Oops, the Steam Deck is my only DVD player

I have made mistakes at many points in my life if I rely on a Steam Deck to help me play DVDs. But that’s where I am, having gotten rid of virtually every device I’ve owned over the past few years that can play records.

The Steam Deck can’t play DVDs on its own, so to revisit our disc collection, I came up with the idea (which I’m far from the first to try) of connecting a no-frills DVD player, powered by USB, to the Deck TV docking station. , then run the discs with the VLC Media Player application. I’m both proud and embarrassed by this hacky setup. You don’t need to feel bad for me!

This method, as you may have surmised, is about as far from an elegant user experience as you can get, especially if you’re trying to implement it in an entertainment center. In fact, using it without pulling your hair out involves either using a mouse connected to your Steam Deck or painstakingly remaping VLC’s mouse and keyboard controls to a controller. Honestly, neither choice results in something that feels “nice” to use.

Photo: Cameron Faulkner/Polygon

On the software side, configuration is fortunately simpler. The VLC media player app is supported by the SteamOS version of Linux and you can find it in the Discover store accessible in Steam Deck desktop mode. The Steam Deck: It’s a computer! After installing it, right-click on the application and select the “Add to Steam” option to add it (and, in fact, any other application) to the collection of tiles that appear in the mode of friendlier game of the Deck.

Launching it takes you straight to the VLC interface, taking up the entire size of my TV with its utilitarian Windows 98-like design. From there, it’s pretty straightforward if you’ve used the software before. Otherwise, learning how it works shouldn’t take much effort if you’ve tinkered with the Steam Deck’s desktop mode.

A photo of a 55-inch TV with the VLC media player application displayed on it.  It's powered by a Steam Deck with a USB DVD drive plugged into its dock.

It’s hard not to laugh every time I see this interface pop up on my TV.
Photo: Cameron Faulkner/Polygon

Is this my long term solution to watching DVDs? I hope not, but it could be, provided it continues to work. That said, I have a voice in my head that makes me lightly consider the various dedicated 4K Blu-ray player options. I also hope Sony follows through on rumors that it will one day sell PS5 disc drives separately. I suspect this will be a more expensive solution, and it may seem just as hacky as this Steam Deck solution. But at least it would be a bit more future-proof, probably with support for 4K Blu-ray discs.

I envy you if you can’t currently understand my debacle of running out of disc-compatible gadgets. But situations like mine will only become more common. Using Microsoft’s recent, huge Xbox leak as an indication that more and more companies are moving toward an all-digital future, the ability to play discs of any kind on your next console may not be a evidence. In the case of video discs of any kind, you will have to put in more effort and perhaps more money to enjoy your collection later. But as most physical media enthusiasts will admit, putting in the effort is part of the fun.

Photo of a television showing an opening scene from the film The Brothers Bloom.

Only after setting this up to watch The Bloom brothers did I realize it’s free to stream on multiple streaming services.
Photo: Cameron Faulkner/Polygon | Image source: Lionsgate