Gaming Valve’s Steam Deck makes a brilliant case against walled gardens

tom_mai78101

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The Steam Deck is a portable gaming system that breaks the biggest rule of gaming systems.

Unlike practically every major game console that’s come before it, the Steam Deck, from PC gaming giant Valve, doesn’t lock users into one ecosystem. While Valve’s own Steam store is the default way to buy and play games, the Steam Deck also lets users install whatever software they want on the device’s Linux-based operating system.

The experience has been liberating. In recent weeks, I’ve gorged on weird indie creations from itch.io, classic games from GOG.com, and free games from the Epic Games Store. I’ve used Plexamp to stream my personal music collection in place of in-game soundtracks, and I’ve used Vivaldi to browse the web in the Steam Deck’s desktop mode. You don’t have to use your Steam Deck this way, but just being knowing that it’s an option makes the device more capable and personal.

The tech industry is filled with companies that seem deathly afraid of this model, either because they don’t trust their users or don’t want to risk weakening their own ecosystems. By taking the opposite approach, Valve is proving that open platforms aren’t so catastrophic, and it elevates the Steam Deck from yet another gadget into the most exciting consumer electronics device in years.

Most people will never need to venture beyond the Steam Deck’s standard menu system, which offers a simple way to buy and play games from the Steam store. Valve’s PC game catalog remains unparalleled, so you could be a satisfied Steam Deck user without dipping into its desktop mode.

But if you click the “Power” menu option in Steam Deck settings and select “Switch to Desktop,” that simple interface falls away, revealing the desktop of an Arch Linux computer. This is where the Steam Deck’s possibilities really open up.


 
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