It is time to take a break from Linux commands and have some fun playing computer games. Luckily, the open source software community offers many gaming and educational choices among the other applications. Whether you want to exercise your own mind or give a child a new learning tool, there are many free games and applications out there to help build and exercise knowledge. You might find on-the-screen puzzles, memory games, games to build math, reading or writing skills, or even applications to explore outer space. The same goes with entertainment software; you can find fun and interesting games out there for free. You can your sharpen card games or board games, create and run your own empire with strategy games, fly or race with simulators, or shoot 'em up in action games.
TuxMath (Click for Larger Image)
We will briefly discuss a few particular games and applications from many of the different types or themes. Keep in mind, most of these are cross-platform and are available for your Windows PCs as well. For the games, most support multiplayer via the Internet or on your Local Area Network (LAN).
GCompris is a suite of educational games and activities for children aged anywhere from 2 to 10. Areas of learning include computer discovery, algebra, science, geography, reading, and more. Childsplay is a similar game suite, with two built-in activities, a memory and a typing game.You can download more games for this suite on their plug-ins page.
Stellarium (Click for Larger Image)
Tux, of Math Command (TuxMath for short) is an educational arcade-type game starring Tux, the Linux mascot! The player must solve the math problems that drop down before they pass up Tux by entering in the correct answers. Players can choose to play in the Math Command Training Academy, where he or she can choose from over 50 types of math problems, from simple addition to multiplication and division of negative numbers. Players can alternatively choose the Arcade mode to be presented with a variety of problems based upon the level they choose. In addition, you can even build your own custom games. TuxMath is a great, fun, game that can help even adults build up their math skills.
If you're a space guru or trying to learn more about astronomy, you'll find a few really neat educational applications, such as Stellarium, Celestia, and KStars. Grab your telescope, binoculars, or your naked eyes; these applications help you orientate yourself so you can find stars, planets, galaxies, and more. Stellarium gives you a 3D view of what you may be able to see from the ground. You tell the application a location and the time for a realistic representation of where the planets, consolations, and stars are located. For example, as the graphic shows, if I gaze south-east here in the Dayton, Ohio area, I'll be looking toward Mars, Venus, and Juno. If you want to get a virtual up-close and personal look, Celestia and KStars give you the ability to travel throughout the solar system.
Atlantik (Click for Larger Image)
Card or board game enthusiasts don't fret; there are many games out there for you. You'll probably find multiple options for each game type, from Blackjack to Solitaire and from Chess to Monopoly. You should be able to find what you desire by browsing through the preinstalled games on your Linux distribution or searching the repositories.
For your late-night card games, you can check out Aisleriot Solitaire or Backjack (both part of GNOME Games), KPoker, or the PokerTH Texas Hold 'em game. For board games, you may want to try DreamChess, Atlantik for Monopoly-like games, or TEG (Tenes Empanadas Graciela), a Risk-like game.
Simulation and Racing Games
Want to fly for free? Take the controls in FlightGear , a flight simulator--my favorite type of game. Though some may say it doesn't beat Microsoft Flight Simulator, it does include neat features such as real-world conditions (seasonal weather, day-light length, placement of sun and stars, etc) and Air Traffic Control. The base installation includes a small area of scenery around San Francisco, CA, however you can download scenery for the entire World with over 20,000 real-world airports.
Simutrans, LinCity-NG, and OpenCity are simulation games where the basic goal is to create and manage an economy by building and managing a city's infrastructure and services. You never know, you may come up with some ideas to give to our real-life government to tackle the financial crisis. These games are comparable to simulation games on the shelves, such as SimCity and RollerCoaster Tycoon.
FlightGear (Click for Larger Image)
Want to take to the road? Check out SuperTuxKart, a racing game inspired by Mario Kart. For a more realistic ride, put the medal to the floor in TORCS (The Open Racing Car Simulator). You can even participate in the racing championships through The TORCS Racing Board.
Remember Doom, where you go around shooting up alien-like beings? Well, there is FreeDoom, which is a set of open source graphics files for the open source versions of the Doom engine. Another first-person shooter game you may also want to check out is Nexuiz. Just keep in mind these game aren't appropriate for most youngsters. If you're looking for something fun and not violent, check out Secret Maryo Chronicles, 2D game modeled after Super Mario Bros.
FreeDoom (Click for Larger Image)
If you're looking for space-type strategy and simulation games, try Allegiance, an online multiplayer game originally developed and sold by Microsoft Research. You participate in space wars by piloting spacecraft to defend and attack sectors in space, led by a Commander who tries to lead your team to victory. There is also Vega Strike, where you can trade, fight, and explore in the vast universe.
If ancient history interests you, check out Freeciv, similar to Civilization II. Set in 4,000 BC, you guide your people through the centuries to build new cities. The goal is to be the best and longest lasting civilization. While increasing your wealth and cultural and scientific advances, you'll wage wars on one another and/or form diplomatic relationships. A somewhat similar game, FreeCol, starts in the year 1492. You try to settle colonies in the New World, with help from the European king. The objective is to build up your colonies to survive without outside aid, while defending against attacks from the rival Europeans.
Freeciv (Click for Larger Image)
It's a Wrap
This has been a very brief introduction to some of the games and applications that caught our eye; there are many more out there. You may want to search the SourceForge site or reference the list on Wikipedia for more options. Remember, some games, such as those strategy ones, may pose a significant learning curve. Searching Wikipedia may also be able to help you discover what a particular game is all about and how to play. Just have fun and don't get addicted!
This article was first published on LinuxPlanet.com.