How Mechanical Keyboards Impact eSports Performance

May 14, 2024

To become a successful competitive eSports player, you must also have the best equipment you can afford. Indeed, eSports players consider their equipment to be a vital part of their games.

Mechanical gaming keyboards, therefore, are the mainstay interfaces of eSports enthusiasts. These computer peripherals have features and functionalities that are not found in normal office keyboards. They are specifically designed to maximize player's performance, efficiency, and effectiveness in gaming.

Let's check out why you should get a mechanical gaming keyboard if you want to venture into the competitive world of eSports. Let's list their advantages and functionalities. We'll also give you some useful tips for buying one for yourself. Game on!

What are eSports

Sports is not just for the physically active, endowed, or trained. It's also for those with rich imagination, a knack for technology, and fast fingers. 

eSports, short for electronic sports, is about video gaming at a professional, competitive level. It's serious business when it comes to this level of computer gaming! Players compete individually or as teams in various video game titles, usually in organized tournaments or leagues. 

eSports can encompass a wide range of game genres, including multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), first-person shooter (FPS), real-time strategy (RTS), fighting games, and sports simulations, among others. Professional players earn fame and significant incomes through sponsorships, endorsements, and tournament winnings. They may even have a massive fan base. 

Like many traditional sports, millions of fans watch these eSports competitions. Through media coverage, dedicated leagues, and celebrity players, the popularity of eSports has surged in recent years.

Here are some popular games that are played in eSports competitions:

  1. League of Legends (LoL): A multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game where players control unique champions with distinct abilities, working together to destroy the opposing team's base.
  2. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO): A first-person shooter (FPS) game where two teams compete in rounds of objective-based gameplay such as defusing bombs or rescuing hostages.
  3. Dota 2: Another MOBA game similar to League of Legends where players control powerful heroes. The objective is to destroy the enemy team's Ancient, a large structure within their base.
  4. Fortnite: A battle royale game where players skydive onto an island, scavenge for weapons and resources, and compete to be the last person or team standing while a storm closes in.
  5. Overwatch: A team-based FPS game where players select from a roster of diverse heroes, each with unique abilities, to compete in objective-based game modes such as capturing points or escorting payloads.
  6. Rocket League: A unique blend of soccer and vehicular mayhem where players control rocket-powered cars to hit a ball into the opposing team's goal.
  7. Call of Duty: A long-standing FPS franchise with various titles that have competitive multiplayer modes.
  8. Super Smash Bros.: A series of crossover fighting games where players control characters from various Nintendo franchises and compete in fast-paced, platform-based battles.

Gaming Keyboards: What Makes Them Stand Out

The keyboard you use for gaming is the main interface between you and your game. It's also a device that can spell the difference between loss and victory.

Instead of using standard office keyboards, eSports gamers almost always use mechanical keyboards specifically designed for gaming. Here are some key aspects that make gaming keyboards unique:

    1. Mechanical Switches: Mechanical switches' responsiveness and tactile feedback allow eSports players to perform commands with speed and precision. This responsiveness significantly differs in fast-paced games where split-second decisions determine victory or defeat.
    2. Customization Options: Gaming keyboards have customizable keys to enable players to optimize their keyboard layout for their games and specific strategies. Players can tailor macros that allow them to perform complex actions with a key press.
    3. Anti-Ghosting and N-Key Rollover: Some combos need multiple keys simultaneously or quickly. Anti-ghosting and N-key rollover features ensure that each keystroke is accurately registered. 
    4. Programmable Lighting: Programmable RGB lighting adds visual appeal to gaming keyboards. But it also serves a more practical purpose in eSports. Customizable lighting profiles can be used to highlight important keys or provide visual cues for in-game events, improving situational awareness and reaction times.
    5. Build Quality: eSports players are often caught in the heat of the game. As a result of excitement, frustration, anger, and a host of other emotional outbursts, they tend to pound on the keys with a lot of force. Mechanical gaming keyboards are durable and robust enough to withstand the rigors of eSports competition.
    6. Ergonomics: Comfort is important for eSports players to maintain focus and performance during long gaming sessions. Mechanical keyboards with ergonomic designs, wrist rests, and adjustable stands reduce fatigue and prevent discomfort.
    7. Dedicated Gaming Keys: Some mechanical keyboards have dedicated gaming keys or additional macro keys to streamline the gameplay. They can be programmed for fast, precise, and faultless access to specific in-game functions or abilities. 

