Why Keyboard And Mouse Are The Worst Video Game Controls

Senior Contributor
06.30.14 57 Comments

As both a blogger and a human being, I work hard to try and see the upside in everything, and there’s a lot that’s great (or at least different enough to make sense as a preference) in PC gaming. But there is one point in which I am resolute and can find no common ground with the Mustard Race, and that’s the fundamentally inferior control scheme of keyboard and mouse.

It’s A Kludge

Back in the ’80s and early ’90s, there weren’t really controllers for PCs, largely thanks to the split Nintendo forced between home consoles and home computers. So, as games became more complex, game developers on the PC had to focus on standard equipment, meaning they had to develop for keyboard and mouse.

This, in technology, is the origin story of every annoying inconvenience and bad idea. Sure, it’s not good, but it’s good enough, and we’ll replace it with something else eventually, right? Instead we have millions convinced that somehow, this is how games are supposed to be played.

The Mouse Takes The Skill Out Of It

For games that aren’t dependent on twitch, but rather thought, I will cheerfully agree a mouse is preferable. But in that scenario, the mouse is nothing more than a simple tool, something to trigger the series of actions you have planned. The skill is not in pointing and clicking, but knowing exactly what you want to click and why.

And for everything else, using a mouse is skill-free. If somebody headshots a fellow player from 200 yards with thumbsticks, that’s a skill. One absolutely useless to the real world, perhaps, but it’s still a skill. Sniping somebody with a mouse requires you to have the same skillset as Cheryl from accounting “sniping” that pesky incorrect total in Excel.

The Keyboard Is A Miserable Input Device

Here’s a conversation that absolutely happened at some point around 1983:

Dev 1: “Hey, we need to have the player move around our game world as simply and logically as possible!”

Dev 2: “I know, let’s make them curl their fingers into a painful claw over WASD in a method that makes no logical sense and requires you to use your middle finger to move around.”

Dev 1: “I think this is a great idea because I own stock in a company that makes wrist braces! Hey, can we also use the number pad on the side, to drive everyone slowly insane?”

WASD only makes sense because you were forced to use it; don’t pretend otherwise. And games that try to justify the keyboard by requiring multiple commands mapped to a key are even worse. The keyboard just isn’t designed for you to hop around multiple keys like a headless chicken, and having to press E to draw your sword, Q to rub it with the Potion of Decapitation, and F to do the flying triple backstab only underlines how asinine the whole exercise is. The only positive thing one can say about the keyboard is that it makes it really easy to make Aiden Pearce look like a pervert:

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Certainly, I would not say that someone who uses the keyboard and mouse is a lesser gamer, or a lesser human being. Making video game characters do obscene things in traffic is one of the highest callings many of us can aspire to. But let’s let go of the idea that it’s somehow superior, because it’s awful, and we all know it.

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Dan Seitz is a grad student and freelance writer. He currently lives in Boston.

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