While my go-to personal computer has been a Mac for a long time I’ve used Linux (mainly Ubuntu) off and on since probably Hoary (5.04). I remember back then you could ask Canonical to send you CDs, and I’d order packs of them. There’s probably still a few around my parents’ house! Getting it to install was one of my early computer achievements, as I was only just getting into writing software back then and it was all on Windows at the time. Of course, I’ve used Linux (many flavors, lots of RHEL) in my career since and gotten quite comfortable working on it as a server operating system, but I never really got the hang of using it as my personal desktop for one reason: games.
I have been a PC gamer since I was a child, and that meant until very recently you needed to use Windows. Microsoft has put a lot of effort into making Windows work for gaming from the well recieved (PC Game Pass) to the poorly recieved (Games for Windows Live). Bolstered by their efforts to make even ancient Windows 95 software still work on modern Windows in 2023, PC games by default target that system. This is still true, and will likely be true for a very long time.
In 2023, I decided to try again after getting a Steam Deck. I hadn’t been using my gaming PC for a few months and dropped the latest Ubuntu (Lunar) on it. To my surprise, things mostly just worked!
Most of my gaming year has been spent on Cyberpunk 2077 and Path of Exile. Both work nearly flawlessly on my newly built gaming PC. I was even able to mod Cyberpunk! To test Linux against one of Windows’ strengths I dabbled in playing some much older games like Unreal Tournament and Diablo. UT worked as well as I remember, and there’s even an open source set of patches for it. Diablo has a full engine replacement!
The benefits are massive so far. I can use the skills I already have to improve my experience and fix things. I generally know how to troubleshoot things on a Unix-like system, and I have real scripting languages to automate tasks. I’ve written other scripts to customize Ubuntu’s default Gnome desktop to work in a way that is better for me. I use a handy open source tool to implement macOS-like keyboard shortcuts.
Is it flawless? Not quite. Some games, generally online multiplayer games that use custom anti-cheat or kernel level monitoring don’t work. For the first few months I would check ProtonDB first to see if a game worked but as time went on and I had so few issues I’ve mostly stopped doing that except for games that are more niche.
Massive props to the Linux community, and to Valve for supporting Proton so well that I can finally say that this is my year of the Linux desktop.