Is using a keyboard mouse adapter in console gaming cheating?

An updated and expanded version of this article can be found at yetieater.com/opinion/using-keyboard-mouse-console-gaming-isnt-cheating/

The use of keyboard mouse adapters in console gaming invites heavy discussion on forums: I’ve seen my fair share of posts on reddit about this issue. Without fail, the first person to comment that the use of keyboard + mouse (KBM) adapters in console gaming is equivalent to cheating reaps positive comment karma in proportion with the number of people who view the thread. Comments perceived as arguments in favor of KBM adapters get down-voted to oblivion, in spite of their being both constructive and cogent. Even inflammatory comments like, “OMG dude get good with a controller or go to PC” get more positive traction than legitimate arguments. The issue of proper voting reddiquette aside, I want to get my thoughts out on the matter, with hope that even the most closed-minded may come to see things differently.

I write from the perspective of a gamer, reared on first person shooters. My first console-based FPS was Fur Fighters for the Sega Dreamcast, and my first PC FPS was Doom. While I am no stranger to the arcane mechanics of the modern gamepad, I would take a keyboard and mouse over two analog sticks any day of the week, and there’s good reason why.

Those who decry KBM console gamers as cheaters are delusional. What they’re really getting at is this notion that the world of consoles is somehow different from PC: fairer. In their minds, everyone should compete on a level playing field. I’ll prove that the field was never level to begin with, and that only a naive definition of cheating would see KBM adapters fall within it.

Fairness in Console Gaming

Consoles have always been computers. They are designed to run code that has been digitally signed, and typically to do so at a lower cost of entry than a contemporary gaming PC. The “PC Master Race” crew knows this is possible because an entire generation of console will have the same performance envelope from its launch to its eventual exit from the marketplace. Console manufacturers are thus able to reap economies of scale in production and gain leverage over suppliers by producing a large volume of standardized equipment.

Once this standardized console has left the store, however, its environment will vary wildly based on the end-user. Consumers have a dazzling array of complementary components to choose from – everything from the display to the sound system can be selected for a specific purpose, and every serious gamer makes those choices with the intention of gaining a competitive advantage, in turn making console gaming no fairer than any other sport.

Defining Cheating in PvP Gaming

Let us define “cheating” in the context of PvP gaming, and then evaluate whether the use of a KBM adapter falls within our proposed definition.

What type of activities or behavior can we universally declare to be cheating?

Memory injection. Lag switching. DDoS. Aimbotting. Wallhacking.

Thus we define cheating in video games as any modification of runtime game data, including network data.

We may be tempted to employ a vague definition such as: “Doing something to give an unfair advantage over another player,” or “any activity that modifies the game experience to give one player an advantage over another,” but these definitions are fundamentally flawed, because they center around a notion of fairness that does not exist in the real world. These definitions are so loose that deliberate practice might even slip into them.

Let’s be realistic about what a KBM adapter is: it is a device whose primary function is to provide the player with an alternative input method. They accomplish this by emulating controller input: the console is incapable of distinguishing between KBM input and controller input.

KBM adapters aren’t aimbots. They don’t give the ability to see through walls, like wallhacks or ESP. Some support functions like rapid-fire and scripting, which falls into a grey area, but the primary function of the KBM adapter remains the same: provide the player with an alternative input method.

As KBM adapters don’t alter runtime game data, they do not fall into the accepted definition of cheating.

The Competitive Gamer

The goal of any competitive player is to overcome the competition using whatever means necessary, short of cheating or breaking the rules of the game. David Sirlin’s Playing to Win (sirlin.net/ptw) does a fantastic job discussing the stratagems employed by the competitive gamer in pursuit of victory. Early in the book, Sirlin defines “scrubs,” comparing them to competitive players:

A scrub is a player who is handicapped by self-imposed rules that the game knows nothing about. A scrub does not play to win.

Both in-game and in the real world, the competitive gamer seeks to gain an advantage over the competition. Within the scope of the game, one player may have greater map awareness than the other. Outside of the game world, you can bet that a THX sound system will give a better game experience than a pair of iPhone earbuds, though most competitive gamers tend towards headphones. There are even sound cards that boost the sound of in-game footsteps.

Would competitive players of fighting games call the use of an arcade stick cheating? A flight stick in an air combat game? A racing wheel in a racing game? Only a scrub would take the handicap and use the general-purpose controller when a dominant option can be employed.

Controller vs. Keyboard and Mouse

Imagine a FPS game that has no aim assistance, one that was built around the keyboard and mouse as the default input method. Then, a forward-thinking player brings a controller to the table. Does the new player gain a competitive advantage by using the controller? Would the KBM players switch over to running a controller?

