If there is one ubiquitous accessory to every computer out there, it must be the mouse and the keyboard. Virtually every software needs a mouse (or an equivalent input like a trackpad) to work. PC gaming is almost impossible (for most genres) without one.
It is no surprise that a lot of manufacturers produce and sell mouse especially made for gaming. These specialty mice often sell for twice, thrice, or even more the price of a run-of-the-mill office mouse.
But are they worth it? Well, to find out, we need to talk about the...
Difference between a gaming mouse vs a regular mouse
Let´s picture how a normal mouse works; you drag it around a solid surface, and the cursor in your screen moves accordingly, correct? You have two buttons to click things and a wheel in the middle to scroll up or down.
This is your average mouse, it is what most games expect you to have. There are no games that need it to do anything else, despite the extra features that some mice have. Even touchpads and the Trackpoint can do the trick, albeit inefficiently.
So, what does a gaming mouse do that a normal one does not?
Depends on the model, there are some specialized mice out there with very custom functions, and we´ll get to them in a bit. As a general rule, a gaming mouse has higher sensitivity, an extra button or two, and a bit of a more ergonomic design.
Some additional features might include rumbling (tactile feedback), an internal memory to save your presets, RGB lights, and removable weights to adjust, well, the weight of the mouse.
It´s quite the number of extra features that distinguish them over their office peers, so it would seem that they are a good purchase, right? Well, that depends on why you want them.
Does using a gaming mouse make a difference?
Will buying a cutting-edge Razor or Steel Series mouse improve your game? Will it help you rank up from Silver to Gold faster in Counter-Strike, or League, or any other competitive game?
Well, do you think having a sports car makes you a better driver? Probably not, right? Sure, you might be able to drive faster and take better turns, but that doesn´t mean you´ll instinctually know how to win races.
Something similar happens with a gaming mouse. They won´t make you a better player by themselves, that is only something that practice can do. They can help by letting you customize the control scheme and offering a smoother experience.
That´s not to say that they are useless. For example, I find that increasing my mouse´s DPI (dots per inch, basically the sensitivity) helps me aim slightly better in FPS games, but not enough to say that I need it to land shots, or that I would do worse with a regular mouse.
On the other end spectrum, I often lower my mouse DPI when I have to make a precise cut in while editing an image, as on those occasions I don´t want my mouse to register every single twitch of my hands. However, that has nothing to do with gaming and there are better tools out there for cutting images, I´m just too lazy to use them.
So, if they don´t give you a competitive edge, what´s the point of buying a gaming mouse? Well, they are generally more about comfort and letting you tweak the game to your liking than bringing some kind of competitive advantage.
Let´s get a rundown of what advantages gaming mice bring, so you can see if they are worth it for you or not.
Advantages to playing with a gaming mouse
They tend to be more ergonomic
You will find that most high-end gaming mice advertise themselves as ergonomic. A glance at their design will show that they usually have a curve allowing your fingers to get a better grip and a little surface to rest your thumb.
The manufacturers know that you will be using these mice for hours, rarely, if ever, releasing your grip from them. As a result, they are designed to make your gaming session as comfortable as possible and try to alleviate some of the common pains that come with playing a game for hours.
So, if you find your fingers hurting after playing, or even just using your computer for too long, one of the advantages that *most* gaming mice bring is that they are easier on your fingers. (Or you can try to get a mouse with a trackball that is a bit easier on the fingers...once you learn how to use it)
Your wrist, however, is another issue entirely. Check out our article on how to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome if your wrist hurts after playing.
Extra buttons for more customization
While a regular mouse only has two big buttons that you click (three, if you count pressing down on the scroll wheel as an additional button), it´s common for a gaming mouse to have four or five. The extra buttons resting at the side near your thumb.
You can map these buttons to more actions so that you don´t have to reach for the keyboard as often. This can be quite convenient, especially for games that have a lot of inputs. The feature shines in console ports where it´s obvious that the Mouse and Keyboard control setup was an afterthought, as it lets you bind more actions to the mouse as if it was a gamepad.
Of course, where the extra buttons shine is when it comes to a MOBA or an MMO.
In these genres, you have a lot of abilities bound to the numbers on your keyboard. If you find reaching over there too bothersome, you can bind these actions to a mouse button.
As a result, there are gaming mice with many additional buttons, sometimes reaching as many as 17.
And while we are on the subject of MMOs...
They let you save controller configurations and macros
A few of the more specialized mice have an internal memory that lets them save the configuration of whatever game you are playing. If you spend a lot of time fine-tuning the button layout and general setup of your games until they are just the way you like them, you can take advantage of this feature to carry your custom layout on your mouse.
Granted, most people don´t have much use for this feature as they only play on their computer and rarely go to tournaments or similar events that would benefit from bringing in your home configuration.
However, there is another beneficial side to having a mouse with internal memory, and that is that you can save Macros.
Think of Macros as shortcuts, with the press of just one button, you can tell your computer to execute different commands in a set order. In gaming, for example, you can chain actions, or spells, in a sequence to trigger when you press Shift + Left Mouse Click.
The catch is, not all games allow macros, and some even consider them cheating, so they are relegated mostly to MMOs.
They let you adjust the sensitivity of your mouse
Gaming mice usually come with the option to adjust the DPI. What is DPI? It stands for "dots per inch", it represents the number of "dots" that your cursor moves on the screen for every inch that you move the mouse in real life. The higher the DPI, the more "sensible" it is to your movements.
With a gaming mouse, you can usually adjust the level of sensitivity that your mouse offers. You don´t need to do a lot of guessing either as most of them come with at least three preset levels that you can adjust at the press of a button.
This means that if you are playing an FPS and want your cursor to move more easily from one side of the screen to the other, you can increase the DPI on your mouse and have an easier time aiming. Or, if you pick up a sniper rifle and want less twitchy movements, you can lower it instead.
Of course, most games also offer you the option to adjust the mouse sensitivity settings, the advantage of having a mouse that lets you adjust the DPI is that you can switch on the fly.
A wireless gaming mouse offers little to no lag or latency issues
A lot of people believe that having a wireless mouse is bad for competitive gaming. The idea is that a wireless signal is bound to take a while to reach the mouse, and it can get lost in the static and interference of other wireless devices.
Why is this a problem? Because such interference is known to cause input lag, at least in theory. This means that it takes a while for your computer to detect and translate your inputs into the game.
The thing is, this is wrong. Only the cheapest, lowest quality mouse have this issue. To most wireless mice, this never happens. To gaming mice? Well, they are built precisely to avoid this problem, so you can play your games freely without having to worry about any sort of input lag.
Is a gaming mouse worth it?
If you want a gaming mouse to improve yourself, become a better player, and advance the ranks, well, they aren´t going to turn you into a better player by themselves. In that case, they aren´t worth it.
However, if you want a gaming mouse to fine-tune your game however you want to play and have a smoother, more comfortable experience? Then that´s a different story, you will enjoy a gaming mouse far more than a regular one.