Mouse and Keyboard: Your Bread and Butter
Game knowledge and technical skill can take you a long way in video games. There are some things that cannot be learned, however, that will give you an edge over your opponent. Most video games require fast reactions, sharp vision, and decisiveness. To help with this, it is important to optimize your hardware. First and foremost, it is important to be comfortable with your layout, while remaining efficient and calculated. Try not to fall into bad habits or limit yourself with problematic settings.
First, let us begin with your primary device: the mouse. In your windows mouse settings, you want to set your sensitivity to the 6th tick out of 11 (this is the default). Higher sensitivities often result in skipped pixels in movement while lower sensitivities can result in a lack of responsiveness. You also want to disable pointer precision, as this will result in inconsistent cursor movement.
Next, if you are using a mouse that has its own software, e.g. Logitech, Razer, Steelseries, etc., set your DPI (separate from the windows mouse sensitivity) to personal preference, while making sure to disable mouse acceleration. The key is to make your mouse movement as consistent and precise as possible. Some people may find success with mouse acceleration on, but play around with it off for a while before making a decision. I personally use 400 dpi, which is definitely lower than average. Your sensitivity should match how much room you have on your desk and mousepad, and how much you are comfortable with moving your hand/arm. I have a SteelSeries QcK+, which is much larger than most mousepads, to warrant such a low DPI. Obviously, if you have less room to work with, you will want to start with higher sensitivities while making sure not to sacrifice precision.
Wrist vs. Arm Movement
There are two major ways to control your mouse, either with your wrist or your entire arm. Gamers who enjoy games like Starcraft, DOTA, League of Legends, or other high APM (actions per minute) games tend to use wrist movement with a high sensitivity. This means mounting your wrist at a certain point on your desk and navigating your mouse by rotating your hand on a pivot. This setup will make more sense for smaller desks and mousepads and/or people who want to get the most mouse actions in within a short period of time.
The problem I found with such a setup was the strain it put on my fingers and wrist. I found more success with using my arm for movement. Using your arm usually means having to use a lower sensitivity because you entire arm is going to want to make bigger motions than your hand. This setup is best for people who enjoy first person shooters, where mouse precision is more important. Instead of mounting your wrist as a pivot, you either mount your elbow on the desk, or keep your arm off the desk entirely. Clearly, you are going to want more surface area to work with so you don’t slide off your desk or knock something over. Arm movement does mean lowering your actions per minute, since moving your arm is a bit more demanding and not as quick as flicking your wrist. Arm movement is generally more consistent because there is less room for error in mouse movements. Missing the mark by a couple centimeters on a high sensitivity is much more detrimental than on a low sensitivity.
Keyboards are a bit more straightforward, since it deals with fewer dimensions than mouse movement. There are some key points, however, that can improve your efficiency and consistency.
Using the Right Fingers
Most games limit you to using only one hand on the keyboard while the other is on the mouse. As a result, you want to be efficient with the space that you’re left with and make sure it is not overly difficult to access some important keys. First, you want to make sure you use your ring, middle, and index fingers for the primary keys that your game demands, such as controlling WASD movement or ability buttons like QWER or 1234. This also means using your pinky and thumb primarily for modifiers and secondary keys, such as shift, control, alt, and spacebar. Some people will feel inclined to use their pinkies and/or thumbs for buttons that have to be pressed frequently. While it is possible to become accustomed to such a habit and even find success in it, it results in, you guessed it, inconsistency. The pinky and thumb are not reliable for repetitive use on a keyboard because they do not have the same level of dexterity and accuracy as your other fingers. This means being okay to sometimes slightly shift your finger placement to press certain keys while always keeping your thumb and pinky available for modifiers and secondary keys.
Investing in a Keyboard
If you have gamed for a while, you may have heard the commotion regarding mechanical keyboards. While not everyone is going to need one, the commotion is definitely warranted. They are usually louder, heavier, and more expensive than conventional keyboards, but are also more precise, responsive, and are less physically straining. Most mechanical keyboards also have measures to prevent ghosting. Ghosting occurs when multiple keys are pressed at the same time, a scenario that many games demand, and some of the key inputs do not get through to the computer. These factors may not seem important to you, but it is an investment worth looking into, especially if you’re keen on improving your play.
Finding the Right Setup
More than anything, your setup comes down to personal preference. This guide is simply to give you some insight for other arrangements that you may not considered and the benefits that certain changes can give you.