Gaming under Linux has long had a bad reputation. Even very experienced Linux users often keep a Windows partition around to dual boot into only for games. In many ways this problem is due to a chicken-or-egg approach from game developers: games aren't ported to Linux because not enough people game on the platform, and not enough people game on the platform because there aren't enough games ported to it.
The fact is, though, that gaming under Linux continues to improve every year. Not only are the major video card manufacturers making sure their cards have full 3D acceleration support under X, but a number of software companies, such as Id Software and Epic Games, have consistently released Linux ports of their titles either on the same CD as the Windows software or as separate downloads released a bit after the initial launch date. Of course, some of this good will toward the community keeps in mind the strength of Linux as a server platform. The idea is that if the companies promote Linux clients, the community will be more likely to run the Linux servers for the game.
When you examine the different commercial games that have been ported to Linux, you will notice that many if not most of them are in the FPS (first-person shooter) genre. Doom, the full Quake series, the Unreal Tournament series, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Tribes 2, and many other FPSs have Linux ports. This doesn't mean that other genres are unrepresented for instance, games such as Railroad Tycoon and Neverwinter Nights have been ported to Linux just that the FPS games seem to get ported more readily.
Even if your favorite game hasn't been ported to Linux, there's still a chance that the Windows binary can install and run in a Wine or Cedega environment. These environments translate the Windows system calls to Linux system calls, and many games play very well. Cedega is a commercial product released by Transgaming that is based on Wine and focused on getting all of the latest games running under Linux. There is an extensive list of games that Cedega supports, rated by how well they perform under Linux, that you can browse on their site. The list includes games such as Warcraft III, Max Payne II, and Battlefield 1942. If you decide to use Cedega, you can sign up on a subscription basis at www.transgaming.com for $5 a month. The site contains a number of FAQs for the different games it supports to help you through the installation process.
A number of true game emulators also exist for Linux. If you have ROM images for arcade or console cartridges, you can use arcade emulators such as Xmame or console emulators such as Nestra and Snes9x to play those games directly on your Linux system. Some people have developed their own personal arcade cabinet, complete with a large collection of games and arcade-style joysticks, on a Linux platform.
Gaming under Linux isn't limited to commercial titles; Linux also has a large number of free software titles. These games range from simple card games to board games such as chess and backgammon and from arcade games such as xgalaga to adventure games such as rogue and nethack. There has also been development of free 3D games, such as Tux Racer. Most distributions include a number of these games on the CD, so you aren't limited simply to Solitaire, Freecell, and Minesweeper. The KDE Desktop Environment comes with more than 30 basic games, including Solitaire, Backgammon, a Minesweeper clone, a Tetris-like game, and video poker.
So if you like games, you will find plenty to keep you amused under Linux, and maybe even some reasons to get rid of that dual-boot gaming platform you keep around. In this chapter are introductions to a few Linux-native games including instructions to install, play, and if applicable, run a game server.