I am not a PC gamer. I grew up with consoles, so I’ve always been comfortable with a controller. Whenever I do play games on PC, I don’t use the keyboard and mouse, I plug up a controller instead. This is great for some genres of games, but not all of them. I’ve always known that the keyboard and mouse are preferable in some games, especially shooters, but it can be awkward to learn. Controllers only really need your thumbs to control, while maneuvering the WASD keys and a mouse takes your whole hand.
That’s why, when I started playing Apex Legends, I hooked up my trusty 360 controller. However, the new game isn’t really set up for such an old controller. Sometimes the RB button wouldn’t work properly, which was a problem for pinging and launching Ultimates, and I couldn’t pull up the map. I eventually gave up and ordered an Xbox One pad for playing Apex.
There was a problem though… I had to wait for two days for the controller to get to me, but I still wanted to play the game… the ultimate gamer’s dilemma. So, I bit the bullet and tried a keyboard and mouse. Of course, I immediately find it hard to move around and considered it a mistake. But then our squad came across some enemies. I struggled with figuring out how to look down the aim, got closer, and started firing…
The game proclaims my second ever kill and first assist on the screen. Granted, the whole squad died a minute later (hot tip: don’t stand still and actually use decoys if you’re Mirage), but it was a revelation to me, the diehard controller user. I can ACTUALLY aim! Headshots, which were just a dream in the past, suddenly became a reality. And so, I embarked on my journey to learn a new control set-up in order to be marginally better at a battle royale.
A lot of long-time gamers don’t realize how much of an undertaking it can be to actually learn how to control a video game, especially nowadays. I remember having a lot of trouble with the now iconic DualShock controller when I had a PlayStation 1. Eventually, I learned by repeating the mock fight scene in Final Fantasy IX, which required a long string of quick button presses. With that, what button was square and remembering the L2 button existed became second nature. Now, I can log into Final Fantasy XIV and easily pull off my Summoner combos on the PS4 DualShock, as if it’s second nature. Let’s not talk about how many times I pressed the wrong button in Breath of the Wild and caused my own death, though…
Keyboard and mouse, however, were always a challenge for me. Generally, the controller only really needs your thumb and index fingers on each hand to work with (occasional claw hand technique notwithstanding). The keyboard, on the other hand, typically requires you to use the WASD keys with the left hand, and the mouse with the right hand. That level of hand-eye coordination was not my forte. Even MMOs I played in the past allowed the arrow keys to at least move around.
With Apex Legends, you learn in the field, and this led to some unfortunate moments. Oftentimes I’ll stop moving in order to aim, which unsurprisingly makes you a sitting duck when someone spots you. My pinky finger seems unable to hit the Z key at times to launch my life-saving Ultimate, and I still haven’t quite gotten used to sliding yet.
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I still prefer other games with a controller, too. I tried Anthem around the same time on PC, and I just could not get used to it the same way as Apex. There were too many keys to remember to press, and it was just easier for my controller-trained brain to deal with it with a controller. Other games, like Torchlight II, I can fumble through but doesn’t really require quick reaction time as a shooter does.
But it’s still fascinating to be in a position I haven’t been put in since I was a kid again, trying to copy the prompts on-screen of a PlayStation title. It reminds me of so many people that aren’t gamers and have difficulties with the controls of modern games. At times it can make games prohibitive, even. But what can I say–at least for me, it makes for some funny stories… and I can blame some of my incompetence on the new control method. Was getting shot in the back and killed when being a lookout on a hill a result of Apex Legends’ control scheme? Definitely not, but hey, I can blame it on my mouse battery dying, right?