I'm a huge fan of gaming and my preferred PC Operating System family is Linux, so naturally, I would love to see Linux based OSes continue to be supported long into the future of gaming. Unfortunately, there are several hurdles to Linux becoming mainstream for gaming and one of them, unfortunately is the Linux Community.
The Linux community is an absolutely awesome community when taken as a whole. We try to be helpful to newcomers, do whatever we can to promote our platform in constructive and respectful ways, and even will "foot the bill" to get things working for our users if necessary.
That said, there is one area of the Linux community that can be a turnoff or down right toxic at times..... The Linux Gaming community.
The larger community as a whole has been built around the concept of "Software Freedom" where all source code for all software is free to the user/customer to do as he pleases with it once he has purchased it. It's simply a part of who we are as a whole. Not everyone has the same passion for pushing "Software Freedom" the way the FSF, EFF, or personalities like Richard Stallman do, but we all share that passion at some level.
Here's the problem though, the gaming industry has never been built on Software Freedom and probably never will be. That doesn't mean we shouldn't fight for it, but it does mean we need to step back as a gaming community and think about the best way to encourage Software Freedom in the Gaming Industry.
The Linux gaming community has several "mantras" (for lack of a better term) that we live by. Some, like "No tux, no bux" is perfect as it's simply us, as customers, voting with our wallet. Others, like "DRM-free or it didn't happen" or "I refuse to use Steam" are absolutely NOT stances we can continue to take if we ever want Linux to continue to become a more viable gaming platform.
We as a community need to realize what our position is in the market, what steps can we take to make that market more appealing (such as compromise), and how to then (once we have a solid and reliable foothold) encourage Software Freedom after the fact.
Realize our position
Let's face it.
The Linux gaming market has gotten magnitudes better in the last few years, much of it thanks to efforts on Valve's part, but there is still a long way to go. The Linux market now has 1000s of games available for download, but with a few exceptions, that market is flooded largely by Strategy, Tower Defense, Roguelite/Rogue-like, Point and Click Adventure, and "Digital Novel" games. The most popular genres are still lacking in many options. FPS/Shooters, MMOs, RPGs (of all kinds), and many more (both indie and AAA) are still lacking more than a handful of well known titles.
We are still not in any position to be making demands of developers or publishers. As much as we'd like "Native-only", "DRM-free" games and not have to buy any games through Steam, we don't have that kind of market power. If this were a business proposal, we'd be laughed out of the room. We simply do not have the weight needed to require anything from developers other than a working and performant game.
Our best bet right now is to re-evaluate how much we like gaming and if it is worth making some compromises to get where we want/need to be to begin affecting change to the industry.
As mentioned in the last section, we all prefer "DRM-free" games that are developed "Natively" for Linux, but we don't have the market weight to demand that.
Right now we need to compromise. We need to decided if we value gaming enough to suspend or choose to not apply some or all of our software freedom values to the gaming space.
Some of you will say that "If we don't make a stand now, they'll always walk over us". We have a saying at work that I love to quote: "99% of technology problems are people problems." In other words, in order to affect change we need access to people we can work with the make the change. Right now we don't have that access.
The gatekeepers of the gaming industry are still the AAA developers and right now most of them still don't see value in Linux as a platform. For this to change, we need to start showing them in the only way they know - with our wallets.
This, of course, means "no tux, no bux" and don't buy games you won't play as that will report false data back to developers and publishers as well. Instead, start making compromises. We will have to start buying game with some (or all) of the following properties:
- They are only available on Steam/GOG/Humble/Itch/Insert Store Here. So we buy from there to give them support and show a presence.
- Buy the game we want, even if it has crappy DRM.
- Accept that the gaming industry may never become largely OSS/FOSS centered as general tech. Game Devs and Publisher hold tightly onto their creations. Accept it.
- Buy games, even if the "port" uses a WINE wrapper or DX -> OGL translator.
- And, for the love of everything, don't wait til sales to do your game shopping. See this recent Extra Credits video on Game Dev costs. Games are, more or less, already being sold for a loss. Waiting only for sales makes that worse.
It will take a long time, but I believe that we can use some/all of these compromises (there aren't that many).
Encourage Software Freedom
Once we have established ourselves as a sustainable market for gaming, we can then start working with those in the Gaming Industry to encourage Software Freedom values (such as DRM-free) where we can. As much as it sucks, money talks more (and in many cases first) in Industry than common sense or logic.
I personally am not the person to describe the best way to do this as I am only one person and am fairly new to the community. But I believe the community, as a whole, can come up with a great plan.
There are a few of you that will claim that we cannot sacrifice our values to get a little of what we want, but I will tell you now, if we always "Go for broke", then more often then not, we will end up broke.
Of course, I am just one person, with one set of experiences, and my opinion is my own. This is meant more as a discussion starter.
Until next time!