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Valve celebrates two decades of Steam with memes

Steam’s 20th anniversary page is a nostalgia-filled time capsule

A graphic featuring Valve game characters impersonating classic memes Image: Valve
Alice Newcome-Beill (she/her) is a commerce writer, and she has been writing about gaming and tech since 2005. Prior to Polygon, she worked at publications such as The Verge.

Let’s all take a moment to reflect on how much we despised Steam when it first launched.

The online game platform first opened its doors on Sep. 12, 2003. Behind its now trademarked olive drab facade, Steam initially felt like another piece of copyright protection. Remember, at the time, we were all still wearing animal pelts, and mostly purchasing physical copies of our games off store shelves, so why did we need to run the game through a dedicated portal handled by the game’s publisher?

At launch, Steam only supported a handful of first-party Valve titles, but it then quickly became the default method for delivering the growing library of mods for the freshly minted Source engine. That legacy continues today by offering developers a widely-used platform to showcase and distribute their work.

The official 20th-anniversary page provides a year-to-year snapshot of the most popular games on Steam, punctuated by some of the best-known Valve characters impersonating the dankest memes to grace the internet over the past 20 years. Each one is lovingly illustrated by Claire Hummel. Several of these illustrations are even available as animated stickers from the Steam Points Shop.

Regardless of how we might have felt about Steam 20 years ago, the platform has transformed itself into the default way that many PC users find new games to play, and Valve has since become concerned with developing new hardware (and, seemingly, not so much with making new games). But if this means getting a sequel to the already excellent Steam Deck, I’m all about it.

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