Mac Gaming: Not the Oxymoron it once was

posted by on 31st March 2012, at 11:24pm

Gaming: the final entertainment frontier. These are the voyages of a Mac user, on his continuing mission to explore strange new services; to seek out new games and new optimizations, and to boldly go where few Macs have gone before! Dun dan daaan! dun dun dun dahn daan, dan daaaaaaaahn! dun, dun dan dan, dun dan daaaaahn!
Sorry, got a little carried away there. If you hate Star Trek, I’m sorry, but DEAL WITH IT!
The whole purpose of my imitation of the Star Trek: The Next Generation intro is to try and make you understand the relatively unknown possibilities of Mac gaming, as oxymoronic as that may sound to some of you. Some of you will almost certainly scoff at that claim saying “What are you talking about? Mac Gaming? Aren’t there like, 6 games out for Mac?” à lá this video (by Mr. Gus Sorola from Rooster Teeth Productions).
Unfortunately, that used to be the reality, but to say that it still is is completely wrong. Of course, people still make jokes about what is currently out for Mac, but, in my opinion, the rap Macs still have is, at this point, outdated. The company to thank for this extreme reversal of the situation has to be VALVe, and to a lesser degree, Blizzard.
Steam for Mac launched worldwide on May 12, 2010, with a small, but high-quality (for the most part) selection of games, most notably “The Orange Box”, the Left 4 Dead series and Counter Strike: Source. Since then, the selection has grown incredibly and has received remarkable support, especially from VALVe with Portal 2 being dual-platform from day 1 and all patches and updates being available the same day as Windows patches and updates.
In fact, part of the success of Steam in recent years and their remarkable reported sales growth of 100% and a significant part of that is attributed to the existence of Steam for Mac. When the Mac section of Steam opened, there were 50 titles available for purchase. As of March 29, 2012, there are currently 233 titles for sale or free that are available for both Mac and PC, with full releases yet to come of games like DoTA 2, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and many other rumored.
Apple itself has also started to get into the games market, featuring titles such as Batman: Arkham Asylum, Bioshock 2 and Trine 2. The possibilities for local gaming on the Mac have been growing steadily, and possibly in a few years, will come to have an even more comparable selection.
In my opinion though, local gaming is great, but the future truly belongs to “cloud gaming”. Now, what exactly is cloud gaming? Cloud gaming basically involves streaming a game to a console or PC via the internet. It allows you to be able to play relatively high-end games on a low-end system as long as it has an internet connection, and relatively little lag. OnLive is a great example of the service. No download is necessary to play any game, saves are linked to your account and can be played on any system that has an internet connection and a controller or keyboard and mouse. Because games are all handled on external servers to have video and audio transmitted to the consumer’s platform, there’s no need to make major alterations to the game and yet still be able to run it on an Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Mac or even a tablet or phone, as long as an internet connection is present. For example, though Batman: Arkham Asylum was made available more recently on the App Store, I played it almost 6 months ago via OnLive, and just recently, I played and completed Batman: Arkham City through the same method even though the game isn’t yet available for download to Mac.
Of course, there are still plenty of excellent games out there that aren’t yet available for Mac, but there still is hope. Apple released the first version of a piece of software called Boot Camp in 2006. It allows Mac users to partition their hard-drive and install a copy of Windows, Linux, or any other operating system on said partition and allow a sand-boxed dual boot. You do have to buy a copy of Windows to install, so that can be somewhat of a hassle, and you have to reboot to be able to switch operating systems. In fact, Macs actually make pretty good PCs, or at least according to Popular Mechanics when they tested Windows on a number of different machines all with equivalent specs from all the major brands, including Apple and to everyone’s surprise, the Mac won.
Basically, despite all of the haranguing Macs still get in the Gaming industry, they are becoming better and better machines with more flexibility in games. The selections of games are estimated to get closer and closer as time goes on and as publishers and developers alike realize that there’s a huge market for Mac-based gaming and that money can, at the very least be recouped, if not made in large quantities. I sincerely hope that as time goes on, both platforms can get more equal treatment and be considered as equals in basically all areas.

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