The left-handed gamer

I am right-handed, so when I got my first mouse (when Windows 3.1 was introduced — I am that old), I placed it at the right side of my keyboard, as most people do. This is an annoying location for a mouse, as the right side of the keyboard is already occupied by a keyboard extension developed mainly for accountants: the keypad (yes, I remember the time when the keypad was not part of the keyboard — I am even that old).

With this setup, the user’s right hand has to cover quite a large area between the location of the right side of the keys and the location of the mouse. I experienced the painful consequences of this setup when I was working on my master’s thesis and tried to churn out 200 pages of text  in three months time, next to having a day job as a systems designer. My right arm started hurting. I recognized the beginnings of a so-called “mouse arm,” and knew I had to do something.

I decided to better balance the load of work between my two arms. At my job I would place the mouse at the right side of the keyboard, but at home I would place it at the left side. I was afraid that I would find it very hard to control the mouse with my left hand, but it proved to be surprisingly easy. In less than an hour of practice, I could control the left-handed mouse as well as the right-handed one. Because of the absence of a left keypad, I found that the left side of the keyboard is almost the natural location for the mouse.

A few notes on my setup: when I use a left-handed mouse, I mirror the functions of the buttons, i.e., the function of the button underneath my index finger is the same, whether the mouse is right-handed or left-handed. Furthermore, I always virtually maximize the speed of the mouse cursor. This means that very small movements of the mouse lead to big leaps of the mouse cursor on the screen. To get used to that took more practicing than getting used to working with a left-handed mouse, but in the end it lowers the strain on the arms even more.

I would have thought I was not the only one using this setup, but evidently left-handed mouse control is a rarity. This is notable especially in the design of games.

Mainy of today’s PC games use the so-called WASD setup, whereby the character controlled by the player is moved by using the W (“forward”), A (“left”), S (“backwards”), and D (“right”) keys. There are also default keys for functions such a “run,” “crouch,” and “jump.” I don’t know what these last are from the top of my head, because I always have to remap them.

I game at home, so I game with a left-handed mouse. Thus I use the cursor keys (which are meant for this particular purpose) to move my character across the screen. “Run” goes to the Right Shift, “jump” to the Right Ctrl, and “crouch” to the Ins key on the keypad (underneath the pinky). I always use the same setup. I always have to remap.

Now here’s my rant: why oh why oh why do I always have to do this remapping? Why can’t I just configure my mapping once? Microsoft forced that stupid Registry on us, which has only one advantage, namely that all configuration settings are stored in a single place. Shouldn’t these games learn from each other what my preferred setup is by accessing the registry? I can imagine that there would be some hesitation of game designers to copy settings from other games, but what if these games are in the same series? If I configure Knights of the Old Republic, why do I have to configure Knights of the Old Republic 2? Or, for that matter, Mass Effect 1 & 2, Jade Empire, and Dragon Age, which are all from the same designer, and which all use the same key functionalities?

And then there are the games that do not allow the remapping of keys, or (more common and more annoying by far) the switching of mouse buttons. Yes, there are numerous modern games that refuse to switch the action of “shooting” from the left to the right mouse button, not even if the player has configured Windows to switch these buttons.

Finally, I am saddened by the fact that on my new PC, which I just bought, I have to still use a plain old mouse, and I cannot switch to one of the new fancy gamer mice out there. You see, all these new-fangled mice are designed for the right hand, and the right hand only. I would love to get one of these, but I am not going back to using my right hand exclusively for mouse control.

Suddenly I feel like a “leftie.” What suffering these people must go through.

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One Response to The left-handed gamer

  1. Kristofor Wilson says:

    Hey,

    I know this is an old post, but I thougth you might be interested that there’s a company finally catering to left handed gamers.

    http://store.razerzone.com/store/razerusa/en_US/pd/productID.182251700/categoryId.35208800

    I just got this mouse and like it so far. I’m a bit of an odd left hander as until recently I’ve used my mouse left handed, but left the buttons switched to right handed (so normal click was with my middle finger). I’ve decided to cut that out though and learn to use it properly because I find my arm getting tired from clicking with the middle button so much.

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