Musings of a Mac gamer

Published in Apple

Diablo running on iMac

I use (prefer) OS X, but I am also a gamer. It hasn't always been easy for Mac gamers but now, it's a pretty sweet life. I'm not trying to say gaming is better on a Mac, but with varying options, it's no longer any worse. 

I'll go further and even affirm that as a hard core gamer I acknowledge that the single best system for playing video games hands down is (at time of writing-2012) a personal computer which:

  • has an SSD drive
  • has lots of RAM
  • has fast Intel or AMD processor (more cores the better)
  • has as many GPU cores that you can fit in the machine
  • runs Windows

This includes newer Macs, which comply with all of the above (if you let them).

As a computer user, I use Mac. As a gamer I'll use whatever system/console necessary to play my game of choice, after all, once your in the game you're generally not using the operating system. In fact if you know anything about videos games, you would know they could be better on current hardware if they ran independent of an operating system altogether, modern API's can be as restrictive as they are convenient (but, that's for another post).

I blows my mind that gamers defend windows simply because there are more game available for it. When are they going to get annoyed that they are forced to use a specific operating system all their lives just so they can play the games they want? What if windows, just for argument sake, you know, hypothetically,…. actually wasn't the best? We'll I'm here to say nobody is forcing you to do anything.  You can use a Mac and play lots of great games. Here's what you need to know:

1) App Store games.

As I write there are over 360 million iOS devices. And it is said that for every 4 apps written for Android, 7 are written for iOS. Funnily enough one of the reasons iPhone and iPad are winning is the same reason Windows won on the desktop, irrespective of how good they are iOS is the undisputed app champ. A lot of those apps are games, which, once the've been built for iOS, need little adjustment to run on OS X. So invariably they arrive in the Apple Mac app store. Sure hardcore gamers tend to think they are all casual games, but there are more and more AAA games coming every day and there are some surprisingly polished games on the App store for only a couple of bucks.

2) No installation and no registry.

Just a small advantage here for Mac gamers. Programs don't need to be "installed" on the Mac. Once they have been copied to the Hard Drive you can run them. On Windows you have to "install" everything which (put simply) tells Windows all the stiff it needs to know in order to allow the program to run. Much of this info is stored in something called "the registry". Typically when the program is uninstalled, the files are deleted from the hard drive but not from the registry. I used to test this as part of my job and found games typically leave thousands of lines of code in the registry, expanding it by megabytes. The junk that is left accumulates and slows down Windows over time. That's an oversimplification but the important thing is you can add and delete programs to your hearts content on a Mac and it doesn't affect the performance negatively.

3) Dual boot. (maybe usefull for you Earl)

The biggest advantage that Mac gamers have isn't actually a Mac advantage at all, it  is something that Mac owners share with linux and Windows users, but that one only linux and Mac users tend to take advantage of: Dual Booting, i.e. Boot into your preferred operating system for normal use, then reboot into windows for playing games. Actually windows users could (and should) do this as well, using two installs of Windows. Why should everyone do this? to keep you gaming windows system clean (see point 2 above). It's not so important if you playing OS X or Linux games, but with Windows it is, and if you're a Mac user it's EASY!
Just follow these steps.

  1. use boot camp to create a partition and install windows.
  2. download updated antivirus definitions from your other operating system
  3. reboot to your clean windows partition and update the virus definitions
  4. go online and update everything you need (windows updates, graphics drivers), but install anything you don't need.
  5. Once windows is optimized for best gaming performance reboot and go back to Mac OS X
  6. in OS X, rung the program called "Disk Utility", from there click the Windows partition and then the New Image icon. Name and save the disk image.
  7. Now return to windows, install the game you want and play it to your hearts content. Now, whenever you want to clean up windows (after every game if you wish) you simply restore the disk image which is quick and easy in Mac OS X.

Disk Image Mac Make new image

So there you go, you CAN use OS X and also play video games. I do and my Windows partition is clean. Better still, every day more AAA games come out on multiple platforms so I have to boot into Windows less and less (I haven't booted into Windows in almost a year!).