When you step into your favorite computer store, head for the area specializing in computer keyboards and Game Boards. You will quickly realize that you have entered the ‘Key Board Zone’ and Game Boards are quite different. Find an experienced person (a wiz-kid) to guide you into this new world, then brace yourself. If this store is properly stocked, your jaw will drop and your pupils dilate as you take in the endless variety of boards available on the market today.
You will encounter names like, Corsair, Ultimate MAC, Ultimate Battlefield III, Ultimate Dragon, Razer Black Widow, Logitech G710, the list is endless.
Most kids, over the age of four years old, have already developed some level of gaming expertise. There are adults that are equally addicted to this fast paced lifestyle; they have adapted to this highly competitive world which began long after they were born. Many persons born after the advent of Pac-Man, May 1980, are still displaying skills most often found in younger age groups.
Gamers are very serious people that don’t understand what it is to accept second place. Either you win and celebrate the moment, or crawl away in shame and come back when you have developed a better game strategy; there are no rewards for runners-up.
Their equipment is equally as important as their dexterity and mental prowess. Armed with the best hardware available, aided by super fast connectivity, and humming with speed, they must develop response times that would make them capable of defending us against alien invaders.
All that Hi-Tech equipment is useless if you can’t transfer the skills to the hardware, the Gamer Keyboard is that final connection between the machine and your talented fingers.
Each key operates a switch. Some boards use mechanical switches, these are the more popular type, whilst some boards are loaded with a newer electronic type. The electronic ones are not as popular with players at the top end of the Gaming market. Electronic switches have a contact seated below a rubber or silicone pad. The circuit is activated when the Gamer strikes the rubber pad. The mechanical switch is one of the few components still highly prized in an age when most devices are electronic. They offer a combination of the best response time and durability. Switch durability is vital to the longevity of the board’s life and the eventual survival of the unit. During play the keys are repeatedly struck by ferocious combat fingers, fortunately a worn out key can, most often, be replaced with a new one.
As you would expect, there are many versions and types of keys available for the wide variety of boards on the market.
One very popular manufacturer of keys is the Cherry Corporation. Their highly sought after Cherry-MX is the top selling micro-switch based key. It comes in a variety of colors, each indicative of a different feel, response and feature. Even audio-enhanced output controls can be loaded into a key. The boards themselves range from the archaic to space-age. Some are futuristic and display only 20 keys on the board (each one programmable to the teeth). Some are back lighted by ‘LED’ technology and others are covered by colorful protective skins.
The key’s are highly programmable and become your ‘Mission Control’ commands, each packed with control features.
Not only are some keys differentiated by color, their shapes are deigned to instantly transfer a message to your brain, affirming your selection of the correct function via a distinguishable, interchangeable, ‘key-cap’. It guides your fingertips during the selection process of the correct function or command. The Game Board, when it is ready for action, is outlaid with strategic key placement, cap shape and color. “Having it your way” is no longer just for burgers.
The entire keyboard may be covered in a transparent silicone skin, be been warned that although the skin does a great job of protecting the switches, it unfortunately slows their response time of each key; you must remember that time is everything to the Gamer.
A few laptops use a ‘scissor-switch’ type of mechanism that is not very popular with the game world kings and we won’t get into lap-top gaming here.
Backlighting the entire keyboard, whilst still controlling the light intensity of each individual key, the Gamer has options to set up the board as he chooses.
Each key is programmable, allowing you to combine several commands in one place; you are in charge of the output of each key. You decide where to locate each one or each cluster on the board to suit your style.
Some people opt for another device for game control, the ‘gaming-mouse’, but they attract a totally different cat (sorry about the pun). Anything the mouse can do, the keyboard will equal or better.
Your final selection will probably be guided by your budget. You are going to shell-out something within the range of $50.00 to $300.00 for a Game Keyboard. The more expensive versions allow you increased flexibility. With them you can control pre-loaded media keys that operate audio levels, amongst other things. Some features can prevent you from accidentally turning off your battle in mid-stream because you hit the wrong button.
So you are left with the final important deciding factor, comfort. Some boards take into consideration the shape and comfort of the tool and include curves and elevated rests to make your experience totally enjoyable. Once again, it is your choice of which game board to work with. Set up whatever pleases you and enjoy programming each key to work for you.
Then the weapon of your choice is finally ready for battle.
Open a cold one, pour it into spill-proof mug; dim the lights; crank the audio up and let them ‘Bring it on!’