Extra Life: Who Does That?

By Shamus Posted Thursday Nov 19, 2009

Filed under: Links 61 comments

The Extra Life made me laugh, all the more so because we were just talking about mouse-inverting the other day.

And as a follow-up to that: I’m working on moving to WASD. It’s going a lot better than I expected. I’ll probably never be as fluid with WASD as I was with the numpad (or it will take a long time) but I’m pretty much to the point where I can play without finger fumbles, which is all I really need. The only trouble is that you need to use your pinky, and I’m not used to doing that. So my pinky finger is really stupid and slow and not getting with the program. Other than that, the process of playing a few hours of a simple game and moving forward is working really well.


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61 thoughts on “Extra Life: Who Does That?

  1. Sheer_FALACY says:

    You use your pinky to press shift… just like you do when touch typing. Is that really that odd? You don’t even need to move it, since it rests there naturally.

    1. Shamus says:

      Sheer_FALACY: I don’t touch type. I know, I know.

      Anyway, it’s reaching for CTRL without hitting #@%& windows that’s giving me trouble. Also, getting a clean hit on either Shift or Ctrl. Always catching the edges or mashing. The finger really does feel clumsy from under-use.

  2. Sheer_FALACY says:

    All these bajillion word posts without touch typing? Ouch.

    And yeah, control is a stretch. Not much chance of me hitting the windows key when reaching for it since I have the function key (also known as the do almost nothing key) in between the two.

  3. Veloxyll says:

    Thankfully my keyboard has a switch to disable the Windows key. Tragically I never switch it on.

  4. pffh says:

    Yeah the windows key has always been annoying. I fixed mine with a screwdriver and by being angry at it.

  5. rayen says:

    my advice with the pinky; play a bunch of guitar hero on medium and hard difficulty. that pops a pinky out of it’s lazy slumber.

  6. Magnus says:

    I’m far more surprised about you not being a touch-typer than I am about your keypad fetish!

    I honed my typing abilities on old Sierra adventure games (as well as some school/work influence), and the mind boggles that you could write so much without becoming a touch-typer by accident rather than design.

  7. MintSkittle says:

    Honestly, I can’t see how you’re hitting the windows key with your pinky. Looking at my own hand while in the wasd position, the windows key is completely hidden beneath my middle and ring fingers. This should leave the pinky resting on the shift key, so you shouldn’t be missing it. Control is still a bit awkward, even though I’ve been wasd gaming for many years, so I don’t know what to tell you there.

  8. Yar Kramer says:

    … I’m way too sensitive to memes. One of the first things I thought of was: MENTLEGEN.

  9. midget0nstilts says:

    Might I suggest the Nostromo n52te? You can map the “keys” on it to any (keyboard) key you like for each game you have.

  10. RodeoClown says:

    I used to play inverted controls for FPS (I figured it was from lots of X-wing and TIE-fighter). I used to imagine that my mouse was attached to someone’s head and so pushing “forward” moved their head down.

    Then I played some demo that didn’t have the option to invert the controls(!?!) and got confused, and then when I tried to play inverted again, my brain broke and I ended up having to learn normal controls.

    It took a while, but it works fine now.

    Just needed to remap my brain to see “mouse forward” as “look up” instead of “push head”.

    Also – can you install a comment subscription plugin for wordpress – then we can follow comments much more easily.

  11. Peter H. Coffin says:

    Lots of clues out there for remapping the scan codes to swap the left CTRL and caps lock, so that control ends up where the Good Lard intended it to be, above the Shift key.

    CapsLk is stupid anyway.

  12. Alex says:

    For the whole inverting the mouse thing, I read some analysis of it a while back and the need to invert or not is based on where you spatially relate yourself to the onscreen image. It was something like if you think you are where the player’s body is you will use normal mouse movement and if you think you are where the gun is you will use inverted.

    I notice a difference if I use the mouse or a laptop trackpad. Mouse I invert but I instinctively use the normal setup on the trackpad.

