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Rodent Rhetoric

Every so often I suffer from serious mouse-hunger, and I am far too prone to indulging it. As a weedy man who sits in front of his PC all day, I fairly inevitably suffer from varying degrees of tendonitis. Rather than doing anything about it, like exercising regularly or learning to sit up straight, I manage to use this as an excuse to buy expensive mice – ergonomics, or something. I dunno. Really, I just like luxury mice, which all their flicky buttons and blinking lights and ridiculous adjustable weights. Specifically, I’ve been hooked to the Logitech gaming range, which I used to swear blind genuinely made me better at FPSes – until I got roundly thrashed at Quake III by a guy using a beige PS/2 ball-mouse.

Nonetheless, my hand has become accustomed to their shape, and I feel oddly uncomfortable when using a rival rodent. Unfortunately, I’m in a bit of a bind – the wireless G7 I’ve been happily using for a couple of years now seems to have fatally chewed through its rechargeable batteries. My every day is characterised by my cursor grinding to halt at precisely the wrong time, leaving me frantically scrabbling to swap the dead battery with the barely-alive second one the mouse was usefully supplied with. Two hours later, repeat. I’ve weathered this absurd inconvenience for months now, but I’m increasingly worried the next time my mouse cuts out during a Left 4 Dead session I’m going to lose my mind. Hell, I definitely can’t have it happen during the great Planetside war.

So I’m in the market for a new one, and my attention was naturally drawn to Logitech’s latest lump of oval-shaped excess. When showing shots of the clutch of ominous spiky black plastic that constitutes the new G series of peripherals (see the shot at the top of this post) to a colleague, he described it as looking like a Terminator’s wet dream, which, the logistical questions of such a concept aside, sounds about right. I’ve little interest in that uber-geeky-lookin’ keyboard for precisely that reason, but even the new mouse the G9x (a minor revision of the G9, which I’ve yet to try) looks a bit too cyber-fetishistic for my liking. Of course I desperately want it because all those features I’ll never use sound strange and clever, but the painful pricetag drags me back from my madness. Do I really, really need another high-end mouse? Or should I just solve my battery problem by buying some cheap, comfortable wired model?

It’s the paradox at the heart of all gaming peripherals – Logitech, Microsoft et al are forever trying to improve upon something really very simple, and sometimes it seems amazing that there’s been quite as much revision of mouse’n’keyboard tech as there has over the years. The G9x is capable of 5000dpi – is that really going to make me a better gamer than the G9’s 3200dpi, or my tired G7’s 2000? Is an expensive mouse an augmentation for one’s gaming ability – or a substitute for it? Am I just the middle-aged guy buying a Ferrari to try and compensate for my bloated belly and balding crown?

Which is not to demean gaming mice, keyboards et al – most of ’em are truly well-crafted pieces of kit and, again, I’m hooked on those fancy-doodle mice for some reason. I just wonder, a little, how much they matter to gamers at large, because it’s not the kind of thing you often catch folk talking about. When you could spend £30 on a game, or £30 on a mouse, which are you going to go for? Who here places much stock in what mouse they use? What about your keyboard? My keyboard has two giant knobs on it, which makes me happy, but I can’t ever imagine using all those programmable macro keys and whatnot that turn up on the really crazy ones. So I’m curious as to who the audience for this kind of high-end stuff is, in an age where everyone seems to be moaning about game prices. Is it Johnny Average PC gamer, is it hopeless materialists like me, or is it some silent, affluent gaming elite?

I’m totally going to buy that mouse before too long, of course. I just can’t help myself.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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