Interview with Liam Dawe, operator, mastermind and main author of gamingonlinux.com
PlayingTux: Hi Liam, thank you for taking the time! Would you please like to introduce yourself?
Liam Dawe: My name is Liam Dawe and I run www.gamingonlinux.com.
I come from a "sunny" part of the UK where I've lived my entire life, you could say I've lived a pretty boring and sheltered life really.
I've run it for nearly eight years now (previously under a different address where stuff was lost) and I have no plans to quit any time soon.
I've been at the forefront of pushing Linux gaming for quite some time now, but an honorable mention goes to LinuxGames.com (RIP) and linux game tome (RIP) for keeping me interested in the early days. I was also the original gaming writer for the LinuxVoice magazine, before I left to focus on GOL itself.
I'm fully funded to live and work thanks to my wonderful Patreon supporters, writing about Linux gaming is my only job and I love it.
I think I'm actually the only person on the planet doing this for an actual full-time job.
PlayingTux: When and by what motivation did you start to use Linux as operating system, and what are you currently using on all of your PCs/Laptops?
Liam Dawe: I actually started using Linux when I was 15/16 (I'm now nearly 29) back when Mandrake was still a thing.
My first ever computer that was 100% mine came with Mandrake 9.2 and I hadn't a clue what it really was.
I tinkered with it for a while and it seemed to lay some sort of egg inside my mind as I would always keep checking up on Linux progress for years after until I eventually dropped Windows entirely a while back.
I remember trying out Fedora Core much later and attempting to stick with it.
Funny really, I had no idea what I was doing so a helpful person I met online logged into my Fedora Core install remotely and setup a bunch of stuff to get me going.
In hindsight, letting a random person have access to my PC was really stupid, but you're only young once right?
I eventually settled on Ubuntu, as I liked their roadmap and their focus on making the desktop experience properly usable.
Their papercuts initiative really interested me too, the way they wanted to fix the "little nuisances" and it really helped.
PlayingTux: You are currently running the most well-known international Linux-gaming-centric website and community.
When did you start with it, and what was your motivation by that time?
Liam Dawe: I started with GamingOnLinux originally in some form probably 10 years ago, but I didn't really put much focus into it until a few years later when we switched from a .info to a .com.
I've always been a gamer in some form, but my interest in Linux overall was increasing more and more so I wanted to try playing games on it.
I was following (as mentioned in the first question) LinuxGames and linux game tome watching all the fun news coming in.
At some point both sites started to get updated less frequently and I thought "maybe I can do better" and so I just stuck at it.
Eventually they both vanished from the net, so GamingOnLinux became even more important.
PlayingTux: Running your website must be a real time-consuming work and ongoing process.
Researching for and writing articles, testing games and writing reviews, reaching out to developers and publishers, live streaming and answering interviews, and lot more behind the scenes...
How much time of a day do you invest in running your website and interacting with the community?
Liam Dawe: It's funny really, some days I might end up spending only maybe 3-4 hours on it due to a lack of any news, but that's incredibly rare. I almost always have an inbox rammed full of developers asking for attention.
Most days I genuinely spend 9AM-3PM and then again 7PM-10PM working flat-out on the website. Sometimes it can be annoying, since well over half of what I spend my time doing is hidden from people.
Speaking to developers for example, that can take multiple hours a day, especially when I get sent games that don't work.
A lot of Linux games that come out have probably had me do early testing in some form.
You then also have to take into account all the time I have to put into actually playing all these games to write even basic thoughts about them, which again people don't see until something is written up.
Still, even with all the "hidden" work, I still manage to put out likely over 200 articles in some form every single month.
It's a tricky lifestyle to manage, since some games can end up taking a day, some a week, some require a month.
Especially when completely unexpected games arrive in my email inbox, I suddenly have to re-arrange my entire schedule to fit in bigger unexpected releases.
Then I have to juggle family time with that as well, it's actually pretty difficult to manage time properly with the amount of work there is.
I might be sat down to dinner one day, when my inbox pings and suddenly there's a big game announcement that I can't afford to be 2-3 hours late on covering or else we get seen as "old news".
Thankfully I don't have that too often, especially since I don't rely on advertisements or "being first", it's more of a habit of just trying to be the best now.
I did start another site, LifeOnLinux as a fun side-project, but the reality was that I bit off more than I could chew and I just really didn't have any extra time for it.
PlayingTux: Why did you decide to not show advertising on your website anymore?
Liam Dawe: As far as adverts are concerned, I understand they can be a necessary evil, but I absolutely hate them.
They slow down loading times, track you everywhere and breach your privacy and I didn't want people having the hassle of that on my personal site.
As soon as a viable option came up (Patreon) I dropped adverts as quickly as I possibly could.
Not all adverts are bad, plain links and pictures from sponsors are fine, but 99% of adverts are terrible.
PlayingTux: What do you think of the current state of gaming on Linux?
Did you expect to come it that far, with also AAA-titles releasing on Linux?
Liam Dawe: The current state of Linux gaming is great. We have I think nearly 3,500 Linux games on Steam that was at zero a few years ago.
Sure there's some crapware, but there's a massive amount of high quality games. I load up Steam often when I get a free moment and end up overwhelmed by choice, which is a fantastic place to be in.
Linux is a great indie gaming platform, but we have a long, long way to go before we can take on even Mac. I am hopeful Vulkan paired with Feral, Croteam, Aspyr Media, VP and others can push us further, but it remains to be seen.
I'm excited though, since progress has been amazing considering the hill we have to climb.
It's also amazing to see how far our drivers have come. Our GPU drivers especially have become incredibly stable compared to the utter trash they were when I started using Linux.
The open source Mesa drivers are amazing now and have made me seriously consider going with AMD instead of NVIDIA when the time comes to upgrade.
Valve are to thank for part of that, since they employ people who work on Mesa.
PlayingTux: Do you think, that this would have also been possible without Valve bringing Steam to Linux?
Liam Dawe: Honestly, if Valve hadn't come along to support Linux we wouldn't be here having this chat today.
Linux wouldn't have grown in all the ways it has without them. People can debate that until the sun don't shine, but to me, it's a fact.
Valve put Linux on the map for a lot of people that otherwise would have never even looked at it.
Just look at game porters Aspyr Media and Feral Interactive, they outright side SteamOS/Valve are the reason they got into porting games to Linux.
PlayingTux: Do you currently play games exclusively on Linux, or do you own a console (PS/XBox/Nintendo) for gaming too?
Liam Dawe: I actually have a few consoles laying around, mainly for 3-4 console exclusive titles.
I'm a gamer at heart and a Linux lover alongside that, I don't think anyone should have to give up something they love and enjoy, just because they want Linux to succeed too.
I recently picked up a Nintendo Switch and I think it's a fascinating device, really changes things.
PlayingTux: What is your first video gaming-centric memory you can think of?
Liam Dawe: My earliest gaming memory is a weird one. I was in hospital as a child and the fantastic hospital staff got me a TV and a Sega Megadrive to make my stay a nicer one.
I remember laying in a hospital bed playing Sonic and that's something that stays with you forever.
Before that I had briefly played a Sega Master System, but my memory of that is fuzzy due to my age then.
PlayingTux: Last but not least: what are your current favourite games on Linux?
Liam Dawe: Current favourites? Ballistic Overkill and Rocket League are two of my top right now.
PlayingTux: Thank you very much!
If you want to support Liam and gamingonlinux.com, please consider supporting his Patreon campaign!
Interview and german translation: PlayingTux