  13. John says:

    I use a mac and bootcamp, and with Windows, I downloaded a script/file that disables the left windows key, thus ridding me of the annoying problem that you mention in your comment above. Maybe you should look into it.

  14. MadTinkerer says:

    I’ve heard some people advocate ESDF over WASD, though I don’t use it myself. I’ve been thinking of switching, however, because anything that makes crouching easier will make rocket jumping in TF2 easier.

    With ESDF you can easily assign what’s on CTRL to Z, what’s on Shift to A, something you don’t use that often to Q(maybe something that’s bound by default to R or V or something) and just shift everything else over one key to the right. Then your pinky won’t have to stretch as far and will have access to more options. That’s the theory, anyway.

  15. LazerFX says:

    I’m really surprised, like just about everyone else, about your not touch-typing. Surely you’ve had to realise, like myself, that a short while practising touch-typing, and the 40-60 WPM increase on the best 2-finger typing speed (Around 40-50 WPM) is worth it?

    I do around 100-120WPM, depending on concentration, what I’m typing, what I’m doing; but the manual dexterity it has imparted into my hands as well has granted me benefits too…

    Trust me – learn to 10-finger type, you’ll not regret it.

  16. vbigiani says:

    How to disable the winkey without using a screwdriver:

    Download and install AutoHotKey (google for it).
    Create a text file named ‘AutoHotkey.ahk’ in your ‘My Documents’ folder with the following content:


  17. Matt K says:

    I’m actually a hunt and peck typer myself. I can get a pretty good WPM rate and not have to look at the keyboard while doing so. I guess muscle memory can be used for more than just gaming (side note, I wrote this while pecking and not looking at the key board). As such I tend not to have any issues with the Window key.

    It’s funny to because I spend my whole day typing and I actually had a typing class in lower school (on the old Apple 2C) and I quickly found a way to bypass the levels so I didn’t have to actually bother.

  18. MuonDecay says:

    You know, I stopped and thought “you use your pinky for WASD controls?” and put my hand down in the default position to do so, and realized that I had either been unknowingly using my pinky to press shift, or had forgotten I’d ever started doing that.

    Muscle memory is really quite strange, like how I type faster if I don’t look at the keyboard (I don’t touch type, I just hunt-and-peck subconsciously at about 60 words per minute).

  19. Neko says:

    I usually rebind ALT to be my crouch key, which is handy because I can use my thumb for it and I don’t see the point in jumping and crouching at the same time (not a counterstrike player). Ctrl can be for something less important.

    And I avoid using my winxp partition like the plague now, so hitting the Super or Option/Command keys by mistake is no problem.

  20. Mechman says:

    My friends used to make fun of me for playing with inverted mouse. That ended when it turned out that despite the “handicap”, I’m far better than most people at shooters.
    I too, played descent, but I used esdf for the four directions, A and Z for slide up and down, and the inverted mouse for aiming. The only change for me going to the ‘modern’ era of gaming was moving over one key.

    Although I will not play a mech game without using the numpad. Mechwarrior 3 spoiled any other keyboard config for me.

  21. Paronomasiac says:

    I’ve found that putting double-sided tape on the WIN key helps me avoid pressing it. The tactile punishment of “Ew, gross! Sticky keys!” is enough to keep me away. As for WASD . . . real gamers use ESDF for more immediately available keybinding. It still leaves all of the edge keys within reach, but it gives more keys for additional functions. In most modern FPS games, it’s a necessity to have as many available keys as possible.

  22. Khizan says:

    I used to just pry the windows keys off of the keyboard. Looks a bit ugly, but there’s pretty much no way in hell you’re gonna accidentally push them.

  23. Atarlost says:

    What puzzles me is how you can use the number pad without your pinkey.

    I’m a numpad guy myself, and I use the pinkey for the insert/home/pageup/delete/end/pagedown clump for binding stuff like spells. I’m not sure how you could get enough keys around the numpad for some games otherwise.