How Do Mechanical Keyboards Affect eSports Gaming?

an image of a mechanical gaming keyboard

A gaming keyboard alone won't guarantee victory in eSports games. Like any other competitive activity, you need lots and lots of practice. However, as a tool, a gaming keyboard can certainly help improve your performance and potentially give you a competitive edge. 

  1. Improved Responsiveness: Due to mechanical switches, Mechanical gaming keyboards have faster response times and more precise actuation compared to standard keyboards. This can be crucial in fast-paced eSports games where split-second reactions can determine the outcome of a match.
  2. Large Degree of Customization for Gameplay: Gaming keyboards have programmable keys and macros, allowing players to augment their keyboard layout for specific games and strategies. Other features such as key switches, keycaps, and even LED lights can be tailored. This degree of customization makes it easier for them to perform complicated maneuvers or abilities without errors.
  3. Enhanced Durability: Gaming keyboards are more durable and robust than standard keyboards. The key switches can handle 50 to 100 million keystrokes before they need to be replaced. This reliability lessens the risk of technical issues during crucial moments in eSports competitions.
  4. Comfort for Extended Play: Many gaming keyboards have wrist rests, adjustable stands, and ergonomic contours to improve comfort during gaming sessions. Reducing fatigue and discomfort enables players to maintain focus and perform at their best during the game.
  5. Specialized Gaming Features: Some gaming keyboards come with dedicated gaming keys or additional macro keys specifically designed for quick access to in-game commands or abilities. 

How to Choose the Best Mechanical Keyboards for Your Gaming Setup

It's time to step up your game! It's time to buy your gaming keyboard. Consider the following factors when choosing one: 

  1. Switch Type
    • Choose a keyboard with an actuation force of 45g, 50g, or 60g. Check if the actuation point falls at 2mm, 2.2mm, or 2.5mm for faster key presses. Different switch types have varying actuation forces and actuation points, affecting the tactile feedback and typing experience. For example, Cherry MX Red switches typically have a lighter actuation force (45g) and linear feel while Cherry MX Blue switches have a tactile bump and audible click.
  2. Customization Options
    • Look for gaming keyboards with customizable keys and macro recording capabilities. Check if it can record up to at least 20 macros.  
  3. RGB Lighting
    • Consider gaming keyboards with customizable RGB lighting that offers a wide range of colors and lighting effects---at least 16.8 million colors. Check if your chosen keyboard has per-key illumination and dynamic lighting effects to create stunning visual effects that match your gaming setup.
  4. Anti-Ghosting and N-Key Rollover:
    •  Ensure the gaming keyboard supports N-Key Rollover (NKRO) and full anti-ghosting so that each keypress is accurately registered. 
  5. Dedicated Gaming Keys
    • Look for gaming keyboards with dedicated gaming keys or at least 6-game dedicated macro keys for quick access to in-game commands or abilities. On-the-fly profile switching allows you to switch between custom profiles seamlessly during gameplay.
  6. Durability and Build Quality
    • Choose a gaming keyboard with durable construction and high-quality materials such as aircraft-grade aluminum, carbon fiber, rigid plastic, and more. Check the switches as well; they should be created for 50 to 100 million keystrokes. The higher this number, the better. 
  7. Ergonomics and Comfort
    • Consider gaming keyboards with ergonomic designs, wrist rests, and adjustable feet (at least 3 positions). Detachable wrist rests and adjustable height settings are also great because you can position your keyboard to your most comfortable gaming position.

Conclusion

When competing in eSports, don't settle for anything less than the best. Paired with consistent practice in playing your games, a top-quality gaming keyboard can put you at an advantage against other competitors. It makes your gaming experience more pleasant and comfortable. It is your trustworthy teammate as you destroy monsters, eliminate competing players, defuse a bomb, or cast magical spells.

Chris Greiner, a Mechanical Keyboard specialist, boasts a solid educational background with dual bachelor's degrees in Computer Science and Business Management from Lewis University. His additional certification in Mechanical Keyboard Design showcases his dedication to staying on the forefront of keyboard technology. Chris primarily writes for keyboard enthusiasts and has been featured on platforms like Jestik, solidifying his reputation as a thought leader in the mechanical keyboard community.
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