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The dream of playing competitive video games at the highest level, of donning a jersey and stepping out onto a big stage to a roaring crowd hungry for virtual combat, seems both fantastic and still somewhat achievable. As you might imagine, an important part of gaming—whether you’re playing in front of thousands of fans or in front of your dog in the den—is the stuff you use.
Playing at the highest level means using equipment that’s going maximize your potential and keep your body from breaking down, even if most of the day you’re filling out spreadsheets or Word documents. For precision and comfort, you should get a mechanical keyboard, which gives off a satisfying clack when keys are pressed. Some players say that the physical switches for each key allow for faster double-tapping.
“A mechanical keyboard allows you to act milliseconds faster, which doesn't necessarily always matter,” Harsha Bandi, assistant coach for the Overwatch league’s Vancouver Titans, told Motherboard. “But is important when you are playing against the best players in the world.” The Razer Cynosa is a popular budget pick, and the Corsair K95 is widely considered to be a top-of-the-line option.
While keyboards are obviously important, a mouse is easily the most crucial component of a competitive gaming rig. Pros often seek a form factor that both fits their hand and has some good weight. “Aim is incredibly important,” Bandi said. “And a comfortable shape and weight are both necessary to maintain that.”
Whether you’re doing big sweeps across the mousepad or minute adjustments while looking down scope, the DPI (dots per inch) needs to be high enough to detect those adjustments. Motherboard recommends the Logitech G502, but anything where you can customize the weight and has a high DPI will work for you.
But a keyboard and mouse are just the nuts and bolts of esports. Professional gamers will often tell you to just support the companies who sponsor them. Outside of the actual computer, however, there’s lots of stuff that make playing games—or doing anything at a computer for a really long time—more comfortable. It’s surprising how hard sitting in front of a screen all day can be on your body.
Handwarmers are an ubiquitous accessory in competitive gaming. Even outside the PC-centric world of league esports, it’s not uncommon to see fighting game players or others use a handwarmer. Cold hands can’t respond as quickly as warm hands can, and inputs can lag behind thoughts if your fingers feel stiff.
A decent chair can make a big difference too, and don’t be scared off by the price tag of “gamer chairs.” Pros use a variety of them in their daily play—Jonas “Shaz” Suovaara of the Overwatch League's LA Gladiators said he thinks the Ikea Markus is “the best chair in the world.”
“Gamers can spend up to 16 hours a day sitting in their chairs, so good back support is key to limiting injuries and all around well-being,” said Bandi.
While not as outwardly physically demanding as a pick-up game of basketball, any extended period of computing is going to be hard on your body—and you can actually train for it.
Players, coaches, and esports-focused medical personnel like physical therapist Dr. Cait McGee emphasized the importance of exercising in order to keep in good gaming—and computing shape. This means light (one-to-five pound) weights for wrist strengthening exercises, foam rollers for your back and wrists, KT tape for your hands, and “theraputty” to strengthen your fingers.
Even something minor, like a water bottle, can have long-term impact. Think about the last time you played a video game for longer than an hour, and then think about how much water you drank in that time. Staying hydrated is crucial for any person, and having it nearby in a place where you don’t even have to think or make conscious effort to do so can keep your head clear and focused.
“All of us, pros and casuals alike, are more likely to hydrate better when water is readily available,” said Dr. McGee. “Even just having a full water bottle nearby makes it more likely that you'll keep drinking.”
Lots of this seems like it’d be a joke. But studies have shown that sitting in front of a computer all day can be hard on your body, and repetitive mouse clicking and typing can lead to repetitive stress injuries and things like carpal tunnel syndrome. You might feel silly doing wrist exercises before you sit down for a long session. But years from now, your tendons will thank you for it.