  24. Dix says:

    I just want to note that there are options in typing besides two-finger and sdfg/hjkl “home row” typing. I am a self-taught typist managing 98 wpm (on a test just now), using only thumb and two fingers (pointer and pinky) on the left hand and thumb and three (pointer, middle, pinky) on the other. I theorize I started typing this way because my weird fingernail shape causes pain in the ring fingers when I use them on the keyboard, but that doesn’t explain why no middle finger on the left hand. It’s just how it worked out. My accuracy is fine despite the fact that my hands ‘travel’ all over the keyboard – there are lots of things on a keyboard to tell you where you are other than those bumps on the home row keys. I will admit it takes me a couple of days to adjust to a new keyboard, and I imagine that my increased reliance on cues other than the home row bumps is related.

    I expect we’ll see many, many touch typists in the coming generations who use ‘organic’ systems that make the most of their strengths and avoid their weaknesses.

    All of that aside, does the left pinky actually do anything in a MMO when using WASD, or is that pretty strictly shooters? I don’t remember using left pinky for anything while WASD’ing, and I certainly would have no chance of hitting shift or control (how long and bendy is this finger supposed to be?!) while WASD’ing.

  25. ima420r says:

    Reading all this has made me think about why I invert my look when playing games. I never change the settings when I play on the PC with the mouse (which I use WASD to move) but on the xbox I have to invert look.

    When I push forward, it’s like my head is tilting forward. It just seems right. And pulling back (down) is like pulling my head down. So if my analog stick was my head, it’s how I would control it.

    I’ve tried not inverting look but it throws me off. There was some game, oh Prince of Persion on the xbox, where you would fly from one plate to another and up moved you up and down moved you down. I had to think the whole time, every time, about what way to push the stick to go what direction. It was frustrating, but after a few times I found if I just relaxed and moved the stick where I needed to go I went there.

    So swithcing from inverted to, non-inverted, might not be that hard. but why would I want to?! :)

  26. Ian says:


    All of that aside, does the left pinky actually do anything in a MMO when using WASD, or is that pretty strictly shooters?

    I use my left pinkie quite a bit when I play WoW, actually. I have a G15 keyboard and it has a set of programmable keys on the left side. I use my left pinkie exclusively to hit those buttons.

    Additionally, when I’m playing my priest, I use the modifier keys (in addition to a very nice add-on called Clique) to help select spells.

    So, yeah, I probably use my left pinkie as much — if not more — in WoW than I do in first person shooters.

  27. Dev Null says:

    Windows key? Really Shamus? You’re not just saying that for effect?

    Google disabling the windows key. I think it was a registry hack, but I can’t really remember anymore; all I know is that I did and mine doesn’t ever do anything anymore. With a little extra digging you could probably find a way to re-bind it to ALT or something, but getting rid of that damn thing was the single best thing I’ve ever done to any computer ever.

  28. JoCommando says:

    I demanded a third option (“Fine! Throw your vote away!”). While I grew up on WASD, the advent of MMOs saw for me an increased need for accessible shortcut keys. Analyzing my play style, I found the untouched lands east of “J” to be a wide and barren tract, ripe for colonization. Righty, my stalwart mouse-looker refused to budge from his optical roost, but ol’e Lefty was willing to uproot and make for greener pastures. Thus was I converted to YGHJ for all of my gaming needs.

    Long story short, K through ‘ are now easily accessible by my left pointer, d through q by left pinkie, and finding my home position is always easy due to the bumps on F and J (Pinkie and Pointer respectively). In this position my elbow can remain all but stationary and my hand is anchored by the finger that isn’t exploring his outer frontiers.

    All of this is moot, however, for those of us who have that doohickey that midget0nstilts @ 10 linked. Looks like you could drive a Zion APU or play Strategema with that thing.