In reality, one is hard-pressed to make the case for the game controller being more competitive than the keyboard and mouse. Situationally, a controller may be better than a keyboard and mouse — for instance, while watching a very narrow opening with a sniper rifle, it takes very little effort for a controller user to hit the trigger without influencing their look direction.

If you make the argument that keyboard and mouse have greater precision and accuracy, effectively dominating controllers, then why aren’t you making the investment into a keyboard mouse adapter? It’s incongruous to state that:

– I play to win,
– keyboard and mouse are better than controller,
– and I use a controller because keyboard and mouse users are scrubs

If you take the game seriously, why not take the plunge and get a keyboard mouse adapter for yourself? Treat yourself, bruh. If you’re a competitive gamer whose gaming setup could support a keyboard + mouse, you owe it to yourself to try it out. I can guarantee that it will change your gameplay experience.

Otherwise, if you’re determined to stick to your console controller, at least do yourself the favor of getting an accessory like KontrolFreek. Extending your analog sticks will provide you with more precise aim, which you can probably leverage to run a higher in-game sensitivity.

In closing, I’d like to address the point of most keyboard and mouse vs. controller arguments focusing only on mechanics. While important, mechanics alone won’t determine the outcome of a fight: a KBM player with poor game sense will lose to a competent controller player the majority of the time.

More

My Xbox One Setup
My XIM4 Setup for Destiny
Table of Keyboard Mouse Adapters for Console Gaming

Edits
20161018: Added table of keyboard + mouse adapters for console gaming

My XIM4 Destiny Controller Setup

The most up-to-date copy of this content is at http://yetieater.com/destiny/xim4-setup/ – be sure to check over there for my latest XIM4 Destiny setup.

I’ve been running a XIM4 since April 2015. The keyboard bindings are intuitive, and carried over from my previous keyboard mouse adapter.

Settings and the hardware that I am currently using on the XIM4 for playing Destiny follow.

Logitech G502 Proteus Core

(MSRP $79.99, Amazon.com)
DPI: 12000
Polling Rate: 1000 Hz
LMB: Fire
RMB: ADS
Middle Click: Tilde (Inspect Player)
Side Scroll: Tab (Switch Weapon)
G4: Q (Throw Grenade)
G5: E (Melee)
G6: R (Reload)
G7 + G8: Super Macro (Q+E), defined in Logitech Gaming Software
G9: Switch Profile

Hip Sensitivity: 9.00
Aim Down Sight Sensitivity: 4.50

Keyboard (Primary)

Movement: WASD
Sprint: LShift
Jump: Space
Walk: Capslock
Switch Weapons: Tab
Grenade: Q
Melee: E
Reload: R
Game Menu: Enter
Ghost: T
Inspect Player: Tilde
Xbox Menu (Guide): Esc
D-Pad: Arrow Keys

PlayStation Move Navigation Controller (Secondary)

L1: B (Crouch)
L2: A (Jump)
X: Ghost
O: Menu
PS button: Xbox button

Retired Mice

I ran my Logitech G700 until its failed middle mouse button became unbearable.

Logitech G700

DPI: 5700
Polling Rate: 1000 Hz
LMB: Right Trigger (Fire)
RMB: Left Trigger (ADS)
Middle Click: Right Thumbstick In
Side Scroll: Y (Switch Weapon)
G4: Left Shoulder (Throw Grenade)
G5: B (Crouch)
G6: Right Shoulder (Melee)
G7: Super Macro
G10: Toggle Mute

Ballistics Curves

For a time, I used the ballistics curves that I found on RML’s thread, posted on the XIM4 community forums (Destiny: My Advanced Setup).

For posterity, I’ve included the curves below:

Hip
>>> XIM4 [Mouse Ballistics] START PASTE >>>
X4MB:AAAAGgA0AC4AMAAwAC4AMgAwADEANQAxADEAMgAwAA0aJzRBTlxreoyescjIyMjIyMjI:X4MB
<<< XIM4 END PASTE <<<

ADS
>>> XIM4 [Mouse Ballistics] START PASTE >>>
X4MB:AAAAGgA0AC4AMAAwAC4AMgAwADEANQAxADEAMgAwAA8eLTxLW2VveYONl6Grtb/IyMjI:X4MB
<<< XIM4 END PASTE <<<

I stopped using them for a while, but went back to them once again recently.

