A very happy new year to all northern hemisphere readers, and seasons greetings to my fellow south-dwellers (I celebrate new year at Matariki, around the time of the southern winter solstice).

Over the Christmas break I read ‘Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter‘, by gaming blogger Tom Bissell, and watched Indie Game: The Movie, and started to get excited about video games again for the first time since the all-night GTA 3 binges of the early noughties . I decided to see what free code games I could find for GNU/Linux, and see how well they run on Trisquel GNU/Linux (6.06 Toutatis), one of the handful of distros endorsed by the Free Software Foundation, and the only endorsed distro I’ve tried that runs well enough for regular use. I’ve been running Trisquel on my AspireOne laptop since abandoning Ubuntu almost a year ago, in protest at the Amazon Lens spyware scandal, and although there are a number of GNU/ Linux distros aimed at gamers which might work better (see the GameOS section here), I want to see how much fun I can have using only bona-fide free code software.

Trisquel installs with a handful of games including:

  • AisleRiot Solitaire, which offers a staggering range of one player card games including popular ones like Klondike and Freecell. It’s nothing you couldn’t do with a desk of playing cards and a table (or floor), but I like the economy of making a wide range of rule sets available using the one card game application.
  • Chess (glchess, the standard GNOME version), which offers 2D and 3D board views, and a smart enough AI opponent to make me grumble under my breath.
  • Mines, an old favourite from the pre-Pentium days.
  • Sudoku, again, nothing you couldn’t find in a newspaper or puzzle book, but it works pretty well.


After spending a bit of time playing each of these, I decided to try installing and playing some of the free code games available using the ‘Add/Remove Applications’ tool in the Trisquel menu. Having played a few now, I’ve discovered two annoying problems using this computer with Trisquel for games. The first is the task bar, which I haven’t been able customize in any way, other than dragging applications onto the quicklaunch area, which I then can’t remove. In a number of the games I’ve tried, including glTron, BOS Wars, and Cultivator, the bottom of the window is obscured by the taskbar. This being a “netbook” style laptop, I figured this was probably because of my tiny screen, and sure enough, when I plugged a larger screen into the VGA port, I could see the full window.

I managed to launch a number of 3D games, including Balazar, and Balazar Brothers, but all of them crashed within a few minutes of starting up. I’ve had similar problems before with graphically-demanding software tasks like video editing. Again, being a low-end mobile laptop, the graphics acceleration probably isn’t up to much, but I would be curious to see if I could get better performance with a more specialized distro, or video driver or something.

I have to say most of the libre games I’ve played so far are just hobby projects, but I’ve still enjoyed some of them. I’m going to compile  a list and some brief reviews on the Disintermedia wiki.

Filed January 10th, 2014 under Uncategorized
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