Marc Laidlaw

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Marc Laidlaw (born 1960) is an American writer of science fiction and horror and also a former computer game designer with Valve Corporation. He is perhaps most famous for writing Dad's Nuke and The 37th Mandala, and for working on the popular Half-Life series.[1]


Laidlaw was born in 1960 and raised in Laguna Beach, California and attended the University of Oregon, where he tried, and was discouraged by, punched card computer programming. He wrote short stories and his first novel, Dad's Nuke, was published in 1985. This was followed by several more novels over the next decade, but he worked as a legal secretary in San Francisco for a living.

Laidlaw had played computer and arcade games, but was not intrigued. It was not until Myst that his perception of these games changed. He obsessed over Myst and bought a new computer so that he could play it at his San Francisco home. With his new-found interest, he wrote The Third Force (1996), a tie-in novel based on the world created by the Gadget computer game. His favorite PC game of all time is Thief: The Dark Project. (interview)

Working with game designers led him to feel that he wanted to help design an actual game. He joined Valve Software while they were developing Half-Life (1998) and worked on the game's story and level design. At Valve, he later worked on Half-Life's expansions and Half-Life 2. He announced his departure from Valve in January 2016, stating the primary reason for his departure was his age, and planned to return to writing his own original stories.[2]


Laidlaw has also written dozens of short stories.

He has a series about a bard named Gorlen, who has been cursed with a Gargoyle hand:

  • Dankden (October/November, 1995, Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine)
  • Catamounts (September, 1996, Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine)
  • Childrun (August, 2008, Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine)
  • Quickstone (March, 2009, Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine)
  • Songwood

The books, The Orchid Eater, The Third Force and The 37th Mandala, are present inside Gordon Freeman's locker in the first level of the Half-Life computer game, presumably as a reference to Laidlaw's involvement in the plot and level design. Also, in the locker room, there is a locker with the name "Laidlaw" on it.

A book, supposedly by Laidlaw, The Extreme Aggrotato, is seen in Half-Life 2 in Dr Eli Vance's lab.


  1. Half-Life: Counter-Strike (PC)
  2. Kerr, Chris (January 8, 2016). "Half-Life writer Marc Laidlaw leaves Valve after 18 years". Gamasutra. Retrieved January 8, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

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