best performance by a human female

Over an hour and several celebrities later (Ellen had her pic taken with Mark Hamill and got a great shot of Hulk Hogan’s back) we were summoned to a raised circle where she would be presented with her award.  After holding it for a ninety second chat with a couple of attractive young people who presented it to her she had to present it back (not on camera).  Her actual statuette would be engraved with her name and shipped to her at a later date.  The award was just a prop that was used over and over to each person who won.

But we could finally go inside!  We made our way into the cavernous sound stage that was already rockin’.  In the techno-rock din and chaos our seats were not to be found.  We figured, since Ellen had won best actress they’d want her pretty close to the front.  Nope.  Not even the middle.  Friendly but hurried ushers guided us up to the bleachers in the back to sit and wonder how Ellen was going to make it back down to the stage.  We told people that she was a nominee.  They


replied that they had a plan if she won (we still weren’t supposed to tell anyone).  So we sat and ate some very unfortunate food and avoided drinking Jim Beam and Dr. Pepper in plastic cups (no kidding) while we watched what everyone at home watched: a two hour commercial for future video games with only the briefest and rarest interruptions to present an award.  I believe only three awards were actually presented during the show.  Even though Portal 2 won best PC game, best Multi-player, best performance by a human male, best performance by a human female and best Downloadable Content, a total of five awards, no one from Valve ever took the stage.  No acceptance speeches, nothing but a five second clip in which all the awards Portal 2 had won were listed.

AAAAACK!!!!!! The action never stops at the VGAs!!!

But don’t get me wrong, we had a great time.  We truly did.  It was very entertaining in a sort of apocalyptic-end times-we-don’t-know-what-to-do-but-we’re-gonna-do-it-loud-and-frenetic kind of way.  It was a wonderful, exciting, and absolutely weird experience and I’m so thankful that Ellen and I got to go.  To spend time with our friends at Valve and peer into the heart of Hollywood and the bowels of the entertainment industry was thrilling, unique and unforgettable.  We’re so glad to be back home.

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77 Responses to Ellen gets nominated for a VGA award, Part 3: Into the belly of the beast.

  1. Jim Perkins says:

    I’m really happy for Ellen, you and your moderately expensive belt that y’all are finally and properly recognized by the entertainment industry. Well deserved! And well described! Bravo!

  2. Alex says:

    Awards well deserved, both of you are such brilliant people!

    Glados is brilliantly done and the Sniper is amazing “I’ve slept in the corpse of water buffalo tougher than you!”

    By the way have you guys been doing any more voice acting for Valve?

    • john says:

      We’ve both been doing work on DOTA 2. I think Ellen is 3 characters and I’m 7. So far. They may have us back in.

      • Alex says:

        Nice, too bad I didn’t get a DOTA 2 beta invite 🙁

        Have you not done any Half Life 3/Episode 3 voicing? I guess we’ll never see it.

        • john says:

          No Half Life 3 stuff yet. Haven’t heard anything.

          • Noah says:

            If you had done work on Half-Life 3, what would you tell us if we asked about it?

          • john says:

            Well, while we’re working on a game it’s proprietary and we’re not supposed to say anything. DOTA 2 is already kind of out there so the Valve folks told us it was okay to tell people. But I can tell you this: I wouldn’t lie to you and say I wasn’t working on a project if I was. I simply wouldn’t say anything, or tell you that I couldn’t say anything.

            Ellen and I haven’t heard anything about a new Half Life episode. Wish I had better news for you. I would love to do another episode.

  3. Noah says:

    So, Half-Life 2 Episode 3 is not in production ? Could you get some info about it ?

  4. Felipe says:

    So John, you asked to gabe or someone about hl 3 in new year´s eve??
    Regards from Chile

    • john says:

      Yes, I talked to a couple of people at the party but sadly still no word. Sorry, wish I had more news.

      • Alex says:

        What do you mean? did they just say nothing when you asked or “I can’t say”

        • john says:

          Neither one. They can be wonderfully vague. I think that’s one of their talents. They just went off in other directions and kind of didn’t answer. So I don’t know what that means. At this point in time they are completely caught up in DOTA 2, which I think is going to be pretty huge. They know the fans are interested in a new HL episode. I guess we’ll just have to see what they do. I won’t know until they call me in for something. That’s life in show biz!

          • Alex says:

            Typical Valve reaction!
            Valve: “You’ll hear something about Episode 3 by the end of 2008”

            4 years later Valve: “…”

            Thanks for letting us know John, that’s very awesome of you to ask Valve for us, and fans aren’t interested in a new Half Life Episode, They’re desperate!, the cliffhanger at the end of episode two makes it even worse! Have you finished the Half Life games yet? on interviews you’ve said you was playing them.

