On a standard filesystem, we have:


Is this a joke, or is there some history behind this? What is it for? Why do we have separate and specialized directories for something like games?

2 Answers 2


It's just a bit of historical cruft. A long time ago, games were an optional part of the system, and might be installed by different people, so they lived in /usr/games rather than /usr/bin. Data such as high scores came to live in /var/games. As time went by, people variously put variable game data in /var/lib/games/NAME or /var/games/NAME and static game data in /usr/lib/NAME or /usr/games/lib/NAME or /usr/games/NAME or /usr/lib/games/NAME (and the same with share instead of lib for architecture-independent data). Nowadays, there isn't any compelling reason to keep games separate, it's just a matter of tradition.

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    is this ok if I delete all games directories? or there will be compatibility issue?
    – uray
    Commented Sep 6, 2010 at 23:05
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    @uray: If you want to delete games, uninstall them through your distribution's package management system. Commented Sep 7, 2010 at 0:13
  • I'am messing up with something like LFS, I don't use distro and package management
    – uray
    Commented Sep 7, 2010 at 9:58
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    @uray You can delete the directories if you want. The only issue this might cause is if at some stage you try to install some game, and it doesn't check for the directory's existence. This is unlikely though, for I expect standard install tools to have such a sanity check (and a clear error message in case of trouble).
    – tshepang
    Commented Jan 19, 2011 at 8:04

At least partially, it's so the system can have a games group that certain users are members of, and they all have rights to execute games in the games folder

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    The games group is not for who can play games, it's for the game administrators (they get the right to install games and manage things like high score files). In the old days, when people didn't worry about trojans, “serious” administrators would sometimes delegate game administration to volunteers (for example a student team on a university system). Commented Sep 6, 2010 at 22:37
  • I'am puzzled here, is this "games" is the "games" as in a program for entertainment & fun? or what?
    – uray
    Commented Sep 6, 2010 at 23:02
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    @Gilles Are you sure? At least on my system (Gentoo), all the executables in the games folders are owned by root:games and set to 750, so people not in the games group can't run them Commented Sep 6, 2010 at 23:53
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    Ok, then Gentoo is doing things differently from Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, and several non-Linux systems I've seen. By the way, on these systems, games that keep high score files are setgid games (mode 2755), with high score files writable by the games group only. @uray: yes, that's games as in computer games and more generally entertainment software (but games can be in /usr/bin like other programs too). Commented Sep 7, 2010 at 0:13
  • @uray, yes, it's "games" as in entertainment and fun stuff. There are occasionally programs that are useful but have a whimsical element, such as xcowsay, which causes a pop-up graphic of a cow with a text message for a user.
    – bgvaughan
    Commented Oct 16, 2011 at 1:31

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