What Kung-Fu are you, WASD or Arrows?

The topic came up one night when I was walking to the fridge for a beer and noticed my room mate playing a First Person Shooter using the arrow keys on the keyboard. I asked “how do you reload, prone, crouch etc.” and he replies matter-of-fact “Reload I use 0 on the numlock pad, Control for crouch, mouse button 2 for prone etc.”. This then got me thinking about the different styles used on the keyboard, and which would be more efficient. As of late, I always use the pre-configured WASD style, but there was a time back in the Quake and Counter-Strike days where I used the arrow keys.

The year was 1999, I was still back in high school and PC gaming was in full swing. It was the month of March when a huge hype was generated on the Planet Half-Life website: A new modification was available to one of the greatest games at its time, Half-Life. This modification was unveiled and was to be forever known as Counter-Strike, and little to anyone’s knowledge, this mod (modification) was to follow in the footsteps of Genghis Kahn, to become one of, if not, the greatest online multilayer FPS (First Person Shooter) of all time. I was hooked on this mod from the get-go, constantly sacrificing my school grades to get in extra rounds of practice for upcoming clan battles. Before I reminisce to much, lets get back to the topic at hand; I recall using the arrow keys to play Counter-Strike using Control for crouch and 0 (numpad lock) for jump, and there was not much more to it. Games were simple in configuration, and the most you had to worry about was setting up strafe left and strafe right.

This relationship with the keyboard worked for years, and things could not of been better (apart from my school grades). As the years went by, games started becoming more advanced, and with this advancement came a plethora of added keys to be used. Players could now lean left and right around corners. Players could still crouch, but they could now also prone, they could sprint, stand on their tippy toes (Ghost Recon), switch to night vision, thermal, heat, and the list goes on. The world of FPS games went crazy overnight. All these additions that were subtly introduced made me unknowingly switch over to WASD style, and I cannot be sure when and which game made me leave old faithful (arrow keys).

Today, personally the use of WASD seems like the more logical choice. You have the benefit of many keys around your movement keys. Such as Q and E for leaning left and right, and it seems I am not alone in this judgement, as keyboard manufactures (Such as Razer) have implemented backlit settings to illuminate just the WASD keys. But not all is lost for the old-school arrow key players. As games are becoming more complex, the mouse has also followed suit and become far more advanced: gone are the days of a mouse with only two buttons. Gaming mice can now come with an astonishing amount of buttons — these can be incorporated into all those added extras in FPS games. Lame man’s terms, basically taking away the need for the keys around WASD and slapping them around the mouse.

Online multiplayer FPS can be intense, and gaming gear has become of the utmost importance. Any slight advantage is a blessing, and this point really hammers down which style is the more efficient. I found at times using WASD can lead me to accidentally press an unwanted key, for example the E key is used to knife in Call of Duty. When this E key is accidentally pressed while you are in a fire-fight, you lose valuable seconds and it will almost certainly result in your death. The arrow keys would seem to reduce the tendency for these type of accidents to happen but possibly, as the keys are further spread apart, cause a slightly greater delay? I guess I may be looking to deep into this with a microscope, whether we care to admit it or not, gamers can be very meticulous.

Every player has their own style and that works for them. But it is definitely interesting to see the diversity in style, and it would be even more interesting to see if there are players that use IJKL style, which was used for player two in some old PC games.

About the Author

Nightshadow is an avid PC gamer, but occasionally strays off to the Xbox360 for some console action. Frequent writer for Gameolio - he has a strange obsession for uniquely flavored soft drinks such as Cherry Coke, Passion Fruit, and Buzz Monkey. Currently Playing: - Mafia II - Age of Conan - Red Dead Redemption