If you’ve ever attended an Overwatch League match in person, you’ve seen each player perform a certain pre-match ritual. Before the spectacle of walkouts, team introductions, and crowd high-fives, each player approaches their seat, gently carrying computer equipment.
Perhaps it’s a keyboard with the cord wrapped tight, stuffed under an arm, or maybe they’ve gathered everything inside a massive mouse pad, folded like a taco. These tools of the trade are then uncovered and plugged in with care usually reserved for holy relics. Like their counterparts in the non-virtual world, esports pros take their equipment seriously, for the purposes of comfort and competition.
Sit in Los Angeles Gladiator DPS Lane “Surefour” Robert’s Twitch stream for a while, and you’ll quickly notice the legions of fans inquiring about his gaming setup. Maybe they think the key to his incredible aim must lie in his mouse, or keyboard, or even his mousepad.
Surefour says he believes players work with what they have if their options are limited—but given the option to choose their own equipment, the greatest improvement in player performance can often be a matter of how well a mouse fits the hand.
However, Surefour cautions that too many options can be a liability. “[There] can be a lot of confirmation bias,” he says. “Sometimes you can switch to a mouse and perceive you do better with it when you might not. Then, whenever your aim feels bad, you want to switch mice again.”
Is it better to stay stable and simple with hardware, then?
“It’s more so if you have a bunch of options, you get blindsided by them and think it’s a hardware issue rather than another [cause]. But the most important thing [about computer mice] is how it fits your hand and your grip style.”
There are two primary types of grip style:
- Claw, where your hand makes a claw shape
- Palm, where your fingers lie flush with the mouse
Surefour’s preferred mouse is the Logitech G403 Prodigy. He enjoys the light weight, which he says best meshes with his palm-style grip. The G403 is a wired mouse, and while Surefour uses a mouse bungee to keep his cord from snagging, he has gone bungee-less in the past.
What’s more interesting is that, according to Surefour, his aim style may have even prevented injuries. “I think one of the reasons I never had wrist problems is because I don’t put a lot of pressure [into my mouse],” he explains. “That’s why my aim looks so smooth.”
Smooth aim is definitely one of Surefour’s calling cards, and it was on full display during his championship run through the Widowmaker 1v1 showdown during the Overwatch League All-Star Weekend:
If acquiring the right mouse is the most important step in reaching Overwatch setup nirvana, pairing that mouse with the appropriate mouse pad may be the second. For some time, Surefour used a specialized mouse pad called the Shiden-Kai, created by a Japanese company called Artisan. The mouse pad was popular among many Overwatch League players last season and features a glass-like surface that’s still flexible and rollable.
“It depends on what kind of aim style you have, really,” he says. “The Zowie GSR is usually good for flickers, but it’s bad for tracking. Since I have a wide aim style I have to cover, figuring out a mouse pad was hard.”
Flicking is a type of aim style that requires large, fast, snappy mouse movements, while tracking generally relies on constant velocity and smoother movements. Rather than size, Surefour says, it’s the mouse pad’s texture that can affect a player’s aim.
“People add different types of pressure to their mice,” he adds. “Some push down while they aim, some don’t. For a large part of [the Overwatch League] I was using the GSR for Widowmaker, but I wanted to switch mouse pads because I always liked playing other heroes as well, and the GSR is too ‘stoppy’ for some heroes.”
When Surefour is on the hunt for new equipment, there isn’t really a specific way he finds out about new gear. Sometimes he notices trends online, other times he peruses what other players use. By his estimation, though, he’s the person who experiments the most on his team.
“[I actually] forget where I heard about the Artisan mouse pads, to be honest,” he says. “I think I’m the only one on my team that changes stuff a lot. I’m the one who actually buys stuff to try it. If anything, they come to me [for recommendations].”
This need for a new mouse pad and hodge-podge method of equipment discovery led Surefour to finally move to the Razer Goliathus Speed mouse pad, which he used during All-Star Weekend and the Overwatch World Cup Group Stage.
Making the swap likely wasn’t the singular catalyst for Surefour’s All-Star and World Cup success, but the value of having a setup that makes a player feel comfortable cannot be denied nor quantified. Not only do players need to worry about the hardware that they interface with, they can feel the difference when their RAM, CPU, GPU, or computer monitor is acting up.
These players live and die on the edge of millimeter precision and millisecond timing. By controlling what they can with the equipment that they seek out, professional gamers cut down on the unknowns, letting them focus more on what makes them the best: their hero mechanics and game sense.
As Surefour says, players who cannot afford to seek out a personalized stockpile of Overwatch peripherals will make do with what they have. But if you’re the min-maxing type—with some money to spend—and looking to lose some inconsistency in your aim, it might be time to take Surefour’s advice:
- Determine your grip style
- Find a mouse that fits your hand and grip style
- Find a mouse pad that caters to the amount of pressure (light vs. heavy) and type of aiming that you tend to do (flicking vs. tracking)
The same process can be repeated for any gaming peripheral, from keyboard to headset. Ultimately, the end goal is to eliminate all discomfort and inconsistency among the equipment you use to game, so you can focus on what’s on the screen rather than what’s in your hands.