One of the things I noticed after my transition from being “sort-of Games press” to “real Tech journo” [sic], is that I didn’t escape commenters using the term “M$”. In the past I have chided gaming fanboys from the Sony and Nintendo camp for using the term, but now as I write about Linux and the culture that surrounds it, I hesitate to call people out on it.
Don’t get me wrong, as Penny Arcade has pointed out a few times, you should never use the term. It looks foolish. Are you foolish? Well I guess we all are at some point, but you still shouldn’t do it! However, in terms of the moral highground, gamers don’t really have the right, for lack of a better term, to use it.
Sure, on the 360 there have been ridiculous hard drive prices, there can be a fair bit of expense getting a wireless controller, and then there’s a Gold subscription that doesn’t remove ads. Equally though, and I hate to dredge up a pre-historic meme, FINE HUNDRED AND NINETY NINE US DOLLARS for the launch day PS3. The Vita has ridiculously priced, proprietary memory cards, and PSN releases of retail games in the UK can be double the going rate. One could then say “$ony”, or my favourite that I made up, “$o₦¥”. But you should NEVER say that! It’s disgusting.
People who use and advocate Linux don’t just do so because it’s free to obtain. The popular quote from Richard Stallman is “free as in speech, not as in beer” (although it still is free like free beer). Wikipedia has just told me that this is called gratis versus libre. Basically, Linux is free and open-source – the code to make your own version of Linux is readily available. Same with free and open-source software (FOSS). People are allowed to copy, modify, use, and distribute this sort of code, as long as they keep it free and open source so others can do the same. There are specific software licenses available (such as the Gnu General Public License or GPL) that can be attached to such software that legally require you to do so. Microsoft got in trouble a few years ago when someone found that code from free software had made its way into a version of Windows.
This is why Linux and free software advocates have more of a right to use “M$”. Microsoft develops software which is then patented, made propietary, and put behind their own EULAs so that they can make money from it. Proponents of free software stand up for an ideal, a belief on how the future of computing should be shaped by transparent community involvement. In contrast, gamers that vehemently champion their own system are, at the root of it, continually trying to justify their purchase to themselves.
Neither should use it though.