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Game

In computer context game (also gayme, video game or vidya) is software whose main purpose is to be played and entertain the user. Of course, we can additionally talk about real life games such as marble racing. Game is also a mathematical term in game theory. Sadly most computer games are proprietary and toxic.

Among suckless software proponents there is a disagreement about whether games are legit software or just a meme and harmful kind of entertainment. The proponents of the latter argue something along the lines that technology is only for getting work done, that games are for losers, that they hurt productivity, are an unhealthy addiction, wasted time and effort etc. Those who like games see them as a legitimate form of relaxation, a form of art and a way of advancing technology along the way. The truth is that developing games leads to improvement of other kinds of software, e.g. for rendering, physics simulation or virtual reality. We, LRS, fully accepts games as legitimate software; of course as long as their purpose is to help all people, i.e. while we don't reject games as such, we reject most games the industry produces nowadays.

Despite arguments about the usefulness of games, most people agree on one thing: that the mainstream AAA games produced by big corporations are harmful, bloated, toxic, badly made and designed to be highly malicious, consumerist products. They are one of the worst cases of capitalist software. Such games are never going to be considered good from our perspective (and even the mainstream is turning towards classifying modern games as shit).

PC games are mostly made for and played on MS Windows which is still the "gaming OS", even though in recent years we've seen a boom of "Linux gaming", possibly thanks to Windows getting shittier and shittier every year. However, most games, even when played on GNU/Linux, are still proprietary, capitalist and bloated as hell.

We might call this the great tragedy of games: the industry has become similar to the industry of drug abuse. Games feel great and can become very addictive, especially to people not aware of the dangers (children). Today not playing latest games makes you left out socially, out of the loop, a weirdo. Therefore contrary to the original purpose of a game -- that of making life better and bringing joy -- an individual "on games" from the capitalist industry will crave to constantly consume more and more "experiences" that get progressively more expensive to satisfy. This situation is purposefully engineered by the big game producers who exploit psychological and sociological phenomena to enslave gamers and make them addicted. Games become more and more predatory and abusive and of course, there are no moral limits for corporations of how far they can go: games with microthefts and lootboxes, for example, are similar to gambling, and are often targeted at very young children. The game industry cooperates with the hardware and software industry to together produce a consumerist hell in which one is required to constantly update his hardware and software and to keep spending money just to stay in. The gaming addiction is so strong that even the FOSS people somehow create a mental exception for games and somehow do not mind e.g. proprietary games even though they otherwise reject proprietary software. Even most of the developers of free software games can't mentally separate themselves from the concepts set in place by capitalist games, they try to subconsciously mimic the toxic attributes of such games (bloat, unreasonably realistic graphics and hardware demands, content consumerism, cheating "protection", language filters, ...).

Therefore it is crucial to stress that games are technology like any other, they can be exploiting and abusive, and so indeed all the high standards we hold for other technology we must also hold for games. Too many people judge games solely by their gameplay. For us at LRS gameplay is but one attribute, and not even the one standing at the top; factors such as software freedom, cultural freedom, sucklessness, good internal design and being future proof are even more important.

A small number of games nowadays come with a free engine, which is either official (often retroactively freed by its developer in case of older games) or developed by volunteers. Example of the former are the engines of ID games (Doom, Quake), example of the latter can be OpenMW (a free engine for TES: Morrowind) or Mangos (a free server for World of Warcraft). Console emulators (such as of Playstation or Gameboy) can also be considered a free engine for playing proprietary games.

Yet a smaller number of games are completely free (in the sense of Debian's free software definition), including both the engine and game assets. These games are called free games or libre games and many of them are clones of famous proprietary games. Examples of these probably (one can rarely ever be sure about legal status) include SuperTuxKart, Minetest, Xonotic, FLARE or Anarch. There exists a wiki for libre games at https://libregamewiki.org and a developer forum at https://forum.freegamedev.net/. Libre games can also be found in Debian software repositories.

{ NOTE: Do not blindly trust libregamewiki, non-free games ocassionaly do appear there by accident, negligence or even by intention. I've actually found that most of the big games like SuperTuxKart have some licensing issues (they removed one proprietary mascot from STK after my report). Ryzom has been removed after I brought up the fact that the whole server content is proprietary and secret. So if you're a purist, focus on the simpler games and confirm their freeness yourself. Anyway, LGW is a good place to start looking for libre games. It is much easier to be sure about freedom of suckless/LRS games, e.g. Anarch is legally safe practically with 100% certainty. ~drummyfish }

Some games are pretty based as they don't even require GUI and are only played in the text shell (either using TUI or purely textual I/O) -- these are called TTY games or command line games. This kind of games may be particularly interesting to minimalists, hobbyists and developers with low (zero) budget, little spare time and/or no artistic skills. Roguelike games are especially popular here; there sometimes even exist GUI frontends which is pretty neat -- this demonstrates how the Unix philosophy can be applied to games.

