Once upon a time, in a land far, far away . . .
. . . I used a Mac.
I’m not proud. It was college, I got an educational discount, and it was
the time to experiment. I didn’t confess this to my gamer friends, since to
use a Mac in the 90s was anathema, relegating me to one of Dante’s lesser
known levels of Hell (Circle 3A.: The Land of n00b). My punishment was to
play Myst on OS 8 while my friends laughingly played the newest and
brightest games. By junior year (1996), I was broken. I bought parts for
and built my own PC, loaded up Windows, and never looked back.
Coincidentally, I decided to abandon Apple at the same time Steve Jobs
returned to the fold, and by ’97 Jobs was CEO of Apple. Serious programmers
kept telling me that the buyout of a UNIX-type company (NeXT, Jobs’s old
company) was going to be the biggest thing for the computer since DARPA.
They came out with the iMac in ’98, but I still looked at with some
disdain. Sure, it’s pretty, but will it run any fucking games? The answer
was no, because no one wanted to make games for the Mac. They, like me, had
been burned before.
But in late 2004, Blizzard officially launched World of Warcraft out of a
stellar beta-test period, and things began to radically change. Not since
Bungie came out with Halo 2 had I seen this many “non-gamers” embrace a
game. And WoW didn’t just come for the PC—it was also released
simultaneously for the Mac. Everything had come full circle; “Warcraft: Orcs
and Humans” was one of the first games I had played on my Mac in 1995 or so,
and now it was going to be the saving grace of Apple in the gaming realm.
I hate to play up gaming so much, but PC gaming has been taking a beating
lately from the console market. But despite the excellent gaming consoles
out there, and the superior XBox Live service, the arena is strewn with the
carcasses of old gladiators I thought would never die (TurboGrafx 16—I’ll
mourn ya til I join ya). I longed for the return of the quintessential PC
game. I would get my wish with the MMORPG push, of course, and just like
porn has pushed the Internet, games have pushed computer hardware. In June,
I watched the Apple adoption of Intel processors with some interest. What,
pray tell, was Apple’s strategy here? Why open yourself up in that way?
Apple had always been able to dictate the pace of the hardware that
integrated with their software, and this seemed like a bit of a silly move.
Sure, you’d get better speed from an Intel processor, but at what cost?
Now, Boot Camp is out, and all has been made clear. Boot Camp is bundled
with Leopard and allows you to run Windows XP applications natively on an
Intel-based Mac. We’d done things like this before (“we” being me and other
dorky friends) to run Windows on Linux using WINE (which sucked balls) so
that we could play StarCraft for free (don’t tell Blizzard), or dual-booted
a Windows/Linux system to play games and do the work we had to do for a
living. But no one ever took us seriously. Now, I guess they do.
So what does all this mean? The biggest thing is the reduction in risk for
gaming companies. More people will be coming to the Mac to do everything,
not just work on a Mac and play on a PC. Hell, even the boys at Penny Arcade, the premiere gaming comic
written by gamers for gamers, recently converted to Apple. All
of this indicates that the Mac may rise as a golden but tarnished god on the
horizon of the gaming pantheon. Microsoft Vista has been panned everywhere
I’ve read about it, and the siren’s call of Apple is driving my Argo towards
the rocks again. Hopefully, this time, I won’t crash.