On Wednesday Valve released a video in which it shows what its hotly anticipated handheld gaming PC looks like on the inside, and how an average user might be able to open it and replace simple parts, while at the same time strongly, hysterically warning users not to do that.
Valve even goes so far as to say that opening a Steam Deck could lead to your death.
“Opening up [the Steam Deck] and replacing parts might mess things up, like, profoundly. For example, if you damage the battery, the whole thing could catch fire later, which would be Bad™,” the narrator said and the video even slices in a clip of what such a fire would look like.
“So be forewarned, and leave this kind of thing to professionals, unless you really feel like taking big risks with your prosperity, and with your life,” the video said.
Valve isn’t technically wrong about this. A good lithium-ion battery fire, which can happen even if you didn’t attempt to replace one, could fuck up your entire life, and you can make that more likely to happen if you, for example, recklessly puncture a battery while attempting to replace one. This is true.
But it’s also true that claiming that it’s too dangerous for people to do simple maintenance on their devices is a scare tactic used by companies like Apple to convince people and lawmakers to limit the right to repair. Could you start a fire trying to replace a battery? Yes, theoretically you can. You can also electrocute yourself pulling toast out of a toaster. We just don’t view it as a life-threatening activity reserved for certified technicians.
Valve’s video is a step in the right direction. It opens up the device and lets us look inside, something we usually have to wait for iFixit to do, and it shows people how they would replace the parts they most likely will want to replace. The video states clearly that once you buy it, the Steam Deck is your device, and you are free to do what you want with it. That’s great!
However, the video also said Valve also “really recommends you never open it up.” Much like Apple, Valve’s reasoning here is that the Steam Deck is a very tightly designed system with parts that are chosen carefully to meet its needs, and that it wasn’t really designed to be “user-swappable.”
As the video itself says, “In one way this is a how-to video, but in another way, it’s a why–you really-shouldn’t-do -his video.”
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