Additional Notes

on DPI settings with the XIM4…
XIM4 User Manual (PDF) states: “Make sure your mouse is running at its maximum DPI”

on Primary & Secondary button bindings…
I’ve leveraged this setting to provide flexibility in controls – I can swap between digital and analog movement without switching to a separate profile, which comes in handy should my PlayStation Move Navigation Controller decide to give up the ghost midway through a game. DrLupo’s XIM settings show another way to use the Secondary button bindings – he binds both Melee and Throw Grenade to “F,” effectively making a XIM4-native macro.

Order Placed: Sony Playstation Move Navigation Controller

I placed an order on a Playstation Move Navigation Controller to add to my Xbox One setup (~$20, Amazon.com).

It’s a discontinued product that I alluded to in my post on the Mayflash Multi Max Shooter vs. Xim4.

I ordered it after realizing that there were some limitations to running the keyboard, namely in the loss of full analog control. A good keyboard is great to have, but console gaming is designed around analog control.

I’ll write a follow-up post detailing my present Xim4 setup for Destiny.

Mayflash Multi Max Shooter vs. XIM4 on Xbox One (from a former Halo player turned Destiny player)

Blasting and relaxing is more fulfilling when I feel I am in total control. I used to sit at my computer desk with controller in hand. Now it sits untouched at the base of my console, benched indefinitely in favor of my mouse and keyboard setup.

I started my exploration of keyboard + mouse adapters for Xbox One with the Mayflash Multi Max Shooter (the one that says FPS Target Plus on it). It was an impulse purchase, found on Amazon.com. After some brief research, I decided that it was probably just as good as the much more expensive XIM4. I received my Mayflash Multi Max Shooter and, after some tweaking, found my K/D ratio going up. I’d just bought myself a slight advantage.

Months went by, and I finally pulled the trigger on a XIM4 for kicks. Both are really good. The XIM4 can be configured wirelessly over Bluetooth using the XIM4 Manager app, available for both Android and iOS. The price difference is pretty significant, and you’re getting a KBM adapter either way.

The Mayflash Multi Max Shooter is good, with some reservations. In a way, it’s a more capable adapter, with support for auto-fire and profile switching on the fly. It’s also a simpler device. Boring, almost. Unfortunately, I had some issues with my microphone when passing it through the Mayflash Multi Max Shooter. Other players reported … strange things happening through voice comms. I was once asked whether I was transmitting from a distant planet. Still, the Mayflash Multi Max Shooter got the job done, with few surprises.

I had been looking forward to trying out the XIM4 ever since learning about it. Now that I have it, I’ve stopped using my Mayflash Multi Max Shooter. The XIM4 supports configuration over Bluetooth, though it lacks auto-fire. Luckily, button mapping and sensitivity adjustments can be made on-the-fly. Speaking of which, that Bluetooth support also means you can run the XIM4 with the Playstation Move Navigation controller (I placed an order for a Sony Playstation Move Navigation Controller on June 11, 2015, MSRP $29.99, Amazon.com). I’ve yet to do this, but wouldn’t mind trying it out.

The XIM4 wins in the looks department. It has a soft-touch plastic case, and ships with a braided USB cord. Both lend the XIM4 a more premium feel over the cheaper Mayflash Multi Max Shooter.

I like that the XIM4 allows you to define different sensitivity levels and curves depending on what you’re doing in the game. You can set up separate subprofiles within a single game’s configuration that allow you to dial in settings to match any scenario. This gives it an edge over the MayFlash Multi Max Shooter, especially for situations requiring subtle inputs, like sniping.

So why does the Halo player part matter? It really doesn’t, except to say that I’ve been playing FPS games on consoles for a minute. Long enough that I’m comfortable with using a controller, but that doesn’t change the fact that the keyboard and mouse reign supreme.

My Halo 5 Stats – https://www.halowaypoint.com/en-us/games/halo-5-guardians/xbox-one/service-records/players/the yetieater
My Halo 3 KDR – https://halo.bungie.net/stats/halo3/careerstats.aspx?player=yetieater az
My Halo: Reach KDR – https://halo.bungie.net/Stats/Reach/CareerStats/default.aspx?player=yetieater az

I’ve also looked into Tuact’s Venom-X (Amazon.com), but decided against it because I don’t want duplicate hardware.

Updates:

  • The Mayflash Multi Max Shooter mentioned in this article has been discontinued. Mayflash’s new product offering is the Mayflash Max Shooter ONE (~$50, Amazon.com). Like the Multi Max Shooter, the Mayflash Max Shooter ONE supports PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.
  • iOS support for the XIM4 is now out of beta