All too often we PC players concentrate on how fast our PC is, which graphics card we’re running, how much RAM we have, if we should get an SSD, or a larger monitor… but we forget a couple of major influences on each and every one of our many, many gaming experiences; our keyboard & mouse…
Regardless of what’s inside our gaming rig, and thus how great our games look or sound when we play them, it’s important to remember that much of the enjoyment of any game comes from game play, and game play means one thing… control…
Without control a game is little more than a bad movie, and as such we place significant emphasis on “game play” in all our game reviews. They say a poor workman blames his tools, but anyone who has used a cheap mouse to game will know that this can all too often be true.
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve asked someone what mouse they use and they’ve said “USB” or better still “a black one?”… now this is completely understandable, surely a mouse is a mouse right, they’re all basically the same aren’t they?
Erm, sorry, nope.
Whilst specialist gaming keyboards can be a boon in some situations, gaming mice make a huge difference in almost every gaming scenario.
You see gaming mice are an improvement on your run of the mill mouse across the board, in some obvious ways, and in some more subtle ones.
Let’s start with the obvious; they are more sensitive. Mouse sensitivity has a number of important implications when PC gaming; firstly it increases your accuracy, usually this equates to improving your aim, yes, seriously! Gaming mice have both a MUCH higher quality sensor than ordinary mice and also some much improved internal electronics to better interpret the movement they sense with them. The impact of these two factors could not be more dramatic, it’s quite possible to transform a mediocre gaming experience into a joy as what you want to do on screen actually happens swiftly as your gaming mouse is far more faithfully transferring your action into the game.
A further advantage of this better tracking is that you don’t have to move the mouse as far as you used to with your run of the mill mouse. This has two main benefits. Firstly it means you should never need to “pick up” your mouse. Common with ordinary mice is the need to physically lift the mouse and reposition it when you need to move it beyond the limit of your mouse matt / your own physical reach. I don’t need to explain how this can be a bit of a disaster in most games, where timing and accuracy are both key. With the higher sensitivity of gaming mice this will be a thing of the past, as their sensors are so much better that the full range of movement you will ever need in any game can be delivered with just small movements of your hand, and most importantly will be rendered even more accurately than non-gaming mice could.
At this point it’s worth dealing with an bit of a gaming urban myth, namely; “Just increase your pointer speed”. This might seem like good advice, but, in fact, is the exact opposite of what you want to do as a gamer. And here is why; Simply increasing the “pointer speed” of your mouse in Windows / Linux / iOS actually has the effect of making your mouse inputted movement jerkier. Yes, really.
I’m not going to bore you with the entire techie details of why this is, I’ll just say that increasing pointer speed is actually achieved in your operating system by increasing the distance the pointer moves for each unit of movement the mouse reports. Problem.
What you really need to achieve is not more movement per “report” from the mouse, which increases “jerk” significantly and makes movement LESS accurate, but more frequent and accurate reports from the mouse. Thus you need a better mouse. A gaming mouse!
As previously described gaming mice are specifically designed to hugely improve accuracy and speed of the pointer, and so, in the same way as gaming graphics cards are basically the most powerful display devices you can get, gaming mice are the most powerful pointer devices you can get.
So hopefully you’re coming round to the idea of a gaming mouse for the sake of accuracy and performance, but gaming mice can bring more to the table. Pointer accuracy is a boon in any game, but so is fingertip control. The second killer selling point of many gaming mice is the customisable control they deliver.
Using a gaming mouse can basically deliver you up to 30% more direct control. Suddenly the three fingers that have been passengers on your mouse hand are empowered by the variety of extra buttons many gaming mice provide.
Lets look at perhaps the most common genre where gaming mice make a huge difference; FPS. Most gamers use one hand on the keyboard for “position” (forward, back, strafe left, strafe right, crouch, prone & jump) and the other on the mouse for “orientation” (turn left, turn right, look up & look down). Beyond this basic control the position / keyboard hand is also usually responsible for “tactics” (Weapon selection, maps, grenades & communication) and the orientation / mouse hand for “execution” (Fire & alternate fire).
Often, based on this, one finds that at least 4 fingers on the keyboard hand are pretty busy, whilst only 2 on the mouse hand end up being used. Obviously this is not efficient, specially when one considers that at least one or two of your keyboard fingers are going to have to do 2 jobs at once (Maybe “forward” and “weapon select”, or “strafe left” and “grenade”)! So you can immediately see that moving something like “weapon select” and “grenade” to your mouse hand would be of huge benefit. You could now move diagonally forward left (“forward” and “strafe left”) whilst jumping and also throwing a grenade and changing weapons at the same time as firing.
Ever wondered how other players seem to be able to do 3 things at once? Well, now you know!
This piece has already expanded beyond what I can ask you to bear, so I’ll finish up quickly by just covering the other advantages of gaming mice very quickly. In addition to improved control, accuracy and speed you will also be getting your hands on excellent mouse configuration software, which amongst other things allow you to store “quick profiles” giving you near instant ability to re-configure your mouse for specific games and control over every aspect of your mouse’s performance. Gaming mice also look awesome, but more importantly offer superb comfort “in the hand” with far superior ergonomics design. They often also offer additional improvements in a mix of areas such as; stronger & improved tangle-free cord, low friction pads, further physical customizability (interchangeable body, adjustable weight, etc).
Anyway, that’s quite enough from me.
Basically, if you are a PC based gamer, be it on Windows, Mac or Linux, do yourself a favour and get a gaming mouse, it WILL make a huge difference, regardless of which game you play. In doing so be prepared to endure a few hours of adjustment to your new best friend. You can’t expect to jump from a family sedan into an F1 car and drive them the same. Be patient, experiment with settings, and, when you’ve adjusted to your new hardware come back and thank me…
I’ll be waiting to hear your feedback (and obviously thanks!).
(NOTE: We’re going to follow this piece up with a bunch of mice reviews, to give you some idea of the best device to invest your money in!)
- Richard “Rax” Burley