If you’re going to pick any country in the world to be stuck in, it might as well be New Zealand.
Gabe Newell made a surprise appearance Thursday morning Australian time — on New Zealand breakfast TV. The Valve co-founder was there in March to spruik a free musical concert, and was taking a break just before the shipping of Half-Life: Alyx.
But then when COVID arrived, Newell and the group he was travelling with — which included Alex Riberas, an official racer for Aston Martin and current member of the W Racing Team, and Riberas’ wife Teagan Klein — had 48 hours to make a decision. Do they return home, or do they opt to wait out the COVID-19 crisis in potentially the safest city in the world?
The Valve co-founder opted to wait. Since then, he and his group have been nothing but impressed with the hospitality of our Kiwi neighbours.
When asked why, Newell said it was the spirit of New Zealanders. “This sense that everybody can come together and solve this super-challenging problem, and then be welcoming to us, as COVID refugees, that to me has been extraordinary. There’s the natural beauty, there’s all the fun stuff you can do, but it’s the people that have really made our lives different,” Newell said.
So to say thank you, the trio — with the support of other groups and businesses like WETA Workshop — are helping fund We Love Aoteraora. It’s a free event split into two parts, one for the whole family and another 18-only concert featuring Leisure, The Black Seeds, Frank Booker, and more. There’s even a silent disco as part of the official activities.
Newell explained that he’d had friends at WETA Workshop, who also helped connect Newell with Dean Hall’s Kiwi studio, Rocketwerkz. “Because we had those connection, we’ve continued to connect with more people and discover more things about New Zealand.”
The most difficult part, he mentioned, was being out of touch with friends and family. “It’s a very strange time, it’s very challenging,” Newell said. “They’re very isolated, they aren’t able to go out and take advantage of the environment that New Zealand has created for itself and visitors like us.”
To watch the full breakfast TV interview, head over to TVNZ.