Why it is important the FOSS / Linux community is prepared for the Steam Deck

The post that started this community

By Moxvallix

This post is a reupload of my original post, that I uploaded to Medium on the 17th of July 2021. I was inspired to write this post after hearing the news of the SteamDeck, and then writing this post inspired me to create this community. It is a bit of an essay, Medium reckons it's a 5 minute read.

As I am sure any Linux user, that hasn’t been hiding under a rock, would be aware of by now, Valve recently announced the Steam Deck (or as I have taken to calling it recently, the Arch Konsole), which runs a custom version of Arch Linux. As well, Valve stated that the console would give full user control of the system, also announcing that Proton would be receiving a heap of love, finally even supporting anti-cheat softwares (or maybe anti-cheat allowing Proton, idk).

I am sure you can all understand why this is important news; we will finally have a major, mainstream (hopefully, if the hype I am seeing is not just in my bubble) piece of hardware running Linux, and demonstrating Linux’s ability to game. Now, obviously, for the majority of normies, they probably won’t notice the fact it runs Linux (if Proton runs as well as Valve promises), but this shouldn’t change how important it is for our community that it does run Linux.

Firstly, if this device sells the millions that Valve is hoping for, this should improve Linux’s gaming marketshare by quite a significant amount. As well, if it is popular, Devs might want to target this machine, and by extension will be supporting at least Proton gaming, and may even make native ports if they want further optimisation.

Secondly, under the same premise, this should bring in a new wave of people discovering Linux for the first time when trying out Desktop mode, or at least should bring in a wave of new interest towards Linux. And it is in this area specifically that I think we should be prepared.

I think that it is really important that we make a good impression to this new, SteamOS Steam Deck community. In the past, particular members of our community have garnered us somewhat a reputation of elitist arseholes, or at the very least trolls, when it came to discussing Windows, or Linux Gaming. I think it is very important that we work together as a community to re-brand ourselves, and show just how supportive our community can be, because I know it can be.

FOSS and OS software is a social phenomenon, and can create really lovely communities, and I think many outsiders don’t get to see this. As well, I think our love for customisation, tinkering, and DIY spirit could really mesh well with some of the more techy gamers, and if we could show them this, we may even have our (desktop, not just Steam Deck) community grow.

As this has the potential to spark the rise of Desktop Linux (I know, Linux users say this a lot, but this time feels a bit different), I think it is important that as a community, we work together on these three goals.

1. Being Supportive

This is the big one.

We are known for dissing Windows, arguing over distros, laughing at noobs, complaining about SystemD etc. Now these are fun in our circles; many times a good bit of banter is a riot. But seeing as we will be welcoming many new gamers, still fresh off the Windows presses, we should be respectful of them, their OS choices, game choices, even their overuse of RGB lights.

I can already see people getting ready to argue against those that will put Windows on their Steam Deck. This is not what we want. Our community holds free choice as one of our highest values, and we should be respectful of theirs. Besides, internet Linux people won’t change their mind; we’ll instead be seen as an adversary, rather than a friend.

If you see people from our community not being supportive, I would encourage you to (nicely, don’t be a dick) remind them that it is actually harmful to our community (link them to this if you want to punish them).

2. Embracing the Community

Embrace. Extend. Extinguish Windows /s

I am sure members of our community will have grievances with the machine and it’s users. Whether because it is proprietary bullshit, or it runs the wrong distro, uses SystemD, isn’t a real Linux Desktop etc. we should not turn away the community that will grow around it. Instead, those among us that own the device, or are in other ways involved, should work to welcome them into being Linux users. We should put out guides for using the terminal, using Plasma on the device, or maybe how to switch DE if Plasma isn’t their thing. I am sure Valve will provide heaps of support, but no-one can do it better than us; we’ve done this shit for years!

We should be ready to support new users, that probably won’t be as tech savvy (although the real normies will probably not even see desktop mode), to make sure that they get a positive influence for Linux. Sure, this will profit Valve, a big company, and some might see it as free labour, but honestly if we can pull this off it might just profit us in the future (not monetarily, but in support).

3. Making Content

This is our time to shine! We are a creative bunch; we have made games, movies, music, all kinds of media using FOSS and Linux-y tools. I think it would be a good move for us as a community to work on content for and around the Steam Deck. Our YouTubers should make howtos and showcases on the Linux side of the Steam Deck, making sure to show off the cool benefits of using Linux. Maybe some Linux vs Windows benchmarks, but remember goal one!

We should work on getting some of our best Open Source games up and running as best as possible on the Steam Deck; maybe we can even provide a FOSS games store, F-Droid style. We should make it easy for people to love Linux, and show them why we love using it.

Wow, I just realised I wrote a whole 1000 word essay on the Steam Deck, definitely wasn’t imagining writing something like this last week! To sum up: I think that our community has something special to share with the world, and this Steam Deck has the potential to reach many new users. I think we should embrace the community that will form around this device, and support them with their journey into the land of Linux. As well, we should definitely show them all the cool shit they can do with the device on the way. If you agree, please share this where you think people will care; I think it is important that we prepare for the Steam Deck community, and that the only downside to us following these goals, if the Steam Deck is a bust, is that we would have made a more supportive, caring and creative community. Thank you for coming to my Ted talk!