The worst part of owning a Mac is gaming. I bought a MacBook Air a while back because it worked great for my journalism and programming classes. A computer that weighs three pounds and runs for 12 hours? Sign me up. 

But then I try to play games. Christ, the games. Macs get fewer games because everyone builds PC games for Windows. When they do get around to porting games to OS X, it's usually a couple months late (or never). 

Porting games from Windows is tough. Most titles run on DirectX, a bit of software that runs the graphics. It relays instructions between a game and your computer's graphics card. Almost every PC game runs on DirectX. If you play a big-budget triple-A title on Windows, you need DirectX. 

The problem is that Microsoft only makes DirectX for Windows. It has never (and likely will never) port it to OS X (the Mac operating system). Macs use OpenGL, an alternative program that essentially does the same thing. OpenGL can work well for games, but it's just not used as often as DirectX. 

So, if a developer wants to port a Windows game to OS X, it has to A) rebuild the entire game using OpenGL, or B) use a wrapper. Few companies bother with the first option. There are too few Mac users to make rebuilding the game cost-effective. Developers wouldn't make their money back. Only a few games from Valve and others use it. 

Most companies end up using a wrapper. Wrappers are programs that translate DirectX commands from a game into OpenGL. With the right compatibility layer, you can run most Windows games on Mac. Even companies like Aspyr and Feral that specialize in professional-grade Mac ports use wrappers for most of their work. 

I'm grateful to wrappers for translating so many games. It's crazy how much you can play with compatibility layers in place. 


Two wrappers that I use for Civ and Max Payne. They're from Steam and still bad.

Wrappers are trash. They are awful. They're slow, buggy, and crash-prone. Every game I've played in a wrapper has failed in some way. Wrappers are by far the worst way to experience a game. If PC gaming has problems, wrappers double that. 

I tried playing Orcs Must Die! 2 through a WINE wrapper. It crashed and managed to delete my Steam save data. It wiped everything from the cloud. 

Then there's the atrocious wrapper Rockstar used for Max Payne 3. It doesn't work with my Xbox gamepad. It rarely launches on the first try. It didn't launch at all until I filled in my Rockstar Social Club profile. It is riddled with graphical glitches. The framerate is crap on higher resolutions. Max ends up in some weird positions when you start diving around.

Case in point.

That's the experience of trying to play games on Mac. It's frustrating even when companies do bother to make a Mac port. Things never "just work" on an operating system where everything is designed to be exactly that. 

The moral of the story is not to bother with gaming in OS X. Use Bootcamp to dual-boot Windows and play games on that. Then you get the best of both worlds instead of trying to handle crappy Cider ports. 

Anybody else ever tried gaming on a Mac? Am I alone here? 

(image credits)