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Changing the Face of (Mac) Gaming

Good news, everyone! Gaming is about to make a surge back to the Mac! “How’s that?” I hear some of you asking, fearful only bad news can follow that line. Well, the answer lies in the helping hands of Valve and its online service, Steam.

The Press Release from Monday confirmed what had been rumored for the past week in gaming circles; Valve will be natively supporting Macs — not emulating! — alongside Windows with all of its own game releases from here on out. Most notable of which will be a simultaneous Mac and Windows release of Portal 2 this holiday season.

If you’re wondering why Steam should be considered a big deal, then you should know that it is the most successful digital distribution system in PC gaming — estimated to be about 70% of the digital distribution games market according to research completed by Stardock.

OK, so Macs will be getting a few more quality games, is that all? Not by a long shot. Here’s the better news, from Jason Holtman, Director of Business Development at Valve, “…we have added a new feature, called Steam Play, which allows customers who purchase the product for the Mac or Windows to play on the other platform free of charge. For example, Steam Play, in combination with the Steam Cloud, allows a gamer playing on their work PC to go home and pick up playing the same game at the same point on their home Mac. We expect most developers and publishers to take advantage of Steam Play.”

Furthermore: “…Mac and Windows players will be part of the same multiplayer universe, sharing servers, lobbies, and so forth. We fully support a heterogeneous mix of servers and clients.”

This means cross-OS servers for multiplayer games, which translates to no fear of sparsely populated Mac-only servers. There will be no reason to bite the Windows bullet if you want to game on your Mac.   Everyone can be just be one big happy family of computer gamers.  As developers join Valve’s movement, we should see an exponential increase in games available on Mac from what we’re used to; alongside their Windows, Xbox 360, and PS3 versions.

Only one word of caution if you haven’t been gaming on a computer much these past few years. You will want to pay attention to System Requirements. You’re not likely to be running any modern games on a G3, unfortunately. Even one of the more system requirement friendly games today requires a G5 as a minimum to run it.

As a gamer of nearly two decades (and Steam user for the past few years), I will give this friendly tip: The Recommended System Requirements, not the Minimum System Requirements, are where you’d like to gauge how well your system will run said game. If you meet just the bare Minimum, then you typically will have to set all graphical details to Low and may still run into poor performance issues. Easiest thing to do if you’re cutting things close?  Be sure to upgrade the RAM and make sure you have more than enough space available on your hard drive. I believe this was covered somewhere before

Anyhow… if you’ve not had the pleasure of playing Portal, with it’s mind- and space-bending puzzles; or perhaps the story-driven action game Half-Life 2; or the sublime online co-op experience of Left 4 Dead 2; then be prepared to rectify that this April; as they are all coming to the Mac and you will have no excuse for not making full use of that shiny new iMac. Look into getting a new mouse and keyboard if you’re using Apple’s sleek and simplified one-button or touch offerings. More (and solid) buttons on the mouse helps in gaming, trust me. Your keyboard hand will thank you for not having to deal with secondary fire on top of all movement, weapon selection, or… well… let’s not worry about some games.

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