PC Gamer is a broad term; encompassing vast age ranges, radically different styles of play and polar opposite genres. But one thing they all have in common is: a mouse.
Everyone needs a mouse to play, sure there are a few niche flash games out there that let you play with just a keyboard (Bomberman anyone?), but you had to use your mouse to open the game. They are an integral part of computer use and by extension PC gaming.
Normal computer use doesn’t ask much of a mouse, simply for it to not break and to be comfortable. Ergonomic mice, more often than not, are of a high enough quality to last a very long time and are the extremely comfortable, making them good for home use, great for office use, and they should be perfect for gaming. When looking for a mouse, I, and other gamers, will look for certain general features;
- Speed and Accuracy,
Speed and Accuracy
A mouse too slow and you’re shot dead, a mouse too fast and you’ve over twitched and missed your shot. This is all related to the DPI (Dots Per Inch) sensitivity of a mouse (although DPI is a misnomer, the more accurate term being CPI, Counts Per Inch). The higher the DPI the faster the cursor will move across your screen. Professionals working with CAD programs, 3D modelling programs or picture editing suites will often prefer a low DPI to perform fine movements. Whereas professional gamers will often prefer a high DPI to perform quick movements in games, especially twitch reactions in FPS (First Person Shooter) games.
Previously mouse DPI could be artificially altered by software which would divide or multiply the sensitivity of movement, which could produce inaccuracy when stretched too far. Today good quality mice come with manual DPI buttons as standard. This new feature is because of the innovation of optical and laser mice which can read movements much more precisely than a ball mouse ever could. The button allows for switching though two or more sensitivities.
Feel is something you often can’t tell from looking at a picture. However many mice are designed purely to be aesthetically pleasing, and it can be best to disregard these mice as soon as you see them, unless of course you specifically want a piece of eye candy to make friends and colleagues jealous.
Feel is primarily concerned with weight and the ease of a click or scroll. Too heavy and the mouse feels sluggish, too light and the cursor may jump around when you don’t want it to. If the buttons are too soft you can click at the worst of times, causing friendly fire accidents, moving your troops into the line of fire, selling your star player and so on. Scroll wheel clicking tends to be the worst culprit, if you’ve customised this extra button to do something like perform a melee attack or taunt an opponent then having it not respond or scrolling instead can cause embarrassing repercussions.
Comfort leads on from feel, but whereas feel relates to the click and movement of the mouse, comfort is how well your hand fits onto your mouse and so is almost universal and can only be gauged truly through prolonged use. In the workplace today many employees sitting at their computers all day are turning to ergonomic mice because of their inherent health benefits. And the manufacturers of ergonomic mice target these people appropriately, in fact the increasing prevalence of RSI in the workplace is the reason for the existence of many ergonomic products.
Gamers are at their computers far more than others, especially if they then have to work at one too! Moreover their gaming activities can often force them to be at their computers for more than an hour without pause for a break. Hourly breaks are advised by Health and Safety in the workplace.
In a perfect world everyone would have an ergonomic mouse, however due to a mix of high cost and a lack of awareness they remain a specialist product for those who need them. The occasional laptop user makes do with the trackpad, the occasional desktop user uses the mouse his PC came with. The office worker may have an ergonomic mouse, as more and more are these days. The gamer may quite possibly spend the longest amount of time actually looking for the perfect mouse, and will certainly go through mice faster than any other user. However they tend not to look at ergonomic mice, and certainly, they should.
Gamers pay through the nose for gaming mice; high quality builds that look snazzy. But ultimately gaming mice simply sell off cheap gimmicks not actual helpful features that make gaming any easier. When you compare the price of the most popular ‘gaming mice’ to ‘ergonomic mice’ you see either similar prices or the ergonomic mice coming in cheaper than the gaming mice. The difference in features is very slight, ergonomic mice are of a high quality, usually have at least 3 DPI settings and most importantly have been specifically designed to be comfortable and reduce the risk of RSI.
Gaming mice will often claim to be ergonomic, but often the designers use the term ‘ergonomic’ rather loosely, extending it to any shape that a hand can fit round. Looking at the range of gaming mice that include the term ‘ergonomic’ in their description you’ll see that they look exactly the same as a non-ergonomic mouse. ‘Ergonomic’ is used as a buzz word for smooth lines and attractive curves and little else.
An ergonomic mouse, like the Airobic and Evoluent, are easily identifiable as ergonomic because of their handshake grip. Your hand assumes a natural side-on position when using the mouse, this means your wrist is not twisted allowing the muscles that control the fine movements within your hand that run through your wrist to be more relaxed during use. This simple innovation reduces the small but persistent amounts of stress in your arm and hand that can build up into discomfort and even serious cases of RSI in the long term.
There seems to be a mismatch in the market. People who work all day at their computers are using ergonomic mice, and people, who may again work all day at computers, and then play on their computers in their spare time are using gaming mice. The problem being that gaming mice don’t offer the level of wrist support that truly ergonomic mice do, and gamers are the people who need that support the most. If you’re lucky enough to have come across ergonomic mice in the workplace and have taken to using that mouse in gaming then great, but if you’ve never seen or heard of an ergonomic mouse, especially if you’re a younger gamer then it really is worth looking up.