A Strategic Reason To Move Away From WASD

Ever since I started gaming when I was a kid, everyone used WASD for their primary movement controls. Back when I was a kid it made sense too. The keys are in the same layout as the arrow keys, but they allow you to have access to other keys around it (with the added bonus of not having to reach across the keyboard with your left hand). But by the time I got to college, WASD didn’t work for me anymore:

  • My hands grew and my fingers felt very cramped.
  • The W key seemed way too shifted to the left to be comfortable, resulting in my index and ring finger fighting for key space.
  • Pushing my hand so far left on the keyboard resulted in me having access to fewer keys easily.

I spent time thinking of a better keybinding layout. Moving my hand to the middle of the keyboard started to get uncomfortable, and my wrist started to curve in a way that made using an “arrow keys” layout impossible. Here’s what I wanted to accomplish:

  • More comfortable, natural keybinding layout for my hand.
  • A layout that also gave me access to more keys quickly.
  • The new keys that are available need to be used in a way that makes sense.
  • The layout needs to work across multiple genres of games so I am always using the same comfortable binding scheme.

While I was thinking of a new layout, I noticed my hand resting on certain keys of the keyboard, and it hit me. My new layout was EASF. The interesting thing is by putting my hand on these keys, a couple things happen naturally:

  • My pinky finger rests nicely on the shift key (used commonly for walk/run/use) and CTRL becomes easier to hit (which I use for Ventrilo).
  • My thumb rests nicely on the space bar (used commonly for jumping).
  • Instead of just having Q available to my index/ring finger, I now had W as well (I tend to use W for things like Flashlight, which are normally bound to F).
  • R for reload, and G for grenade are much easier to use, and exposes T and 5 as a new easy-access keys.
  • Instead of using C for duck/crouch, I can now use D, which is much closer to the rest of my movement keys.
  • Z, X, C, and V are easier to hit now that my hand isn’t cramped up and can be used for misc stuff (although I use V as push-to-talk in-game voice chat primarily).
  • TAB is still just as easy to hit except now I don’t have to raise my pinky off of shift to get to it.

I tried using RSDG (shifting one key to the right). It’s also pretty comfortable, but I find that hitting TAB becomes annoying, SHIFT is ok but sometimes my pinky hits Z, CTRL is too hard to quickly use, H doesn’t make sense for grenade and T doesn’t make sense for reload, and Q becomes difficult to hit making it useless.

Of course, you need to use what is right for you, but from a strategic standpoint, I found that moving away from WASD made using the keyboard so much easier and more comfortable. Maybe EASF isn’t for you, but I highly recommend experimenting and finding the best keybinding layout for your hand. I’ve been using this layout for 9 years and it hasn’t let me down yet. It’s also really fun to watch people try and play a game on my machine!

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