Once upon a time, although it seems hard to imagine, Mac games were well developed, even groundbreaking. Many long-timeMac users still fondly remember Marathon, by Bungie Software, for example. This was a great example of a graphically rich sci-fi platform which had some genuinely terrifying moments. Unfortunately, Microsoft bought Bungie and stopped all Mac development, but for a while there, things were looking really promising. I will still play all the way through a game, just to see what it can do and for the sheer pleasure of it, but I haven’t seriously played a game on Mac in nearly two years. Sigh.
Mac gaming’s history almost seems like a secret. Sure, there are games – just look in the Mac App store. Most of them are relatively simple: side-scrollers or find the secret, some puzzlers etc. Sure, some look good. And there are still a few well-developed, rich game environments like Bioshock, Borderlands, Batman: Arkham City, Deus Ex, Metro and even the Walking Dead series, although I haven’t found those very satisfying (the choices don’t lead to much plot differentiation). And Call of Duty still makes it to the Mac … eventually, long after the PC and console versions have been out. But it feels like the gaming world turned its back on the Mac around the time the brilliant Fallout franchise did.
A lot of people don’t care, of course. And that’s probably the reason Apple doesn’t care. And sure, I shouldn’t be playing games at my age and besides, I’m too busy to justify it, but I fondly remember some deeply entertaining experiences in the past, especially when Call of Duty was set in the World War Two era and we had a Mac gaming clan called Mad Macs. Ah, those were the days …
But should we care? Actually, yes. Gaming drives video card development, and the need for ever better video and system specs, which in turn keeps the pro users happy. And I fear this is a sector in decline for Apple, despite its supposedly ‘Pro’ iPads.
There is some light. Ric Molina at Mac Gamer HQ keeps the beacon blazing, and Richard Moss is writing The Secret History of Mac Gaming, which could do with a bit of help. As Richard puts it, “The Macintosh changed videogames. It seldom gets credit for this, but it did. It — and its tight-knit community — challenged games to be more than child’s play and quick reflexes. It showed how to make human computer interaction friendly, inviting, and intuitive.” Hear, hear. And Steam lets us play many games.
There are still a few great games on Mac. Check out this Digital Trends post, for example. But the glory days are gone. As in many areas, this would benefit from Apple actually spending some time on it, like the brilliant and very sadly under-used iBooks platform.
But that’s another story.