As anyone who browses this site and others like it regularly, GamerGate and its strongest supporters are a diverse bunch. We don’t agree on everything, nor should we. But if we agree on just one thing, it would be that gamers have every right to play the games that we want to play, the way we want to play them.
We are, ultimately, a movement dedicated to human freedom. And with that goal in mind, I argue that those of us who really want to be free to live up to this admirable goal of playing games as and when and how we want, should strongly consider switching to using open-source platforms.
Modern gamers are quite spoiled for choice when it comes to having the “right” platform for pursuing our recreational ends. We have the ability to switch between Sony’s PlayStation, Microsoft’s Xbox, and Nintendo’s Wii and Wii-U… and those are just the standalone consoles. Each one of these manufacturers also has mobile offerings available. If we wish to choose a completely different route altogether, we can go with Apple’s iOS, which I personally would not do, given how thoroughly I loathe Apple’s “walled garden” approach to handling the end-user, but hey, that’s me.
Many—if not most of us—use multiple platforms from multiple vendors; for instance, I currently have an Xbox 360 (which I’m looking to get rid of soon), a new Xbox One, and a nearly 7-year-old Wii, from which I can pick and choose what I want to play, when I want to play it.
Quite simply, gamers have never before had so much freedom to be gamers—with one very notable exception.
Enslaving The PC Master Race
The advantages that PC gaming platforms have over consoles are well known. Unlike a console, you can upgrade a PC as often and as thoroughly as your imagination, your wallet, and your motherboard’s specs allow, and you can always get more or better versions of all three. You don’t have to wait five or seven years until manufacturers like Sony or Microsoft deign to grace you with a new console that can do all of the things that technology allowed PCs to do years ago.
Annoyed with the fact that your PC rig can only do 50 fps instead of 60? Upgrade your video card. Irritated with the fact that you have to make do with only a 6.1 surround sound system when all of your buddies have a 7.1 setup? Upgrade your sound card and get some new speakers. Your Xbox 360 made Crysis 2 look flat and dull? Get a new monitor and trick out your gaming rig so that you never have to give the wrong answer to the classic question, “yeah, but can it run Crysis?”
As a member of the PC Master Race, you have nearly unlimited freedom that the console untermenschen do not. You can do whatever you want, you can create whatever you need. Your powers are limitless!!!
Except for one tiny little detail.
Until fairly recently, you were stuck using Microsoft WinDOZE as your operating system… i.e. the software that makes your computer more than just a random grab-bag of very expensive and shiny bits of metal.
Yes, you would have had to make do with Microsoft’s bloated, insecure, slow, flabby, stupid, ugly, buggy, miserable, joyless, lumpen excuse for an operating system, that headache-in-a-box that we know and hate today as “Windows.”
Now, to be as fair as possible to Microsoft—which, believe me, is extremely difficult—they have done quite a lot right over the years when it comes to making operating systems. Windows XP was and remains one of the finest operating systems ever released; indeed, it probably remains the high point of Microsoft’s achievements from an end-user point of view. Windows 7 is pretty good, too; if I have to use Windows, I’d rather use Win7 than that galactically stupid amalgamation garbage known as Windows 8, with its atrocious, infuriating, surely-this-must-have-been-designed-by-VOGONS interface.
And don’t even get me started on the sheer horror of having to use Microsoft’s native web browser, Internet Exploder.
The biggest problem by a mile with Windows is that it doesn’t let you do what you want with your PC. While on the surface Windows is pretty customisable and flexible, it doesn’t let you play with more than the basics, and locks you out of some of the most important core functions that any power user should always have access to in order to maximise his enjoyment of his own hardware and software.
This, for a free-thinking gamer, simply will not do.
May The FOSS Be With You
What if I told you that you could, in the span of a few hours:
- Download a fast, modern, fully-featured operating system that can do everything that Windows can—in some cases, more—completely free;
- Install that same OS in under 30 minutes and be up and running immediately thereafter, without spending the rest of time waiting for the system to update;
- Be able to play great retro games through the use of a desktop compatibility layer called Wine that supports some of the greatest FPS and combat-sim games ever made;
- Be able to play modern games using Steam’s universal compatibility layer software;
- Never have to worry about Microsoft’s insane amounts of under-the-hood bloatware slowing down your system;
- Be able to employ snazzy desktop effects, widgets, and apps to make your computer sing and dance in ways that make Windows look like a triple-amputee by comparison;
- Run your entire system through the use of a command-line interface to achieve speed and productivity levels that Windows users can only dream and weep about;
- Choose from hundreds of programs and applications that can be installed with a simple set of commands or a few button-clicks, without any of the ridiculous hassles that Windows users constantly face with newer versions of the system;
I have been a Linux user for the last 8 years, and members of my family use it daily. I know of what I speak when I say that, in terms of flexibility, freedom, and user-friendliness (especially nowadays with Windows 8’s godawfully stupid interface), modern Linux distributions like Ubuntu and Linux Mint are leaving their rivals behind.
However, once again, in the interests of fairness, I do have to admit that Linux cannot, at present, do a few things that Windows can.
For instance, you can’t run Visual Basic code in Linux with 100% compatibility between LibreOffice and Microsoft Excel. If you’re proficient at programming Excel spreadsheets and macros (as I am), then LibreOffice and its openBasic standard won’t be of much use: the languages are sufficiently different as to require completely different programming mindsets.
If you’re a graphics designer, then Linux’s Gimp image editor isn’t going to give you anything like the same level of power and speed that Adobe’s PhotoShop will… and the latter does not currently support Linux.
The biggest problem with switching to Linux, though, is and will always be hardware compatibility.
There was a time when most hardware manufacturers for the components that really matter to a gamer—video cards, sound cards, motherboards, NICs, and wireless adapters—didn’t bother producing device drivers for free open-source software (FOSS) operating systems like Linux, FreeBSD, or OpenSolaris. Thanks to companies like Hewlett-Packard and Nvidia, this has changed considerably, but those who use or want to use open-source software are still restricted to some extent in terms of hardware choices.
Even so, the real beauty of Linux is that you can always “try before you buy.” In other words, you can always use a live USB to boot your system straight into Linux (or any other FOSS system) and see whether that distribution recognises your hardware. If it doesn’t, you can always download the latest drivers directly from the manufacturer. If you’re forced to resort to building drivers from source code, you can do that too, though I don’t recommend it for anyone other than advanced power users.
Once you’ve got the right hardware, the right operating system—I highly recommend Linux Mint using the KDE desktop interface—and the right attitude, though, the sky is your limit.
Gone are the days when Linux games were crappy imitations of AAA blockbuster titles available only for Windows. These days, you can play those same titles on Linux, thanks to vendors like Steam and Good Old Games. You can dual-boot into Windows if certain titles just won’t work on Linux. You can install Windows and Mac virtual machines within Linux to run games that are strictly native only to those platforms.
In other words, you can experience the joys—and the responsibilities, and difficulties—of true freedom.
If that concept means anything to you at all—and if you support GamerGate, and by extension Reaxxion, it does—then consider putting no money at all where your mouth is, and make the switch to Linux gaming.