  5. john says:

    I have beaten Half Life 2 and Episode 1. I think I’m at the end of Episode 2 but I haven’t beaten it yet. I’ll let the guys know that the fans are desperate for Episode 3!

  6. Brit says:

    I love your blog posts, they’re always so well-written and interesting. =) I’ve always wondered how awards shows go down, and I have suspected they are less glamorous than they appear, but I hadn’t quite suspected it was at a Dr. Pepper and Jim Bean in plastic red cups level, lol. But it still sounds like an amazing experience, and I’m so happy Ellen won. =)

  7. Noah says:

    I think this comments section is now your fan Q&A site. In that case, what role do you think you’ve most enjoyed playing in a video game?

    • john says:

      That’s always tough to answer. I think the three top contenders are the Sniper in TF2, Harold Keegan in F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, and Commissioner Kinsler in Halo: ODST

  8. Finlay says:

    Gah, can’t for the life of me find a copy of Dancing With Eternity in New Zealand. Any stores I could find it in?

    • john says:

      I will ask my publisher about this. I know you can get it on line through amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and iTunes. But I’ll find out about our Kiwi outlets!

    • john says:

      My publisher says it’s available on all the international amazon.coms. I’m not sure what the nearest amazon to you is. If the book is successful enough then someone will pick up the subsidiary rights for your area. That’s what they tell me, anyway!

  9. Tom says:

    Hey John,
    I’m sure every single fan is Dying for the slightest glimmer of Half Life 2: Episode 3, or Half Life 3 news. We have waited over 4 years for another Half Life installment, but not even the slightest bit of news has come out about Half Life. I wish us Fans could do more than just join a Steam group, calling for a glimmer of communication from Valve about anything to do with Half Life. http://steamcommunity.com/groups/messagetovalve — I’m about to die of impatience due to Valve’s Tragic Delays :/
    Thanks John,

  10. Tom says:

    I’m sure everyone would John. Have you joined that group on steam, which I put a link to? If so, you going to be playing Half Life 2, like all the other 40,000 members of that group are?
    I definetly will be. Anything to gets Valve’s attention :).
    Plus I’m sure Valve already knows that every single Half Life fan on earth is Dying for HL3, But one thing they don’t know is, is what it is like to be a Fan waiting/dying for a piece of news!
    Thanks John,

    • john says:

      I did just join the community you gave the link to. I look forward to any news about HL3 as much as you do!

  11. Sunny says:

    This story makes me so happy about everything. I cannot stop grinning. Your wife is very talented and beautiful, and her outfit was killer (well done, sir!), and after seeing your reading on youtube, I’m really looking forward to reading your novel. Thank you two for all of your wonderful work!

    (And personally, I just started Half-Life 2, so Episode 3 can wait until I’ve at least got out of Ravenholm.)

    • john says:

      Hah! I hope you make it out of Ravenholm and I hope you enjoy Dancing with Eternity! Thanks for your response!

  12. Dota 2 Keys says:

    Wonderful items from you, man. I have remember your stuff previous to and you’re simply too excellent. I really like what you have bought right here, certainly like what you are saying and the way in which in which you are saying it. You are making it entertaining and you still care for to keep it sensible. I can not wait to learn far more from you. This is actually a wonderful web site.

  13. Rohan says:

    I know you get alot of people saying this but I cannot believe they have not announced Half Life Episode 3 yet. Like really ive been a fan of valve for so long. I played all Half Life Games, TF2 and I even got the beta key for DOTA 2. I just want some news on Half life 2 episode 3 because it was just a crazy cliffhanger at the end and not only that, it has been a good 4 years. Im speaking out for all the fans out there, we are valve’s longest fan group. All we want and the people who have stuck with your games is communication. Not silence just an answer that we would understand. Its an amazing story line.

    • john says:

      I wish I had something to tell you. Alas, I am a lowly actor and they don’t tell me anything until they need me in the studio. And then when they tell me something they say, “Don’t tell anybody anything,” and make me sign non-disclosure forms ‘n’ stuff. Believe me, I will be as happy as you are if and when I start working on HL2 Episode 3. Let’s hope they move forward on it!

