The Deathmatch Zone: The Playing Environment by Dr. Gibbs, March 9, 2002

The Playing Environment by Dr. Gibbs

Most strategy guides limit themselves to the game itself… well, this one is different; it concentrates on a few of the elements of your environment.

Believe it or not, the room that you are in while playing actually has a lot to do with how well you perform. A lot of people play under conditions that cause their performance to suffer, but they don’t realize that they are being affected. You are probably in some of these conditions yourself; you just don’t realize it yet.

Some of this may sound a little goofy at first – but if you give these tips some consideration, you’ll probably notice a difference in your game. Just remember that, since everyone is different, these won’t necessarily apply to every reader; but I think you will find that at least one or two of them will be a big help to you.


Noise can severely affect your concentration. Distant or soft sounds such as a lawn mower or a computer fan will not be a problem, but if you are watching TV or talking with friends at the same time that you are playing you will probably notice that you don’t do quite as well. In a game like Quake 3 sound is critical, so try to minimize distractions. Turn your speakers up loud enough for you to hear even the most distant footsteps, and – as cool as it is – turn off the game music. If you really want to have clear sound, use a pair of headphones… not only do they enhance the game’s audio, but they also muffle outside noises.

Light Levels

Looking at a bright screen in a dark environment will cause eyestrain in a matter of minutes, and when this happens your ability to play will be affected; yet, ideally, you want to make the room as dark as possible. Turning all the lights off in the room can really help you see what’s going on in the game. If you want to try playing in a dark room, just turn the game’s brightness down a little and leave a small light on somewhere so that your eyes have something to focus on besides the screen.


Most of you will probably want to keep things cold. If the room is warm, or sometimes even right at room temperature, you will become too relaxed and not be able to concentrate on the game as well. It’s different for everyone, of course, but something around 70°F (20°C) should keep you alert enough without being uncomfortable. If the weather is cool wherever you are, you should try opening a window; it’s the cheapest way to cool off the place.


You should never play for more than about an hour without taking a short break. While you are looking at the monitor, and especially while you’re playing the game, you don’t blink as frequently as you normally would. Because of this, if you spend too long in front of the screen your eyes will become strained. You will soon lose your ability to focus clearly; when this happens, you will not be able to see players – or any other part of the game – as well.


Even though the keyboard is not your primary control device (if it is, I don’t even know why you’re reading this), it does affect your ability to play. If you have a Microsoft Natural Touch Keyboard, it’s time to spend ten bucks and pick up a new one. Unless you are so used to the shape that you couldn’t possibly use a normal keyboard, you may find that getting one will help you a lot. Some people, of course, have used these things so much that they can’t go back. But for those of you willing to try, I think you will find that a standard keyboard gives you quicker access to the keys. It’s not as comfortable to type on, but it may improve your game.


The mouse, of course, is the most important device you will be using. Players with higher quality mice will perform better in the arenas. A three-button wheel mouse is the best choice, as it gives you three additional ways of controlling your character: pressing the third button, scrolling up, and scrolling down. With the scroll wheel, you can easily switch weapons without struggling to hit numbers or find the keys that you bound. The third button can be assigned to a less common function such as using an item.

Most importantly, the mouse should be smooth. Even though many players swear by the classic ball mouse, you should at least give an optical mouse a try. They do take a little getting used to, but you will find that they offer better resolution and control over most ball mice. There are some other things to look out for… the character’s movement, for example, should stop the instant the mouse does. Some ball mice suffer from “roll”… that is, the wheels inside will keep rolling even after you stop moving. If you have an optical mouse, watch out for the “flick syndrome” that many of them suffer from… if you move the mouse too quickly, the sensor will become confused and the cursor will jump all over the screen. This usually isn’t a problem on newer optical mice, but it all depends on how you play and what your mouse settings are. For the most part, dual optical sensors have taken care of this annoyance.

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