Aiming Basics

Aiming is the most basic form of control in the first person genre. Rudimentary aiming skills are require for even non multiplayer fps titles like Skyrim or Uncharted, and true multiplayer fps games often require more developed aiming capabilities. In this post I hope to address aiming at the professional level; how pros practice aiming, what their settings are, and the kinds of peripherals they use to maximize their precision.

*Dislaimer* I am not a professional gamer, and my accuracy in fps games is not at their level. I am merely attempting to group together the many methods I have read, heard, and seen over the years. Additionally, this post will address aiming for PC games using a mouse and keyboard. Some of the techniques can apply to consoles, but many do not.

The most basic tool for aiming is the computer mouse. Mice allow for high amounts of precision due to the ability of the user to combine arm, shoulder, wrist, and even finger movements. Mice can be very cheap, or extremely expensive. Nearly all pro players use “gaming” mice due to their ability to precisely control how quickly the mouse moves across the screen, a setting called dpi. A higher dpi will allow you to move further across the screen in a smaller movement of the mouse itself, and a lower dpi will do the opposite.

Dpi is very important. The default settings on both Windows and Mac computers for dpi are usually higher than what most pros prefer. Most professional fps players prefer a dpi between 400 and 1600, although there are some outliers. Lower dpi settings allow for you to aim using your arm and shoulder as well as your wrist. This allows for more muscles to be involved in the action of aiming, and in turn more muscles that can develop memory of aiming movements. The arm and shoulder muscles also tend to produce smoother movements than the wrist and fingers, and many pros aim almost entirely with these two former muscle groups.

Another important option enabled on Windows computers is a setting called “Enhanced Pointer Precision”, which allows for something called mouse acceleration. Mouse acceleration causes the mouse on screen to travel farther based on the speed at which you move the physical mouse. This type of movement is very hard to control, and I have yet to hear of a pro fps player that keeps this setting on.

One confusing addition to dpi is “in game sensitivity”. This is a slider present on all games that also affects mouse movement speed. This setting changes from game to game, and is also something that needs to be considered. Sometimes dpi is multiplied by in game sensitivity to create a number called “edpi”. This is used to quickly express the combination of dpi and in game sensitivity.

Finding a dpi and sensitivity for the first time can take a bit of experimentation. I would start with A dpi on the lower end of the spectrum (800 is a good place to start) and move up or down from there. It’s important to note that once you begin to feel comfortable, sticking with a certain dpi for a longer period of time (a few days to a week) is going to be necessary before deciding whether to change again. If you constantly change sensitivity, your arm will struggle to develop muscle memory, and your accuracy likely won’t improve.

That just about covers the basics of mice and their system settings. Like I mentioned above, start with a lower dpi, do some experimenting, and as you start to dial into your exact comfort zone allow some time before making the decision to change. Next time I’ll cover the remaining aspects of aiming: mouse pads, monitors, and the types of aiming.


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