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Thirteen Years of Mac Gaming
August 15, 2007 | David Peck

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Somehow I ended up as one of "those" people- the hard core gamers. The earliest pang I felt was looking at the screen shots for a new PC title: Home World (2003) which later did appear on the Mac but not for a while. To keep the story short I ended up with a game capable PC. In a Mac purist sense I was a bad boy but I really, really wanted those PC games unavailable for the Mac. And although Windows has always been substandard to the MacOS, I could stand to deal with it long enough to play a game. And there were outstanding games to be played such as cream of the crop titles like System Shock 2 (1999), the Half Life series (1998), the Total War series (2000), Vampire-Blood Lines(2004), Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind(2002), and others like Planetside (2003), a Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) game, that like most MMOs, never see the light of day on the Mac in native form. However, good MMO news arrived in March of this year when Eve Online was announced coming to Intel Macs.

A Date With Destiny
2006 became a very significant year for hard core Mac gamers when Apple converted their product line the Mac Pro, iMac, MacBook Pro, and MacBook to intel processors, aligning their hardware with the market place to increase performance and ease compatibility issues. Dedicated hackers were busy working to launch Windows on the Mac when suddenly Apple produced an official and convenient bridge for PC users called Boot Camp allowing them to cross to the Mac without abandoning their most important PC programs. While probably not Apple's primary intent, this was a boon for hard core Mac gamers.

And along came the trepidation that this was the end of Mac gaming as we know it. The counter argument is that most Mac gamers want to play native Mac games and developers know this, so there is hope. The result is if you're a hard core gamer who can pony up the cost of a new Mac you'll have access to most PC games, at least for the near term. And while it is not as good as native Mac games, the discussion in IMG's Windows related forums are some of the most active areas on the site.

So What About Native Mac Gaming?
It's been a perplexing issue that as Mac sales have risen, native Mac game sales have improved but not at the same pace. There has been speculation that the "Intel" boost and Boot Camp would push the Mac up towards the 10% market share threshold. And it's possible we are seeing a surge for Macs helped along by iPod and iPhone groupies and you-know-who's bungling of Vista, that other Operating System with it's performance, compatibility, and driver issues.

In June IMG reported at the WWDC 2007 keynote, Electronic Arts' Co-Founder, Bing Gordon, announcing the company's return with six Mac titles including Command & Conquer 3, Battlefield 2142, Need For Speed: Carbon, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Madden NFL 2008, and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2008. Then in July with great excitement Epic Games, a Mac friendly company, announced that Gears of War and Unreal Tournament 3 is coming to Mac. Woot!

But many gamers are wondering if this is a permanent change in the Mac gaming landscape where more big name game publishers will jump on board or is it just testing the waters? Only the future and strong Mac sales will tell.

Consoles- What Me Worry?
I really don't want to talk about them, but just a little bit. Consoles are the lower cost gaming solution that "own" the gaming market for the present and foreseeable future. However there are advantages that real computers have that consoles can't compete with such as better graphics, upgradeability, and more choices for control devices. Even as console prices climb I don't see an opportunity to knock them off their throne, but Mac/PCs, with their greater expense do provide a better gaming environment in my opinion and will continue to do so for at least the next couple of years. As long as there is money to be made selling games, I don't anticipate any real shortcoming of gaming titles for Mac/PCs.

Is the Shiny Finish Wearing?
In closing, allow me to ascend to my soapbox. Back in the 90's we frolicked with joy at the creativity and newness of the computer gaming experience, especially when dedicated graphic cards kicked into high gear, providing immersive 3D environments. Today a lot of us are no longer kids and what felt like computer gaming's Renaissance Period is starting to feel stale. Just how much recycling of game concepts are we going to be exposed to? As technology advances, has innovation taken a back seat to churning out sequels? I'm the first to admit being a sucker for pretty graphics, but ultimately I don't want to play Civilization 20 unless maybe I can do it on a holo-deck (hopefully well before version 20) exploring and interacting with the game environment. And how many more shooters are you going to play before getting the been-there-done-that feeling? I already have.

In other words we need new innovative game play. We really need the next generation of game wizards to step forward to sprinkle some magic pixie dust, say a chant and conjure the next "Oh-My-God Game" from under their pointy caps. Something that has never been tried before, like the first Unreal Tournament, the first Sims or the first Spore (which was recently announced!!) So some of the old codgers still know how to think up a new concept. Other possibilities look something like BioShock, the next Half Life 2 Episode or maybe a Crysis. It could be more pretty pictures but ultimately it's the next, the next, and the next really new game idea with several shots of good story telling that is going to keep computer gaming going and it is fitting the most innovative computer deserves to enjoy the rewards of the next gaming revolution.

And while I'm not yet willing to bet on Electronic Art's commitment to Mac gaming, this could be a corner Mac gaming is turning as Apple is steaming ahead, as the Evil Empire continues to bungle, as Macs sales continue to rise, so does the Mac gaming potential. Who knows, if you Mac fanatics keep buying native Mac games this could be the start of a new era in Mac gaming!

Are You a Fanatic?
For fun, skip to the Image Gallery and see if you can associate every screenshot with the game's name. The answers are on page five of this feature.


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