Six years ago, a YouTube channel called LowSpec Gamer debuted with a video on how to run Batman: Arkham Origins on a low-end PC. Its host Alex had been born in Venezuela, where top-shelf gaming hardware was unaffordable, and his subsequent videos on how to downgrade games with tweaks to configuration files, mods, and other hacks proved just as useful to a global audience of impoverished students, broke kids, and anyone who couldn't afford a high-end gaming rig. Even cashed-up players could enjoy seeing what happens to, say, Red Dead Redemption 2 when faces become an optional extra.
Things are different these days. While component shortages make it hard to get hold of the best kit, hardware manufacturers haven't exactly fallen over themselves to provide budget alternatives (AMD did just announce the RX 6500 XT, a graphics card that costs $US199, but we'll see how long they remain in stock for). It should be the perfect time for games that are tweakable enough to run on a variety of hardware, yet they aren't being released that way.
As Alex says in the video above, “For 80% of the cases I can't find a single thing that is worth changing that will actually make the game more playable in a low-end system.” Over the course of 2021 he continued researching videos, spending weeks or months picking apart big-budget games, “only to figure out one thing that actually works and then deliver a video to a comments section that complains that it's too little.”
He pivoted to making more videos about handheld PCs instead—and then the Steam Deck was announced. Until its release, Alex says, there's not much point exploring more expensive alternatives. “For the last year making videos has been feeling like pushing a boulder up a hill and the hill keeps getting steeper and steeper as time goes on with no rest whatsoever.”
What kept him going was a video about a classic low-spec machine, Game Boy, in which he pulled apart both the object and the history of its creation. He enjoyed making that so much, he's planning to focus on more “LowSpec Lore” videos like it, rather than continuing to break the graphics of Warzone or whatever.
It'll be a shame to lose the LowSpec Gamer when so many people are limited in the hardware they can buy, but I'd hate to see Alex continue throwing himself against uncooperative games until he burns out. I'm glad he's found a new passion, even if it falls outside the realm of PC gaming.
The comments under Alex's latest video are a rare collection of wholesomeness, with viewers saying things like, “Your channel helped me play modern games on that 640×480, 20fps had never felt so good”, and “This guy is the reason I grew up playing so many games on my potato laptop, thank you.” It's only because of Alex that I got to play Skyrim and The Witcher 3 on a cheap laptop myself. Thanks, man. I owe you one.