  29. jokermatt999 says:

    I notice the previous post is titled something about Dwarf Fort-*ducks flying shoe*

    Anyway, moving back onto topic, I’ve found that I bizarrely switch from inverted to not inverted depending on the game. I’ve found no rhyme or reason behind it, and it appears to depend on what I began playing the game on. I believe I usually go inverted on the rare occasions I play Halo, but that’s the only one that springs to mind immediately.

    As for the switch, I can’t offer any new advice, so I’ll just say good luck.

  30. Nick says:

    How to disable windows key: Buy Logitech G15.

    As for inverted aim, which I use… I have no intention on changing my habits.

  31. Rutskarn says:

    Huh. I don’t know why I use an inverted mouse–it wasn’t ever really my call to make, since I played my dad’s games and just adapted to whatever settings he enabled.

    I guess it just feels natural to pull the mouse back to lean back, and push the mouse forward to look down.

    I don’t think about my controls much–probably a good thing, because my response time’s a lot faster if I’m not conscious of what I’m doing. This afternoon, in a game of Scavenge in L4D2, I accidentally thought too much about my movements and fell off a damn catwalk, landing on the ground and getting picked apart by zombies. Not my finest movement.

  32. John says:

    Re: WASD – I changed over a few years back from the numpad myself. I’ve never looked back, I think it’s a far superior setup.
    But gushing about where your forward/back/leftstrate/rightstrafe is aside, maybe I’ve just got large hands (I don’t think so), but I keep my pinky hovering over shift, but use the base of my palm just under the pinky for Ctrl. Sometimes it’s a little tight, but this means that you can simultaneously hit both “run/sneak” and crouch.

  33. SoldierHawk says:

    Wow. Just as an intellectual exercise after reading this, I decided to rekey a couple of FPSes I play to the numpad, just to see if I could make the transition.

    Short answer: uh, no. Not so much. I applaud your efforts, and have a new respect for how difficult it must be to overcome all that muscle memory.

  34. Ingvar says:

    I can touch-type, but in general I don’t, because a day or two of that turn my arms (more than my hands) into burning sources of PAIN.

    However, using fairly fluid hand positions, I can type adequately fast (no, I don’t have a pure-speed value at hand, I can write at least 50 WPM of original fiction (based on one of my daily-wordcount files, estimating roughly 45 minutes that morning spent writing instead of lazing on the Web) and haven’t really needed to write any faster).

    I use all my fingers to write, although my ring fingers are probably the least used (it’s incredibly distracting trying to monitor your hands as they dance over the keyboard). My thumbs both press the spacebar, the pinkies press shift and control, the Alt key gets presser with various fingers, on an as-needed basis.

  35. Artyom Chernyshov says:

    @Shamus: “Anyway, it's reaching for CTRL without hitting #@%& windows that's giving me trouble.”

    I use Keytweak for that matter. It disables any button you are not willing to use. And Windows buttons are the first one i got rid of.

  36. mark says:

    How can you be a programmmer and not touch type?! how fast can you type?

  37. Daemian Lucifer says:


    Where is your pinky if you are hitting windows key constantly?It just feels so akward for me to even touch that key when my fingers are on wasd.

  38. lazni says:

    I suggest you move to ESDF instead of WASD, and bind Crouch to A. It fits nicely with the home row of touch typing.

    I first learned this style with PCSX2

  39. I’m a programmer and don’t really touch type. I just type quite quickly by muscle memory. Whether or not that’s the same thing is kinda up for debate, but I do just tend to use two fingers (first finger on each hand)

  40. Tomas says:

    I’m a professional programmer too, and I’ve never bothered to learn typist type typing (that one’s on me… :-)). If you’re doing C# for instance, you’re always interrupting the text flow with braces, quotation marks and cut/paste operations. And you rarely write a class from top to bottom. You’re better off handling the shift/ctrl/home/end keys for quick navigation.

  41. blue_painted says:

    Third programmer adding ha’porth.

