The Gaming Paradox: There just aren't enough Free and Open Source video games

I support Free and Open Source software, including video games, but can't stop playing proprietary, closed-source games.

Linux gaming open source video games
WarioandWaluigiClub (Creative Commons BY or BY-SA)

I have, of late, become rather inflexible in my demand for Free and Open Source Software in all aspects of my life.

Hell. I'm even at the point where I can't seem to write the words "Free Software" without capitalizing the first letters of each word. Free. Software. See? Can't do it. And I just tried REALLY hard.

What's become of me? I've turned into one of those FOSS-thumping goofballs I used to make fun of.

But I do seem to have one weakness. One thing that keeps pulling me back to the warm, yet constrictive, embrace of proprietary software: Games.

I love video games. My childhood memories are wall-to-wall games. I spent a large portion of my past career as a software developer working on games. In my house there are life-size statues of Mario and Fox McCloud. For several years my dining room table consisted of three cocktail arcade tables pushed together (Pac-Man, Arkanoid, and Space Duel).

And it's not just me. My wife used to work for Nintendo and is the one personally responsible for the Mario statue. Because she's awesome.

Suffice to say, "The Lundukes like games."

And most games are… not Free. Not Open. (Oh, jeeze… I capitalized the "O" in "Open." Someone needs to stop me and end this madness.) The temptations are everywhere. Everywhere, I say! And, no, before you say it… no. The Free Software games of the world, while truly fantastic, simply are not enough.

Limiting myself to a strict diet of only Free Software games is the equivalent of only allowing yourself to see Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith… and no other Star Wars movie. Ever. Yeah. Let that sink in for a moment. Sounds horrible, right?

That's what it's like keeping closed, proprietary games out of my life. And that really flies in the face of my personal stance on all software needing to be Free.

Richard Stallman wrote, "Nonfree game programs (like other nonfree programs) are unethical because they deny freedom to their users." Which is pretty unambiguous.

On the flip-side, there are companies like Valve (with Steam) and Nvidia (with their Shield line) that are enabling some amazing, but proprietary, games to come to Linux (I still haven't managed to make myself write it as "GNU/Linux"... I still think that looks goofy as a name). All of which lets me feel a bit better about playing these closed games.

By buying games written for, and running on, a Free Software platform… I am helping to encourage further development, testing, and usage of that platform. Which is good.

But I'm also buying and supporting companies (and individuals) making proprietary software. Which probably isn't going to help encourage them to migrate to a Free Software model. So that's not as good.

Ah, bag it. Sometimes you just need to have a vice, right? Closed Source games can be one of mine. Time to go play Minecraft with my kid.

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