Gamers, this is not your enemy.Gamers, especially veteran players, often express exasperation at new or casual players’ difficulty accommodating some basic gaming conventions.

The classic example is mouse turning, as opposed to using the keyboard. It’s self-evident to us that mouse turning is a superior way of gaming: turn speed is faster, and you’re free to use your left hand for hotkeyed abilities rather than for turning / movement.

Personally, I think designers are being unfair to new gamers.

People who are not hardcore gamers come to games with a pretty sizable pre-existing set of skills at computer use. These skills are, unfortunately, largely of no use in games, given interface design choices that game designers make.

  • Most of the time nongamers spend at a computer, the most efficient arrangement of their hands is to use both hands on the keyboard and only occasionally use the mouse for the selection of objects (files, menu choices) in their desktop environment.
  • Movement within the desktop environment is most efficiently done not with a mouse, but with a keyboard.

People come to gaming with a set of skills that are the most efficient for what they do most on their computers: navigating documents and manipulating text. Cutting and pasting text, navigating documents, even most aspects of page layout and design, are all more efficiently executed with keyboard commands than with the mouse. It’s one of the reason users of text editors like vi and emacs scoff at “inefficient” word processing programs like Word: they rely too heavily on mouse use and not enough on efficient keyboard commands.

If a new gamer spends 5 percent of his time at the computer playing games, why should he bother learning an entirely new way of interacting with it that doesn’t build on the interface knowledge he has from the other 95 percent of the time he uses the computer?

What if, instead of designing games that went 180 degrees in the opposite direction from how people use their computers outside games, designers actually tried to make game interfaces work more like applications nongamers use? Would that make PC gaming more accessible? Couldn’t hurt.

I await the epoch-making first-person shooter that’s designed to be played with 2 hands on the keyboard. I’m not entirely joking. 😉