  14. Brennan says:

    Alright, it’s been 5 years now. What have we gotten from Valve? “…”
    I really would take just about anything at this point. I’ve remained silent until now. I’ve just beaten Episode 2 for the 77th time. That’s how diehard I am. I would favor any kind of communication from Valve. A “shut the hell up, there’s not going to be any new Half-Life games from us” would be nice at this point. 🙁

  15. Alex says:

    Me too, I’ve been playing my favourite chapters for the 100th time, like Ravenholm, Anticitizen One, Our mutual friend…

    Anyways I was bored and visited black-aperture.com and I saw this writing …/3
    So what’s up with that?? Still Mr. Gabe Newell trolling?? 🙂

  16. Gene Roddenberry’s widow is well-known for having provided the computer voice for virtually every Starfleet vessel in Star Trek’s long history. What I don’t know, however, is whether she provided the computer voice for the new MMO, Star Trek Online. It /sounds/ like her, but I don’t actually know..

  17. Alex says:

    Hey John, Have you hear anything of a new Half Life yet? Half Life 3 was listed on the Gamescom list but it was then removed. Gamescom organisers say Valve asked for it to be put on there but then wanted it removed. Valve claims they didn’t know about it.

    Have you been recording any Citizens or anything?

    • john says:

      Nope, sorry. I had a conversation with a Valve employee recently about some of the challenges involved in making an HL3, so I know they’re thinking about it, but whether they can solve those challenges or will choose to solve them rather than concentrating on other projects, I just don’t know. They are certainly aware of fan desire to see HL3. We’ll just have to wait and see.

  18. john says:

    Thank you so much for writing, and I agree with you, I do have the most beautiful wife with the most beautiful voice on the planet! 🙂 As to HL, I really have no idea where they are in the development of it or if they are developing it. My friend and I were just having a discussion about the challenges involved. I know fans are anxious for any HL news, but I really don’t have any. Be assured, I’m just as anxious as anyone to see more HL universe. I love working on the games and I love the games. But I am not in the inner circle as far as what Valve may or may not be doing. They just call me in to act when they need me. They are very nice, very funny, very creative people. I’m sure they’ve got lots up their sleeves!

    • john says:

      I don’t know when DOTA 2 will be released, but if you want to play the beta version I can forward your email to someone at Valve who can hook you up.

  19. Jordan says:

    Hey John, any chance of Dancing With Eternity getting on audible?, i would love to listen to the book. But i think you should narrate the audible version!

  20. john says:

    I will definitely bring up the impending mental and emotional collapse of HL2 fans everywhere when I talk to the Valve guys! Ellen and I are on your side, believe me! And remember, my sci-fi novel Dancing with Eternity makes a great Christmas gift! (The preceding was a shameless plug.)

    • john says:

      LOL! I’d love it if you guys came to Bellevue! I think Dancing with Eternity is available on European amazon.com, but I’m not sure. But definitely let Gabe know how you feel about HL!

  21. john says:

    I was in D.C. for MAGFest this New Years so we didn’t get to go to any parties. But MAGFest ROCKED!!!

  22. Harry(Revista Neptunete) says:

    Well,Thanks for information. Last Days Spread for the web a new rumor. Left 4 Dead 3 Leaked. Do you know something?


  23. Nasal says:

    Hi, I also sincerely hope you haven’t gotten in any kind of trouble.

  24. john says:

    No problem. My comments just seemed to cause a whole bunch of confusion and when I tried to minimize the confusion I misspoke and caused a whole bunch more confusion. So I thought it was best just to take the comments down. I know there are lots of fans out there who love all the games we do and are excited to know anything at all about them. The most important thing to know about voice actors is that we’re the last to know anything. We don’t find out about a project until we get hired to do voices for it. What I was trying to say before (and failed) is that whatever Gabe Newell has to say about a project is the best info you’re going to get. He owns the company and knows what’s going on. Sorry that I gave the impression that I know what’s going on. I really wasn’t trying to and I really don’t know. I do know that all the folks at Valve work really hard and their only goal is for gamers to have cool games to play. I doubt that will ever change.

    • Harry(Revista Neptunete) says:

      Sure but If Gabe Newell never answer the emails that We do. We trying find the signal the valve’s future. Valve don’t talk about nothing. Nothing about Source 2, Steam Box or the future of your games. What we hope?

      • john says:

        I certainly understand that you and a lot of people would like more news. I’m sure that when there is news, Valve will let us all know.

  25. The Freeman says:

    Even with the issues, is hard to understand why a company with lots of resources like Valve abandoned their biggest franchise, and seems they don’t care if it dies like what is happening right now. The fanbase is really moving away and, sadly, lots of people don’t care anymore about Half-Life. The long wait and the silence was the worst decision from Valve in their history, personally lost all the hope in the continuity of the saga.

