Gaming on Linux
For a long time Linux has been viewed as a poor choice of operating system for any kind of serious gaming, however, in recent years things have progressed to the point, where Linux is in my opinion, a viable system for those interested in gaming, granted there are still some rather significant drawbacks, but those are a minor inconvenience for having an operating system, that you can rely on to be secure, reliable and protect your privacy.
The number of games that support Linux natively has been growing rapidly over the last five years or so, this is largely due to the increased support it has been receiving from major companies like Valve, Unity and Epic who have made significant contributions to gaming on Linux, this, combined with increasing dissatisfaction with Windows means that games are being released with Linux support, more frequently than ever before.
Steam, one of the largest content platforms with a long history of supporting Linux now has over 6,000 native games, this is a relatively small 17.6% compared with the total of 34,000 games, but most importantly this growth only occurred within the last couple of years, current estimates predict up to 1,000 new Linux games being added to Steam each year, so despite the current small number the future of native Linux gaming is looking very promising.
While the future of native gaming is looking good, most people still want to enjoy the games they currently own, fortunately thanks to a huge amount of effort it's possible to run a good percentage of Windows only games on Linux with similar or superior performance, this is accomplished mainly by the Wine software which provides a compatibility layer for all the Windows libraries that are required by Windows games, compatibility varies a lot but currently most directx 9 games are fully supported, there is also reasonable support for directx 10 and 11 games with experimental support for directx 12.
A number of similar projects also exist such as Proton, which is supported by the Steam developers Valve, and Lutris which tries to make things more user friendly, additional compatibility layers are also available like DXVK which translates directx 10 and 11 in to Vulkan, and d9vk which translates directx 9 to Vulkan, all combined this means there is a good chance of getting most Windows games to work.
The main drawback of course is that some experimentation may be required, fortunately there are websites like the wine appdb, Protondb and lutris database that help you determine compatibility, and what settings need to be used to get a game working, the main issue currently is anti-cheat systems which may fail to work but hopefully these problems will be addressed in future.
Gaming in a virtual machine is possible although it does take quite a bit of work to setup, generally you need two monitors and two graphics cards although alternative configurations might be possible, personally I've never had much luck with it but it may be desirable to some as it offers near native performance and almost 100% compatibility, this wiki page provides some details on the process.
Aside from PC games there is a number of very good emulators available for Linux which cover pretty much every system, compatibility in most cases is on par with Windows emulators so it's definitely worth checking out if you want more games to play.
Choice of Distribution
The choice of Linux distribution can make it easier or harder to game on Linux, you generally want something that meets the following conditions:
- Easy to use
- Regular software updates
- Good support
Most people recommend Ubuntu since it's easy to use and fairly well supported, but it doesn't really meet the second condition, while you can get newer software by using third party PPAs it's something I can't really recommend, if you really want to game on Linux I'd recommend something like Manjaro, Arch, Fedora or OpenSUSE.
While it's certainly true there are still some rather significant issues to overcome, each month continues to bring improvements to Linux gaming, I can say with complete confidence that the classic argument that Linux is terrible for gaming will in time be completely untrue, whether through increased native support or software like Wine, eventually we will be able to game on Linux just as well as on Windows, in the meantime with a little effort you can still enjoy gaming on Linux.