Its also interesting to note that in regards to anime, piracy helped grow the base fandom but, in most cases it did not lead to increased sales. A few years ago many localization companies had to shut their doors at the high of the anime craze because they just couldn't sell enough product and most of their fans would rather download anime in bulk for free then buy a legal dvd.
my advise to Erin, it sucks but very few people get to hired at valve as their first industry job. Unless you are super talented (and while talented you aren't mind blowing awesome) you have to work your way up to places like valve. I'm sure there are other companies in the area who would love to talk to you and can get you started. Once you have a few published game credits in your belt you will be much more likely to get a call from valve.