by Jeff Smith
For a long time, Linux has had a reputation for not being all that great for playing games, but I'm here to tell you, its just not so anymore.
When it comes to playing games on Ubuntu Linux, there are several routes to go. There are lots of simple games--like 60+ kinds of solitaire and tons of children's games--available via the package manager.
Some of the best Windows games are now coming out for Linux as well, such as Quake 4, America's Army, or Return to Castle Wolfenstein. There are also tons of awesome 3D games that you'll only see on Linux! A good place to see what's available for Linux is www.happypenguin.org
If a game doesn't have a version built for Linux, don't fret, there's another way to go. Linux has a program named Wine (WINdows Emulation) that will run many Windows applications (including lots of games!) A company called Transgaming has taken Wine and upgraded it to a new program called Cedega that is specifically for running Windows games. Cedega boasts improved DirectX compatibility and can play many more games than Wine does... the only problem is, to get Cedega, you must join their website, which costs $5 a month or $55 a year. But for that subscription, you get nearly constant upgrades and updates as they make the program compatible to more and more games.
Using Cedega, you can play top games like World of Warcraft, Elderscrolls IV: Oblivion, Medieval 2: Total War, and Need for Speed Carbon and many more.
Another program that does basically the same thing is called CrossOver Linux. It handles new games like Half Life 2 and Call of Duty 2 (soon). It also handles Windows applications like Photoshop and MS Office. Crossover Linux costs about $40 and comes with 6 months of support.
Keep in mind that you'll need a pretty nice nVidia graphics card to play any 3D games on Ubuntu (or any kind of Linux for that matter). ATI graphics cards are great hardware-wise, but their driver support for Linux is abysmal. There have been petitions to ATI and mass phone-ins to express the Linux community's disappointment with ATI's support, but so far they seem to be turning a blind eye.
In summary, Linux gaming has quite a lot going for it and is starting to get the attention it deserves from developers. Making the choice to switch to Linux doesn't mean you'll have to give up gaming as there are lots of Linux-only games, tons of Windows games that will work, and it just gets better every day.
Thats about it for gaming, next week I'll begin explaining how to put your PC at the heart of your entertainment system.
Questions or comments, write me at