    I’ve seen a touch typist trying to copy-type code (don’t ask!): start, stop, grumble. start, stop, grumble. start, stop, grumble. “Why are there all these brackets? Can I leave some out? And that colon should be a full-stop, so I changed it …”

  42. Melf_Himself says:

    I never got into Quake back in the day because I couldn’t adapt to using the mouse to play an FPS. I remember playing Jedi Knight and using the arrow keys, with ins/del/hom/end for force powers and pgup/pgdwn to look vertically…

    These days I’m playing TF2 and Left 4 Dead with WASD and the mouse as naturally as breathing. You’ll get used to it and won’t believe you ever used to do it any other way.

  43. Samopsa says:

    You don’t need your pinky for WASD gaming. Trust me, I know. I lost 1/3 of my pinky of my left hand in an accident a couple of years ago, and I have no problems at all. I just switch my ringfinger real fast, or remap buttons to the right of WASD, or use the extra buttons on my mouse.

  44. MuonDecay says:

    I used to just pry the windows keys off of the keyboard. Looks a bit ugly, but there's pretty much no way in hell you're gonna accidentally push them.

    I did that until I got sick of the gaping hole, myself. Then I went one further, and actually dismantled the keyboard and slipped a little square of paper into the windows key pressure sensing contact as an insulator to make it impossible to activate when pressed.

    Of course this was also just an excuse to learn how a keyboard works.

  45. Artillery_MKV says:

    I usually re-map the tilde (~) key to do the stuff I would want Alt or Ctrl to do for me. Although for Champs Online I mapped block to the ~ key so that it became part of my attack chain typing.

  46. Nathon says:

    You non-touch-typist programmers are missing the point a bit. I don’t do qwerty these days (or regular keyboards at all) but I write C for a living and {} are easy to reach, as are () if you just add them to the whole muscle memory thing. That said, there are downsides to touch typing. By the time I was 25, I was experiencing pain in my wrists on a regular basis. That’s why I don’t do the normal keyboard thing anymore (Thank you Kinesis, you saved my career).

    Oh, and a decent editor will get rid of that irritating problem where cutting, pasting, and navigating through text files require you to move your fingers out of their natural positions.

    I too used to pop windows keys off my keyboards.

  47. LintMan says:

    I’m also a programmer that doesn’t touch-type, but I’m not a 2-finger hunt-n-pecker, either. I usually use 4-7 fingers and don’t constantly have to look for the keys, so I get somewhat decent speed. Of course, now that I’m thinking about it, it’s much harder.

    As for the Windows Key – I used to disable it, but I’ve found that I very very rarely hit it these days and now don’t bother. If a game had a lot of Alt-key combos, it might be a problem, but for a standard FPS, it’s not an issue for me.

    Latest problem for me is in Dragon Age you have to press TAB to highlight interactable areas, and I’m constantly trying to move around while presssing it, but holding TAB while working the WASD with DA’s not-really-FPS controls is tough.

  48. asterismW says:

    I just realized that I’m much like ima420r; I invert look when playing Prince of Persia on my console, but I don’t invert mouse when playing PoP on my computer. I wonder why that is…?

    And I’ve never understood all the Windows key hate. I use it all the time. Win+e to bring up Explorer, Win+d to minimize all programs (something I use a LOT at work)… I find it very useful.

  49. Tim Keating says:

    Second the comment above about using ESDF. If nothing else, that puts your hand in home position, which will be more comfortable over the long run. (It’s what the ergonomics of your keyboard were designed for, after all.)

    And hey, if you do that, while playing L4D2, you’re learning to touch-type.

  50. Tim Keating says:

    Asterism: Here’s one I didn’t know about until a couple of years ago: Win+L to lock your machine. Way faster than CTRL+ALT+DEL, click “lock”.