  26. Lorena says:

    John, like someone said before this kind of has became the Q&A session of your blog, so may I ask: Does Dancing with Eternity has the slightest chance of ever getting translated into Portuguese? Or even being sold in Brazil? Thanks in advance, and sorry for the rubbish english.

  27. john says:

    Your English is so much better than my Portuguese! I would love for Dancing with Eternity to be translated into lots of languages. Sadly, it would need to sell many, many more copies for my publisher to be able to afford to do that. I’m sure you can get it from amazon.com in Brazil, at least as an ebook such as kindle. Ellen and I are working on an audio book of DWE that we hope to have out before Christmas.

    • Lorena says:

      Oh, wow, thanks for the compliment! It made my day! (I’m just gonna ignore the fact that it was a joke and accept the fact that my favorite voice actor ever has just a brilliant sense of humor and used it to compliment my english. oh well. couldn’t be happier <3)
      Hopefully I will read/listen to it someday. And one more question: do you have a twitter? I'd love to follow you, but I can't find anything anywhere..
      Anyway. Send my regards to Ellen. Can't wait to watch Pacifim Rim this week! It's gonna be bloody amazing!!

  28. Lawrence says:

    Hi John, I really love your work inside and outside of Valve. I know people probably asked you this question a lot of times, but is there any chance that the Sniper will get more voice lines in the near future (possibly this year)?

    • john says:

      I never know about that stuff until they actually ask me to come in and record. I’d love to do more Sniper!

  29. Hello there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my
    twitter group? There’s a lot of people that I think would really enjoy your content. Please let me know. Many thanks

  30. ítalo says:

    Hi John, your voice as the Sniper on TF2 is so great. Do you ever heard about the Freak Fortress? The fans of TF2 created various, hilarious and psychopaths characters using TF2 models.

    One the most popular characters is the Christian Brutal Sniper. He is awesome! Take a look:




    • john says:

      I have heard of Freak Fortress and I’ve seen some of the characters. Hilarious is right! I love them!

  31. Robert says:

    Hey Mr. Lowrie,

    First I want to graciously thank you guys for the e-mail awhile back ago dealing with portal 2, and the many different V/O character that Mrs. McLain has played over the past few years. I know everyone is hounding you about HL3. However I have a couple of questions outside of HL3. I was wondering for TF2: if you knew about the 15 minute short (in the same vein as meet the team videos) they are making? Also would you want to return to do more VA for the sniper?

    One final question I have is in regards to No One Lives Forever franchise. Do you think there ever will be another one? The last thing I heard on the series was it was stuck in some legal mumbo-jumbo with no one know who has the rights (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/04/09/no-one-lives-forever-rights-nowhere-to-be-found/). I loved the humor it had and actually made me enjoy other games like TF2 which carried. I kind of wished you gotten some more roles to play like your fellow NoLF/TF2 alumni Gary Schwartz did. Nevertheless keep up the good work in both your writing and acting.

    • john says:

      They haven’t told me about any TF2 short they’re making, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t making it. I just don’t know. I’m sure they’ll call me in when they need me. No one has asked about NOLF in a long time. I have no idea if they want to make another one. It seemed like a very successful series. I hope they do.

      And, of course, I’d LOVE to do more Sniper stuff. But Valve makes those decisions. We’ll have to wait and see what they do. Thanks so much for your kind comments!

  32. Pingback: Valve Update: Half Life 3 still a possibility; Voice Actor apologizes | Pixcelation Entertainment

  33. Pingback: Voice Actor Is Sorry For Crushing Your Half-Life 3 Dreams | Kotaku Australia

  34. Harveytherabbit says:

    Can you tell me what the PAX meeting in Seattle is? I don’t mean the itinerary, just a little about what the meeting is for, if you know.

    • john says:

      PAX is just a huge gaming and sic-fi convention, I think. This will be my first time there. Ellen and I will do a voice acting panel on Sunday and then I’ll be on another panel with a guy I did The Suffering with on Monday. It should be fun.

      • Harveytherabbit says:

        Sounds like fun. Wish I could get there. Maybe Valve will have some new work for you. 🙂

        • john says:

          I have a pretty busy fall coming up: always good news for an actor. I’m being directed by a British knight, Sir Alan Ayckbourn, a great playwright, in his play Sugar Daddies. There are also a couple of on camera things in the works and I’m finishing up the audio book of Dancing With Eternity. But I can always fit some voice acting work in!

  35. Harveytherabbit says:

    any news? anything at all? Tell Gabe Newell I said Happy Birthday.

    • john says:

      Ellen and I will be at MAGFest in Washington, D.C. this January and Kiticon in Birmingham, England in March. Also Omni-Expo in Orlando in May.

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