Computer gaming is great: it is fun, improves your hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills, and is allowing people to socialize and make friends in new ways with people across the world. It can though have a longterm impact on your hand, wrist, and arm health, which is why many people are turning to ergonomic keyboards.
Ergonomic keyboards help to minimize the damage that can be done by constantly straining your hands in awkward positions by following the natural lines of your body. They can seriously reduce aches and pains associated with gaming on your computer, and even improve your play.
Like anything though you need to get it right. With this in mind, I have put together this article to give you the basics of ergonomic keyboards, how they can be good for your gaming, and why they might not be. This will help you choose the best option for you, to maximize your enjoyment of gaming while making educated choices about your own wellbeing.
What is an Ergonomic Keyboard?
First up though we have to answer the question, what actually is an ergonomic keyboard? For those of you that want a detailed answer to this, I have already put together an in-depth look here which you should check out. For those of you just looking for a quick overview though I will go over the key points again now.
An ergonomic keyboard is very simply a keyboard that is designed with you in mind. Your comfort, your health, your hands. They are made to work with your body, with button placement that complements that of your fingers. This means less moving and stretching, to reduce stress on your joints.
How are Ergonomic Keyboards Different From Normal Keyboards?
Having read that you may be thinking, ‘but surely all keyboards are designed to work with us?’, and this would be entirely logical. Unfortunately, though, this is not the case.
When keyboards were first designed for typewriters in the 19th century, no thought was given to the user habits a hundred and fifty years later. They were simply trying to make something that worked.
It is hardly surprising then the original keyboard design was not optimal for the massive amount of use the modern person puts them through each day.
What is surprising, however, is that even as the other aspects of computing are evolving constantly, for many people keyboards are remaining static.
The high-end gaming computer would be unrecognizable to a gamer from just 30 years ago, never mind about an inventor 150 years ago, and yet the standard QWERTY keyboard design and shape would look depressingly familiar. This, even as mounting evidence shows that the use of regular keyboards for either work or gaming can lead to an increased chance of repetitive stress disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Ergonomic keyboards attempt to solve this growing problem. How exactly they do it varies from keyboard to keyboard, but the same overall goals apply. These are to:
- Place keys so that you do not have to stretch and overexert your fingers
- Angle the keyboard to follow the natural line of your wrists to prevent them from being positioned uncomfortably
- Ensure the keyboard is shaped in such a way that your elbows do not have to bend out awkwardly
- Improve the typing experience for increased speed, comfort, and wellbeing
Long term this can be a godsend to all gamers. It can go a long way to prevent long-term injuries that can happen to all of us.
How Can an Ergonomic Keyboard Help With Gaming?
Okay, so we know what ergonomic keyboards are and what they are trying to do. What we still need to cover though is how they can actually help your game.
Ergonomic Keyboards can Improve Health
The most obvious way an ergonomic keyboard can help your game is by stopping you from getting injured. While it may sound silly, overuse injuries due to computer use are on the rise. They can cause pain, swelling, and numbness. In serious cases, this can persist for up to several months. During this time you may struggle to play or have to stop completely. It can even affect your work life.
By improving your hand positioning to cause you less stress an ergonomic keyboard can either reduce the pain of these issues or even prevent them entirely.
Repetitive strain injuries are nasty, and so any way of reducing them is a win in my book.
Next up we have the slightly less dramatic, related issue of comfort. No, being uncomfortable won’t knock you out the same way a repetitive strain injury will. But it can still put a dampener on your gaming experience.
We have all had days where we have sat in front of our computers for far too many hours on end (well, I have at least!), and felt our hands stiff in place after. Or rubbed the inside of our wrists against the next a little too often for it to be comfortable. Or got the occasional debilitating bout of cramp shooting up our hands, normally at the worst possible time.
An ergonomic keyboard can seriously help with all of these. Your hands are stiff because they are in positions they shouldn’t be. With a keyboard that doesn’t force them to do this stiffness will be greatly reduced. Many ergonomic keyboards come with cushioning for your wrists to prevent them from rubbing. And finally, they are designed to minimize muscle overuse which is a leading cause of hand cramps.
All of this allows you to keep doing what you love without being distracted by discomfort and lets you focus on having fun.
Ergonomic Keyboards Can Help You Type Faster
Last up, something you may not always think about when it comes to ergonomic keyboards is how they can improve your gameplay. I don’t mean just that you play better when you aren’t in pain and are comfortable either. Although these definitely do help. No, I mean having an ergonomic keyboard that works for you can actually improve your reaction time and with it your quality of play.
This is because by arranging the keys to be instantly accessible to your fingers you cut down on valuable time. Rather than having to move them to reach central buttons, for example, you will have it right there. Instead of having to move your hand and finger slightly before pressing a key, you can do so instantly.
While this only saves you a fraction of a second, in a high-intensity game this fraction of a second can be the difference between living and dying. Between winning and losing.
With this in mind, even if you don’t have any health concerns and find your current setup perfectly comfortable, you shouldn’t overlook what an ergonomic keyboard can do for you.
Can an Ergonomic Keyboard Ever Hurt Your Gaming?
I always want to be completely straight up with you, and so it is important to say that even though I am a big fan of ergonomic keyboards and use one both for working and playing, there are mixed opinions on them.
Take a look at Reddit, Quora, or any other message board and you will see for yourself that people have a wide variety of views both for and against ergonomic keyboards.
A lot of these complaints are valid. So while I am still very much pro ergonomic keyboard, I will quickly share with you some of the main complaints when it comes to gaming.
Different Layouts with Ergonomic Keyboards
The whole point of ergonomic keyboards is that they are laid out differently from regular keyboards. While in my mind this is an overwhelmingly good thing, and as I said can actually improve your play, it does take some getting used to.
This period of adjustment can take a couple of weeks and be a painful process for people when they see their quality drop dramatically when they make the switch. It is only temporary but can be enough to put a lot of people off making the switch.
Some Ergonomic Keyboards Go Too Far
One thing people often point to when criticizing ergonomic keyboards with regards to gaming is that they have been changed so much they are impossible to use for gaming.
For example, many are just impossible to effectively use with one hand. This is essential for many games where your hand will constantly be on your mouse, and so you will need to be able to access the whole of the keyboard.
I absolutely agree with this criticism. A lot of ergonomic keyboards like the one pictured to the left go way too far to ever be useful. My advice? Just don’t get those ones, focus on the less extreme ergonomic keyboards, and enjoy.
Another example of going too far for gamers is that many ergonomic options remove the num pad. This is the section featuring the numbers and arrows on the far right of the keyboard.
Removing this section is particularly common in split keyboards as you can see below. Again, my advice is that if this is important to you, simply go for one of the many fixed keyboards that still have num pads.
Not Worth The Money
Whether an ergonomic keyboard is worth it is up to you and based on personal preference. It is unquestionable they are more expensive than bog standard options. For me though, if I am forking out a bunch of money for a computer for the best quality possible, I want to enjoy it in comfort. I use an ergonomic keyboard.
Is an Ergonomic Keyboard For You?
So there we have it. Are ergonomic keyboards really good for gaming? For me, absolutely, whether they will be for you is for you to decide. The best way to do this is actually testing one out. Either try one in-store or order one with a good returns policy and answer for yourself today.