Low End Mac Gaming

Is the Mac a Gaming Machine?

Brian Rumsey - April 26, 2000

The Mac is not a gaming machine. Like it or not, the fastest Athlon will pound a G4 in Quake 3 any day.

Wait a minute. How many times have you heard similar statements? Probably too many. The truth is, gaming on the Mac is what you make of it. For me, it has been a pretty good choice.

Why do most Mac users use Macs? Not because they want to be able to get their hands on the buggy first-day release of that new program. Not because they want to spend as little as possible up front. Most Mac users are Mac users because they recognize that the Mac has a superior interface and better quality than your run-of-the-mill Windows PC.

This translates directly to gaming. Some Mac users have bowed to the industry standard and admitted that Windows is a better gaming platform. Although the Mac may not be the ideal gaming platform for someone who is happy and impressed with the abilities and interface of Windows, I would argue that if you prefer the Mac interface overall, you will prefer Macs for games also, despite the obvious points against them.

A little less than one year ago, I picked up a Pentium 75, for very little cost. At that time, my primary Mac was the 68040-based LC 475. Although I was not planning to use the P-75 as my main machine, gaming or otherwise (I was planning to eventually buy a PowerPC-based Mac, which I have since done), I did expect that I would be enjoying many new games as the result of gaining Windows 95.

Well, to make a long story short, that P-75 is now serving as a Linux box in a friend's basement.

About one month after purchasing that P-75, I had a condition which caused me to spend some time in the hospital. Being the avid gamer that I am, I planned to bring a computer from home to pass the hours. Despite the fact that if I had taken the P-75, I would have had literally hundreds of new games to discover, and plenty of time to discover them, I brought the Mac. I brought the Mac, even though I had by that time discovered and played and replayed just about every game worth playing that would run on a 68040.


As I was saying before, it's the interface. After the luxury of playing games on a Mac for years, that P-75 running Windows did not feel natural. Admittedly, some of this feeling came from my not using Windows 95 regularly, but in the same sense that we Mac users love the Mac's interface, the games just did not feel quite "right" on the PC. A good game is a good game, but it can be made into a great one by capturing the feel of the Mac. In my opinion, this is one factor which has made Civilization II such a strong seller on the Mac as well as the PC.

Some game developers have been wondering why their recent Mac ports are not selling nearly as well as their PC counterparts. Consider Caesar III. I recently bought this game, and have no complaints yet about its game play. However, if you only saw the monitor (and the monitor was not Apple-branded), you would have no reason to think that the game was running on a Mac instead of a Windows machine.

It seems that Mac users have some extra standards for games to pass, namely, is the game Mac-like? This makes quite a bit of sense. If Mac gamers cared only about game play and not other aspects of the game, there would be no reason for them not to just go out and buy PCs. To use a tired car analogy, if all you cared about was getting there fast, you would just drop the biggest engine you could find into your old beater, and when you felt the need, you would upgrade other components, like the wheels, the transmission, the exhaust system, whatever. Parts would not be hard to find, and would be quite inexpensive. However, if you had been used to driving a nice but not especially sporty Lexus, you would not be thrilled at moving to a customized Chevy Citation for your high-speed needs. It is the same with Mac gamers. Once you have gotten used to the more refined OS, you will often be willing to make some sacrifices to stay with it.

I'm glad to say that I do not look at using a Mac as my primary gaming machine as a sacrifice at all. I consider gaming on Windows to be the sacrifice, because I have less fun when gaming on Windows. Admittedly, we do not get as many games as our Windows-using friends. However, especially with Apple's recent strong financial report, this is changing. Also, a few dedicated Mac developers have been consistently turning out some of the best games available ever since Apple's darkest hour. My big hope is that the big game developers would realize that by porting their games to the Mac, they are doing the hard part. It is a shame to see a good port fail to meet expectations because someone has forgotten to give it a Mac-familiar interface.

Few people would argue that Macs have more games available, or more gaming-oriented video cards. But is the hardware all it takes to make a good gaming platform? Absolutely not. I would have been perfectly happy with that P-75 if it could run the Mac OS. However, it can't. And, although it is an inconvenience, I am much happier waiting a few months longer for games, not getting some of them at all, and paying more for that new video card which still may not give me quite as many frames per second, if that's what it's going to take to game on the Mac OS.

Limited selection? Define limited. I have gotten enough new games recently to last me several months (at least), assuming a few of them are good.

About LEM Support Usage Privacy Contact

Follow Low End Mac on Twitter
Join Low End Mac on Facebook

Favorite Sites

Cult of Mac
Shrine of Apple
The Mac Observer
Accelerate Your Mac
The Vintage Mac Museum
Deal Brothers
Mac Driver Museum
JAG's House
System 6 Heaven
System 7 Today
the pickle's Low-End Mac FAQ


The iTunes Store
PC Connection Express
Macgo Blu-ray Player
Parallels Desktop for Mac

Low End Mac's Amazon.com store


Open Link