Do you think it’d be fun to run the Kentucky Derby in the Batmobile?
Sure, probably. At least at first.
I’m certain there would be an initial burst of excitement as you begin to leave those dumb horses and tiny men in your rear-view. Maybe you’d even have a brief moment of delusion, believing that you’re actually on a level playing field with arguably the ugliest animal out there (a topic for another day, but it’s like God was drunk at the character creator screen when he made those things) and that you were simply “better” than them on this day.
But then, reality would probably set in. As you’re sitting at the finish line, minutes ahead of your competitors, with Bruce Wayne’s disturbing mix tape of classical music intermixed with angsty butt rock setting the score, you’d probably begin to feel some guilt. I’d wager that with even the most minor amount of self-examination, the win would begin to feel tainted, unearned. As that first place horse is finally galloping up behind you, I think you might take a glance down at the button on your dashboard that literally says: “Press this to go one million times faster than a horse can possible run and win this race” and you’d consider relinquishing that shiny new trophy.
You’re a normal person. These would be the human things one might feel after partaking in such an unsavory competition.
Now imagine a world populated with people who are not only devoid of the guilt associated with burning horses alive in the jet wash of the Batmobile on their path to victory, but also truly believe they’re winning because of their own natural abilities. These horse murderers exist. I know because I’ve seen them. I know because I’m one of these slain horses.
These people play console Overwatch with mouse and keyboard. They are the devil.
Though I’ve known about the availabilities of expensive adapters designed to trick your console into believing a controller is just a mouse and keyboard, I never truly understood the extent of their evil until I hit the higher ranks of Overwatch on Xbox One.
Now, I won’t list the different adapters in this article, but a quick Google search should do the trick. I also won’t condemn the idea of a mouse and keyboard on a console wholesale. Far from it. I would LOVE to have that functionality for my Xbox One. I started out as a PC gamer. I get it. I know how much better it is to play certain games with the finite tuning and precision of a mouse and keyboard. If I could plug in my mouse and keyboard to my Xbox One right now and jump into a playlist for Overwatch that was restricted to other players using mouse and keyboard, I’d probably never touch the controller again.
But I can’t do this. And, more importantly, I don’t expect to do this. I fully understand the limitations of the console. Of the controller. I’m totally aware that when I dumped $500 on my Xbox One (I know, I know... fuck) I could have pooled that and saved for a PC and joined the ranks of the mouse and keyboard elite. I didn’t do that, though. I signed a moral contract with my fellow console shooter gamers to compete against them using the same controller we’re both saddled with. To shred that contract by bringing a mouse and keyboard to a controller fight is akin to walking my ass down to the local middle school and hopping into a game of kickball. I’d blast that damn ball so far off of one of their puny little pitches that they couldn’t help but turn around and watch in awe. Then, though, the confusion would set in. They’d wonder, “wait, who is this dude?” and “aren’t you an adult, why are you doing this to us?” before finally asking my lame ass to please get the fuck out of their once-balanced game.
It didn’t hit me that this was becoming an issue within Overwatch until I hit rank 65 or so. Once I started to be placed in games with players in the high 60's, low 70's, and some top 500 players, I started to notice a shift. Specifically, when watching killcams it became painfully common to spot a keyboard and mouse Genji absolutely murdering the opposition. It doesn’t take a master investigator to notice it, either. Once trained to the ways a shooter plays in the hands of a controller, even the most minor inconsistency becomes glaringly obvious.
We’re not talking about an exceptional controller player with a high sensitivity snapping to his enemies. We’re talking about a damn robot spinning 180's on a dime before locking onto his opponent’s head with McCree’s pistol from halfway across the map. Possible with a controller, of course, but it’s the consistency and ease that eventually makes the mouse and keyboard users stick out. When observed beside even the most skillful controller users, a mouse and keyboard stand out like a Kardashian at a non-shitty-human convention.
And still, even as the evidence began to stack up before my eyes, I didn’t want to dive in too deep. I didn’t want to have “oh, that guy must be using keyboard and mouse” as some built in excuse for simply being wrecked fair and square. Yet, my paranoia turned fact once I started to join random groups using an LFG service to find teammates for competitive games.
It became rare to join a group of high-level strangers without hearing at least one of them talking about his keyboard and mouse. “You guys got the BRAND NAME REDACTED, right?” Or, “Lol, these dudes definitely don’t have BRAND NAME REDACTED. I’m crushing them.” One even shouted, “I fuckin’ love my BRAND NAME REDACTED” like a damn spokesman for the company. Truthfully, it was becoming this commonplace in my games. It was absolutely the norm to hear a good portion of my teammates extolling the virtues of playing a console game with a keyboard and mouse. Beyond this, they were doing it without even the tiniest hint of awareness that what they were doing was essentially cheating.