  51. Sheer_FALACY says:

    Silly people, the Windows key is incredibly convenient for freeing yourself from the need for a mouse. No more moving your hand from mouse to keyboard and back – if you want to start a program, the windows key is your friend. Want to minimize? Find? Open an explorer window? It can do all of that! Windows-1 starts the first program in your quick launch bar (browser for me). And it will minimize that full screen game that doesn’t like alt-tab. Which is the issue a lot of people have with it, but still. Find some software way to disable it, sure, but don’t waste its potential by prying it off.

  52. chabuhi says:


    That looks like the spiritual successor to Microsoft’s Strategic Commander from several years back.

  53. Nathon says:

    Sorry, I don’t actually run Windows so I don’t need a Windows key. I can do all the things you listed with convenient keyboard shortcuts that I choose (and disable at will). Pried off it still is.

  54. Sheer_FALACY says:

    …if you don’t run Windows, why bother prying it off? You’re making your keyboard uglier for no gain. And you could use it for those convenient shortcuts, rather than using alt(meta?)/control, since programs like to do their own things with alt and control and that might interfere.

  55. midget0nstilts says:

    @JoCommando, @chabuhi:

    I actually used an earlier model of the n52 back when I was serious about gaming. I remember in Quake 3, I had it so I could jump and duck with my thumb and immediately switch to the railgun or rocket launcher with my pointer finger. (The pinky would be for less-used functions, like chat.)

    Combined with a gaming mouse (better tracking) and turning on vertex lighting (crappier graphics, but easier to see in the dark), it made a pretty big difference in my performance.

    It was also good for those games where you *couldn’t* re-bind the keyboard mappings.

  56. Leonardo Herrera says:

    Re: Control key: the fact that Ctrl is the leftmost lower key makes it easy to press with the upper part of your palm.

  57. Alan De Smet says:

    @Leonardo: I hadn’t thought about it, but I do exactly that! I push my Ctrl key with the upper part of my palm, the bit “below” my pinky. It’s particularly nice for games that make me hold Ctrl, say, to crouch, as it’s low effort and my WASD fingers can remain in place and working.

  58. Mrs. Peel says:

    I don’t touch type either, and I type at 90-95 WPM two-handed and 50 WPM one-handed with either hand. My contention is that my algorithm is more efficient than the home row method, for many of the same reasons that Dvorak is more efficient – I maximize alternation of fingers on consecutive keypresses, use the strongest fingers for the most commonly-pressed keys, etc. I don’t always strike the same key with the same finger – my heuristics for determining which finger will strike which key are nonlinear, depending on not only the keys I just hit but also on the keys I’m about to hit. And I don’t need to look at the keyboard, either.

  59. Miral says:

    Another programmer, and another not-exactly touch-typist. I’m not entirely sure what method I use to type, except that it’s mostly just muscle memory (I don’t look at the keyboard); I’m pretty certain that I don’t use the “normal” keys, and I doubt that I’m hitting the same keys with the same fingers each time. But I can hit a pretty good turn of speed if I try. (Usually I don’t, though. Programming isn’t as simple as just typing stuff.) And I can maintain a pretty good speed one-handed (either hand), although then I usually do look.

    I can’t think of a single time that I’ve mistakenly hit the Windows key in a game, though. I do however frequently hit Alt when I’m *trying* to hit Windows out-of-game…

    And recently I’ve been getting used to holding Tab while running around in Dragon Age. It’s a bit weird at first, but I got used to it fairly quickly.

    Regarding the invert vs. not-invert… I do both. It depends quite a bit on what kind of game it is and what controller I’m using. For a game with mouse-driven aiming, I can’t invert (move mouse up and left, crosshair goes up and left; it’s just what I’m used to in Windows itself). For a third-person game where I’m controlling the camera instead of a crosshair, I prefer inverted but can cope with either. For a game where I’m using the analogue stick on a controller to control the camera, I require inverted.

    I think that’s the real question: am I controlling the stick in front of the character (the gun’s aiming point) or the stick behind the character (the camera)? That’s what seems to decide which way I go.

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