Valve's Linux Roadmap Sparks Debate Over...Ethics?

Valve's Gabe Newell is one of at least two talking heads in the game developer arena that believes Microsoft's Windows 8 platform is bad for PC gaming (Blizzard is the other), and so he's put into motion a strategy to port the Steam platform over to Linux. Regardless of whether or not his reasons are sound, the Linux community has to be stoked, right? You would think so, but not everyone sees Valve's venture into open-source territory as a good thing.

Richard Stallman, software freedom activist and creator of the GNU Project, believes there's an ethical dilemma with having non-free DRM'd games on GNU/Linux.

"I suppose that availability of popular non-free programs on GNU/Linux can boost adoption of the system. However, our goal goes beyond making this system a 'success'; its purpose is to bring freedom to the users," Stallman explains. "Thus, the question is how this development affects users' freedom.
"Non-free game programs (like other non-free programs) are unethical because they deny freedom to their users (game art is a different issue, because it isn't software). If you want freedom, one requisite for it is not having non-free programs on your computer. That much is clear."

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At the same time, Stallman acknowledges that if you're going to play these games anyway, you're better off playing them on Linux than on Windows, the latter of which is the greater of two evils (between Windows and non-free DRM'd games).

"Thus, in direct practical terms, this development can do both harm and good," Stallman continues.

It's important to note that Stallman isn't calling for a boycott against Valve, at least not directly. Instead, he proposes not talking about the availability of Valve's games on Linux as a show of support for his cause. It's sort of a 'bury your head in the sand' approach, though we suspect there will be a good many Linux users who will not only embrace Steam on their open-source platform of choice, but will gladly talk about it.