This sort of behavior came to head for me in one particular grouping. As I joined in with the party of strangers, I began to make small talk. I began to talk about the prevalence of keyboard and mouse players at our level, and made a crack about how unfulfilling this experience must be (something, something small wiener joke, you know, the good stuff) and was almost immediately greeted with a “you have been removed from this party” message. After that, I did some digging.
I had to see if other players shared in my frustrations. I wanted to see if people were even aware of how often this was really happening at the higher ranks and if there was even anything to be done about it.
I ran the cursory searches on the Blizzard forums and found that, sure enough, it was as hot of a topic for others as it was becoming for me. Overwhelmingly, and not surprisingly, people were simply frustrated and confused.
There’s plenty of discussion on the topic out there, but here’s a light sampling of a bit of discussion taking place in this post on the Blizzard forums:
I’d argue that after sifting through the usual PC elitist comments like “why not just play on PC,” these comments seem to represent the majority of feelings on the issue. People seem to believe that a keyboard and mouse does lean towards cheating, but, unfortunately, there seems to be little to be done about it. Perhaps “SlakjeJasper” summed it up best with his comment:
I simply do not want to play against these people after signing our invisible contract as console players to compete with a controller. It’s that simple.
However, to my surprise, I also found a good many of these keyboard and mouse users coming out to defend themselves. Here’s a small sampling of their stances from the very same post:
Though I could pull plenty more arguments both for and against, it’s interesting to see the rationale on the pro keyboard and mouse side of things. Almost every argument drew on points based around fight pads or the Elite controller for the Xbox One. These are, for lack of respect for such arguments, totally fucking bullshit defenses.
With the fight pad argument, it’s absolutely bonkers because the general design of a fight pad still plays in the same ballpark as that of a controller. There’s still buttons for your attacks and inputs. More importantly, there’s a JOYSTICK for your movements. This is important to remember when approaching the second most common argument for mouse and keyboard use, and it should help wrap up the flaw in both of these arguments quite neatly.
The second argument is the one about SCUF controllers (modified controllers with extra paddles and customization options) or the Elite controller for the Xbox one. I think that you could certainly make the case that these options do offer a slight advantage over the stock controller. They are more customizable, more personalized, and sometimes designed with a certain type of game in mind. However, they also operate within the parameters of the inherent console control limitations we’ve all agreed upon. At their core, you still need the same level of precision with your thumbs on the joysticks that someone with a regular controller would need. It’s this thumb-to-joystick input that inherently makes the controller inferior to mouse and keyboard. If one were to hop from the unbelievably precise accuracy of aiming with a mouse, to flicking their thumb at the right joystick of a controller for the very same function, they’d feel as though they were suddenly transformed into a fucking cave man. There’s a relatively-low ceiling when it comes to the capabilities for movement with a joystick that a mouse absolutely smashes through. They’re entirely different animals and are meant to be separated as such. There is no comparison. It’s apples to oranges. It’s Jake Busey to Daniel Day-Lewis. It’s the number three to bicycle karate. It makes no damn sense.
Truthfully, then, there’s no real reason to get into an argument with those that don’t believe there’s anything wrong with what they’re doing. You’re not going to change your stance, and they certainly aren’t going to change theirs. A fundamental disconnect exists in the definition of fair play that can’t be repaired or restored over the internet.
These players are Alex Rodriguez looking at his home run totals when he’s on his deathbed and thinking, “damn, I was so leet.” There’s no getting through to them.
Hell, there’s even this Gizmodo article that praises the adapter as a bestower of “superpowers.” I don’t need to get into the particulars, because I think that my stance here does enough to highlight a counterpoint to the author’s feelings of becoming the “golden god” that they believe themselves to be when using such a device. This just serves as another example of a line of thinking that I truly don’t understand.
The reason, then, for writing this piece was to shine a light on the pseudo-prevalence of this issue, especially at the higher levels of Overwatch on console. Not because I believe that anything can, or will, be done about it. Not even to shame those who are out there punishing controller users with their mouse and keyboard (because, honestly, they’ve pretty much proven that they don’t have the emotional capacity for shame) but to assure my fellow controller users that they aren’t AS bad as they think. That when you are sitting there watching the killcam on a game-ending slay that sends you back down to level 69, there’s a better chance than you might have realized that the person who killed you was actually bringing a mouse and keyboard to a controller fight, and there’s simply not much you can do about it.
All that you can really do is let those mouse and keyboard players know that nobody’s impressed by their “skills.” Nobody’s in awe. We’re just baffled and concerned that there are people walking our streets who truly believe that the Batmobile v. Barbaro is a fair fight.
Mac Fabes is a copywriter who would rather spend his free time writing about video games than brainstorming hundreds of taglines for diarrhea medication.
When he’s not writing far too many words about video games, you can find Mac on twitter harassing local sports reporters, talking video games, and defending Guy Fieri with an absolute lack of irony.