Another kind of cool games are computer implementations of pre-computer games, for example chess, backgammon, go or various card games. Such games are very often well tested and fine-tuned gameplay-wise, popular with active communities and therefore fun, yet simple to program with many existing free implementations and good AIs (e.g. GNU chess, GNU go or Stockfish).

Games As LRS

Games can be suckless and just as any other software should try to adhere to the Unix philosophy. A LRS game should follow all the principles that apply to any other kind of such software, for example being completely public domain or aiming for high portability. This is important to mention because, sadly, many people see games as some kind of exception among software and think that different technological or moral rules apply -- this is wrong.

If you want to make a simple LRS game, there is an official LRS C library for it: SAF.

Compared to mainstream games, a LRS game shouldn't be a consumerist product, it should be a tool to help people entertain themselves and relieve their stress. From the user perspective, the game should be focused on the fun and relaxation aspect rather than impressive visuals (i.e. photorealism etc.), i.e. it will likely utilize simple graphics and audio. Another aspect of an LRS game is that the technological part is just as important as how the game behaves on the outside (unlike mainstream games that have ugly, badly designed internals and mostly focus on rapid development and impressing the consumer with visuals).

The paradigm of LRS gamedev differs from the mainstream gamedev just as the Unix philosophy differs from the Window philosophy. While a mainstream game is a monolithic piece of software, designed to allow at best some simple, controlled and limited user modifications, a LRS game is designed with forking, wild hacking, unpredictable abuse and code reuse in mind.

Let's take an example. A LRS game of a real-time 3D RPG genre may for example consist of several independent modules: the RPG library, the game code, the content and the frontend. Yes, a mainstream game will consist of similar modules, however those modules will probably only exist for the internal organization of work and better testing, they won't be intended for real reuse or wild hacking. With the LRS RPG game it is implicitly assumed that someone else may take the 3D game and make it into a purely non-real-time command line game just by replacing the frontend, in which case the rest of the code shouldn't be burdened by anything 3D-rendering related. The paradigm here should be similar to that existing in the world of computer chess where there exist separate engines, graphical frontends, communication protocols, formats, software for running engine tournaments, analyzing games etc. Roguelikes and the world of quake engines show some of this modularity, though not in such a degree we would like to see -- LRS game modules may be completely separate projects and different processes communicating via text interfaces through pipes, just as basic Unix tools do. We have to think about someone possibly taking our singleplayer RPG and make it into an MMORPG. Someone may even take the game and use it as a research tool for machine learning or as a VFX tool for making movies, and the game should be designed so as to make this as easy as possible -- the user interface should be very simple to be replaced by an API for computers. The game should allow easy creation of tool assisted speedruns, to record demos, to allow scripting, modifying ingame variables, even creating cheats etc. And, importantly, the game content is a module as well, i.e. the whole RPG world, its lore and storyline is something that can be modified, forked, remixed, and the game creator should bear this in mind.

Of course, LRS games must NOT contain such shit as "anti-cheating technology". For our stance on cheating, see the article about it.

Types Of Games

Besides dividing games as any other software (free vs proprietary, suckless vs bloat, ...) we can further divide them by the following:

Legal Matters

Thankfully gameplay mechanisms cannot (yet) be copyrighted (however some can sadly be patented) so we can mostly happily clone proprietary games and so free them. However this must be done carefully as there is a possibility of stepping on other mines, for example violating a trade dress (looking too similar visually) or a trade mark (for example you cannot use the word tetris as it's owned by some shitty company) and also said patents (for example the concept of minigames on loading screens used to be patented in the past).

Trademarks have been known to cause problems in the realm of libre games, for example in the case of Nexuiz which had to rename to Xonotic after its original creator trademarked the name and started to make trouble.

Some Nice Gaymes

Anarch and microTD are examples of games trying to strictly follow the less retarded principles. SAF is a less retarded game library/fantasy console which comes with some less retarded games such as microTD.

{ I recommend checking out Xonotic, it's completely libre and one of the best games I've ever played. ~drummyfish }

See Also


All content available under CC0 1.0 (public domain). Send comments and corrections to drummyfish at disroot dot org.