2021 was such a bad year for budget hardware, even the LowSpec Gamer gave up on it

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Six years ago, a YouTube channel called LowSpec Gamer (opens in new tab) debuted with a video on how to run Batman: Arkham Origins on a low-end PC (opens in new tab). 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 (opens in new tab).

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 (opens in new tab), 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 (opens in new tab) 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 640x480, 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.

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games (opens in new tab). He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun (opens in new tab), The Big Issue, GamesRadar (opens in new tab), Zam (opens in new tab), Glixel (opens in new tab), Five Out of Ten Magazine (opens in new tab), and Playboy.com (opens in new tab), whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.