Obviously, Ellen’s great work did not fall on deaf ears, and so, she was nominated for “Best Performance By A Human Female” at the 2011 Spike TV Video Game Awards. Not only that, but Valve received a ton of nominations for Portal 2 itself, as John will tell you:
Valve was up for Best Studio and Portal 2 was up for Best Game, Best XBox 360 Game, Best PC Game, Best Multi-Player Game, Best Song in a Game TWICE (Exile Vilify and Want You Gone), Best Original Soundtrack, Best DLC (I don’t know what THAT means), Best Performance by a Human Male TWICE (Stephen Merchant as Wheatley and J. K. Simmons as Cave Johnson) and, drum roll please, ELLEN MCLAIN AS GLaDOS FOR BEST PERFORMANCE BY A HUMAN FEMALE!!!!
John wrote about the whole VGA experience in a three-parter blogpost series on his own blog. Here’s Part 1, here’s Part 2, and here’s Part 3. But I’m still going to sum it all up. Because I can. That, and my shoulder devil was taking a nap. Lazy bastard.
Obviously, if LambdaGeneration ever received some manner of award or nomination (which is “mathematically unlikely”, as Bob Page of Deus Ex would put it, although perhaps spamming prime numbers in my articles might help me get hired at Valve more easily), we’d jump right on the plane. Well, before that, I’d probably go… rob some people, because buying a plane ticket requires more liquid assets than buying a goddamned tank. But it wasn’t that easy (or rather, that difficult, taking into account the robbing and pillaging on my part) for John and Ellen.
Get this: Ellen didn’t want to go. She’s surprisingly shy at times and compulsively ethical. I mean it. It’s a sickness. If our representatives and senators felt a tenth the ethical compunction Ellen does we would probably all drive cars that run on pure goodness now and live in a society that produces no waste at all, only a pink cloud of effluvia that congeals into unicorns and laughing babies. She had a Christmas concert rehearsal that day. She simply couldn’t let her choir director down. I suggested that perhaps her choir director would be excited for her and want her to go. She didn’t want to risk bringing it up to him. No, no, no. We weren’t going to go.Not only that, we had a book reading at Third Place Books in Seattle for my novel, Dancing with Eternity, the Friday night before the Saturday when the awards show was. [...] We would never be able to squeeze in a trip to L.A. I suggested that in these tempestuous times people travel in jet-propelled aeroplanes that transport them a thousand miles in a couple of hours. No dice. Wasn’t gonna happen. The Christmas concert rehearsal, the book reading. It was all Too Much.
But thanks to John telling Ellen “I’d just like to see you on the red carpet”, the problem was solved rather quickly (on my end, it would have taken a little boat trip to the West Coast… of the Caucausus, for some maritime piracy, after which I’d have to hitch a ride to and across the Suez Canal to get back to civilization), and the two went on their trip to L.A, alongside a few other “Valve denizens”, such as Erik Wolpaw; Jay Pinkerton and his wife, Karla; and Joshua Weier and his wife, Rhiannon. Of course, everyone was really excited:
Palm trees swayed past outside as we discussed who was probably going to win what and why they really shouldn’t, because, let’s face it, Portal 2 was the best game EVER. But the consensus was that Ellen had a real shot at going home with a statuette. The guys had drawn lots as to who was going to have to make a speech if this or that award was won. [...]
The conversation was a wonderful balance of excitement, high spirits and a kind of profound befuddlement that a bunch of esoteric artists from Seattle would be wandering around in the Great Cultural Wasteland. (L.A.: Get over it. You’re the GCW. Everybody knows it. Let’s talk about the elephant in the living room.)
They even got to stay at the Los Angeles Century City Intercontinental, which, frankly, sounds more like a sort of ice cream, rather than a hotel. John even gives some minor dating tips:
Yes, that’s right. I, the voice of The Sniper in Team Fortress 2, can successfully appreciate, select and purchase haute couture for my wife. Advice to young male gamers who nurture the hope of having offspring: learn this craft.
The Love Doctor, John Patrick Lowrie has spoken. Heed his words, for he is married to GLaDOS. And the Administrator, and the Overwatch AI Dispatcher. The gang then took a limo ride to Sony Studios, where they entered… the Twilight Zone?
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.
If that doesn’t inspire pure confidence, I don’t know what will. Oh, actually, I think this will:
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.
Sounds like a party. A… dead one. Of course, by this time, I’d probably still be leaving Dakar in a creaky 1970s era Chinese submarine. The party doesn’t start until Vic arrives. Also, he decided to rent some bodyguards while he was in Niger. The party’s really going to heat up. Just you wait ’till we pass the Panama Canal. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles:
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.
I think one of my Nigerien bodyguards would have unsheathed his machete over that.
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.
My other Nigerien bodyguard would have started shooting his AK into the air over that. Hit the deck, John and Ellen! Those weren’t terribly expensive bullets, and they might shatter.
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.
Well, that was really great! But it’s great to see John and Ellen back home, and away from the vile claws… or filthy ”bowels”, as John put it, of the entertainment industry. But you’re here because the title said something about Half-Life, didn’t you? Well, might as well not keep you waiting, then. In Part 3‘s comments section, this little chat went on between Alex, Noah (Lilgreenman), a fake Noah, and John Patrick Lowrie:
Alex: Have you not done any Half Life 3/Episode 3 voicing? I guess we’ll never see it.
John: No Half-Life 3 stuff yet. Haven’t heard anything.
Real Noah (Lilgreenman): If you had done work on Half-Life 3, what would you tell us if we asked about it?
John: 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.
Fake Noah: So, Half-Life 2 Episode 3 is not in production ? Could you get some info about it ?
John: We’ll be seeing everybody on New Year’s Eve. I’ll ask about it.
The interesting thing is that in a July interview with Impetuous Windmills, John stated he and Ellen had had dinner with Valve animator and artist Bill Van Buren, and that Episode Three was among the table topics. He said nothing more.
This seems to contradict Official Xbox Magazine’s report of a US-based Valve voice actor contacing them regarding voice work on Episode Three. Either that report was falsified and OXM was lying (because I can’t see Valve contacting some random person before they contact the couple that voiced the Overwatch AI and almost every rebel/refugee/citizen in the HL2 series), or John and Ellen are lying. You know… I might go with John and Ellen telling the truth. They’re just too awesome to tell a lie. Of course, that might be exactly what they’re aiming for, but nope. I ain’t taking OXM’s word over John Patrick Lowrie’s word. He wrote a book, you know. And he married GLaDOS. Those are real credentials right there.
Thanks to Lilgreenman, (who was also the first and the real Noah in Part 3′s comments), for tipping us about John’s blog posts.