The Ethics of Mouse & Keyboard on Consoles

With the launch of Destiny, we ask: is it okay to pretend it's coming to PC?

By midnight tonight, a legion of fans will finally descend on the world of Destiny. Most will be playing with a controller. A small percent will use a mouse and keyboard.

One of 2014's best games isn't coming PC. As such, PC gamers are finding a way to get their fix. With a peripheral costing $60 to $120, their input-of-choice is ready to go. Do a mouse and keyboard (M&KB) have an inherent advantage over controllers? Is it a problem? Let's ask a few questions and find out.

Question 1: Do these M&KB-enabling peripherals even work?

By all accounts they work wonderfully. While I haven't tested one personally, users swear by its ability to capture the feeling of a mouse and keyboard. The set-up process is a little involved, but after that it's plug-and-play.

Question 2: Does the keyboard have an advantage?

A keyboard is essentially a big, flat controller (minus the thumbsticks). Even though you need four keys for movement, you've got lots of "buttons" around them to use for anything. On a controller, your left hand has access to movement and only 3 functions; a keyboard offers movement and 5-7+ functions. Edge goes to the keyboard for key bindings and making better use of your left hand.

Question 3: Does the mouse have an advantage?

This is the major factor, replacing the right thumbstick with a mouse. On a controller, your right hand is responsible for aiming and 7 other functions. On a mouse, it's roughly 4-5+ depending on the mouse you use. In a game where aim is critical, having fewer functions to manage tied to that hand is better. But that's not even the crux of the advantage.

A thumbstick doesn't provide very smooth movement. With heavy practice, it's still noticeable. With a mouse (and mouse acceleration off), your aim is 1:1 based on your hand movement. It's fluid, reliable, and you never need to stop aiming to press a button. That's key: you never stop aiming, and small adjustments are easy & predictable.

Anecdote: Several years ago, Microsoft had a cross-platform project in the works. When they pit controller-users vs. M&KB, the controller-users got killed – and so did the project. That sums it up.

Question 4: So are M&KB even allowed?

An interesting question. I suspected the answer was no, but I looked for answers from Microsoft, Sony, and Destiny's publisher Activision. The result?

Microsoft: Section 2.(i) of their Software License Terms: (i) "You will not use Unauthorized Accessories..." An 'Unauthorized Accessory' is defined as "all hardware accessories other than an Authorized Accessory," with a few exceptions for multimedia and storage. Pretty cut and dry.

Sony: I wasn't able to find anything in the Terms of Use! A support rep. confirmed it: "there's nothing against it in the Terms, but it depends on the publisher" whether they allow/support M&KB. Success! Sort of...

Activision: Here's where things get iffy, at least specific to Destiny. Section 3.A. "You agree that you will not, under any circumstances:...use...any...unauthorized third-party software in connection with the Product,..." So while Sony seems okay with other inputs, Activision may not be keen on the peripherals that actually enable the inputs for use in-game. No dice.

Always be careful with your console.
Be sure you're in compliance with anything you've agreed to.

Question 5: Should I be worried about players with a mouse & keyboard?

A bad player with a mouse and keyboard is still bad. A good player with a controller is still good. Mouse and keyboard raises the ceiling for a player's potential. It won't suddenly make them better.

Closing Thoughts

What about the other way around? Controllers are very welcome on PC. Steam's Big Picture mode highlights a whole stable of controller-compatible titles. For some genres like platformers or racing games, many say "it just feels right" and grab a controller.

And is that not what it all comes down to? Using what you're comfortable with? If a PC gamer isn't comfortable with a controller, can you blame them? Speaking of racing games, what about players with racing wheels? Do we begrudge players for using those?

Just use what you like, folks. Focus on playing better and smarter, regardless of input. Most importantly, just have fun! Enjoy Destiny's launch tonight, and I'll see you all starside.

Colt "ShdwFlm" Casey
Deputy Editor


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