The State of Linux Gaming…and the Linux Desktop

There has been high drama in the Linux community over the past day. If you did not know, Linus Tech Tips posted a video of himself trying to install Linux on his computer and use it as his daily driver. Spoiler alert: It did not go well.

If you don’t know Linus Tech Tips, he is one of the most popular channels in the technology category on YouTube. The fact that he has millions of subscribers means that Linux will finally get some real exposure to the average PC user. There was a lot of excitement among the Linux community when he first announced that a video would be made of him using Linux as his daily driver.

Well, in case you don’t want to watch the whole video. It shows an absolute catastrophe on the current state of the Linux desktop. The install process seemed to go well for Linus, but the result of him trying to actually install Steam actually nuked his desktop. For the experienced Linux user, this was painful to watch. For the average PC user, they probably won’t even want to try this.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Linux. I use Fedora as my daily driver, and run Debian on my home server to run my smart home and NAS. Linux for me was a great alternative to Windows and MacOS. Linux has less bloat, is better with privacy, and is more stable. I am by no means an expert though, I learned Linux because I ran it in my home lab and eventually used it on my personal PCs (yes I even streamed on Twitch on my Linux machine). I know what it is like being a complete newbie though, and I know how difficult it still is to run games on my Linux machines.

Sure you can run games on Linux, but per the video, steam should not be trivial to install. Linus was doing what any average user would do, go into the app store and attempt to download the program. Linux gurus will tell me that the command line is far superior, and I know it is but the average PC user should not be bothered with needing to use the command line! Just imagine asking a Windows user to use Powershell, 99% of Windows users will never need to use Powershell. Everything should be easily done in a GUI. Developers take notice, there needs to be some consistency in Linux Desktop Environments where everything can easily done in the GUI.

We know that Linux can now run a lot more games through Proton, which is being developed by Valve. This has a long way to go though. Many AAA games simply don’t run on Linux, and that turns away a lot of gamers already. Don’t even get me started on the current state of Nvidia drivers and Linux! Valve does plan to release the Steam Deck in early 2022, which will be running Linux with Proton. I am hoping this speeds up development of Proton, so that it can run more games and hopefully run them more smoothly.

The part of the video where installing Steam removes the desktop environment in Pop!_OS (the Linux distribution being used) is the most painful to watch. This type of bug should never have made it to the stable repositories at all. I later found out that the bug is actually in the ISO that you download right off of the Pop!_OS website, which makes it even more unacceptable. The response from Jeremy Soller, principal developer of Pop!_OS, on the bug was a very Linux expert response:

Linux developers need to realize that the “app store” needs to work properly, and even when using that, an install of one of the most popular programs should never uninstall the desktop environment. Can you imagine if Microsoft Office removed the Windows desktop? Or if Final Cut Pro removed the MacOS desktop? The fact that Jeremy Soller mentioned that a normal user should ask for help in Github just shows how disconnected we are from the average user. Most average PC users probably don’t know what Github even is.

So Linux developers take note, we really need to polish the desktop environment for the average PC user if we ever want to become mainstream. We should stop with the snobby behavior that I constantly see within the Linux community. With a polished desktop environment, and better support for games, we may see the growth we have been wanting to see for years.

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