Running Windows Games

Linux has gone a long way to making a good home desktop system. The

latest KDE and GNOME desktops provide professional-looking interfaces

and quite a few productivity applications. Word processors and office

applications are maturing, graphics applications are top notch, and a

number of financial applications have appeared.

Games still constitute the largest Linux-application hole, though.

While you can purchase Linux games commercially (for example, I've been

very happy with Civilization: Call to Power for Linux from Loki

Software (, quite a few popular games have no

Linux version. Enter WINE; short for WINE is not an emulator. WINE

provides a software layer that allows you to run Windows applications.

Note that WINE only works on Intel-architecture systems, including

Linux and BSD UNIX. WINE does not work on PowerPC Linux or Linux on

other non-Intel architectures.

WINE creates open source versions of the many Windows DLLs (Dynamic-

Link Libraries) -- the Windows equivalent of Linux shared libraries

(.so files). With these DLLs, you can create a WINE installation that

fools Windows applications into thinking they are indeed running on

Windows. This works for quite a few applications, including many games

only available in Windows versions. WINE can run a lot more than

Windows games on Linux, too. In fact, games are some of the hardest

applications to run, because many games make coding shortcuts to

improve performance. These shortcuts tend to make running the

applications under Linux harder, since these games no longer follow the

rules for Windows applications. For a list of some popular games that

run on Linux under WINE, see the LinuxGames list at CodeWeavers also provides a database of

Windows applications that run under WINE at

Most Linux distributions include WINE but, if you are working with

games, then you probably want to download a more recent version from

the main WINE site at The main download page is You can also access the absolute

latest versions of WINE through the Concurrent Versions System (CVS) --

a process also described on this page.

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