Richard Stallman, Open Source and Steam

richard stallman open source steam for linux

While many Linux users have been openly accepting the official news that Valve will be porting a substantial amount of games to the platform. Free Software Advocate Richard Stallman is not as impressed.

In a recent blog post, Richard Stallman discusses the matter:

“I suppose that availability of popular nonfree programs on GNU/Linux can boost adoption of the system. However, our goal goes beyond making this system a “success”; its purpose is to bring freedom to the users. Thus, the question is how this development affects users’ freedom.

Nonfree game programs (like other nonfree programs) are unethical because they deny freedom to their users. (Game art is a different issue, because it isn’t software.) If you want freedom, one requisite for it is not having nonfree programs on your computer. That much is clear.

However, if you’re going to use these games, you’re better off using them on GNU/Linux rather than on Microsoft Windows. At least you avoid the harm to your freedom that Windows would do.

Thus, in direct practical terms, this development can do both harm and good. It might encourage GNU/Linux users to install these games, and it might encourage users of the games to replace Windows with GNU/Linux. My guess is that the direct good effect will be bigger than the direct harm. But there is also an indirect effect: what does the use of these games teach people in our community?”

An interesting point of view compared to earlier this week, when Valve’s Gabe Newell described Microsoft’s plans as a “catastrophe.”
We already know why Valve is pushing hard to bring its games, its Source engine, and the Steam digital distribution platform to the Linux operating system.
Blizzard’s Rob Pardo, the StarCraft designer and current vice president of game design at Diablo III studio Blizzard, said that he believes Microsoft’s new operating system will also be a thorn in his company’s side.

Pardo Tweeted on Wednesday, “Nice interview with Gabe Newell—‘I think Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space’—not awesome for Blizzard either.”

So here we have a dichtomy. Microsoft will make Windows 8 a closed system, one that it is keen to more stringent control, similar to Apple with Mac OSX and the iOS platform. Sure this will allow Microsoft to be able to better monitor the qualify of applications but will also create havoc for the myriad of developers. Especially game makers who relied on some openness of the platform.
While GNU/Linux, the Open Source operating system that gives an amicable amount of control to the developer. Will also continue to create an array of development opportunities for many open source games, with an expanding availability of propriety development software. But at the choice of the end user.

Richard Stallman figures development should still be kept to the open source community:

“Any GNU/Linux distro that comes with software to offer these games will teach users that the point is not freedom. Nonfree software in GNU/Linux distros already works against the goal of freedom. Adding these games to a distro would augment that effect.

If you want to promote freedom, please take care not to talk about the availability of these games on GNU/Linux as support for our cause. Instead you could tell people about the Liberated Pixel Cup free game contest, the Free Game Dev Forum, and the LibrePlanet Gaming Collective’s free gaming night.”

Do you agree with Richard Stallmans’ point of view?
How do you see the future of development will be shaped by game companies like Valve?

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