My Wacky Video Game Mouse/Keyboard Control Scheme

A picture of the numberpad on my keyboard and also the mouse

I mentioned on Twitter that when it comes to PC-based video games, I have a keyboard/mouse control scheme that horrifies and mystifies everyone who learns about it, because it is so far deviant from the traditional “WASD” setup that people don’t know what to think about it. This of course meant I was immediately asked to reveal my heretical control scheme. I will do so now.

Basically, I do everything on the numberpad and the mouse and don’t use the primary keyboard at all. Also, I use these mappings primarily for first person shooters, as that’s my favorite type of game, although I also do usually map other types of games to some variation of this control scheme. Also also, I don’t claim this to be the best controlmapping scheme, merely the one that I’m used to; I’ve been using some variation of this since the Quake days 20 years ago. I will say WASD feels awfully cramped to me and I don’t know how it became the standard.

So here’s how I map my controls on the numberpad and mouse.


Mouse Button 1: Walk forward
Mouse Button 2: Walk backward
Mouse Button 3: Weapon selection (both by scrolling with the mousewheel and holding down and selecting with the button when enabled in the game (see: Crysis and Wolfenstein)
Mouse Button 4: Grenades (when enabled)
Mouse Button 5: Sniper zoom (when enabled)
General mouse movement: Free look

Number Pad

7: Strafe left
9: Strafe right
4: Lean left
6: Lean right
0: Crouch
.: Fire
Enter: Fire secondary
+: Jump
/: Reload
*: Flashlight
Page Down: Use
8,5,2,1,3,-, pageup, home, end: Available for other controls the specific game might have, like sprint or map or inventory or health regeneration or whatever.

This works for me because it puts all the primary movement into the mouse and most of the secondary functions onto the numberpad. The mouse is all about looking and moving, the numberpad about shooting and occasionally ducking, leaning and jumping. Also the number keys aren’t staggered weirdly like the keys on the larger keyboard; they’re straight up and down and across, which for me makes them easier to use in a game situation.

As far as I know there’s only one other person in the world who regularly uses this setup: My kid, who naturally learned it from me, because she started playing video games on my rig. She, like me, is not sure why anyone does it any other way. I don’t expect other people to come around to our way of thinking on this, mind you. People use what they’re used to. This is what I’ve been used to for 20 years. It works for me.

59 Comments on “My Wacky Video Game Mouse/Keyboard Control Scheme”

  1. I put my hands in that position and I can’t help but feel incredibly leaned over. I’m not sure how it’s comfortable.

  2. Many many moons ago I got tired of remapping every game so I just learned how to use the default keys.

    Before that I used SAXD instead of WASD for movement which left QWERT and 12345 open for other actions.

  3. I’m not sure if I could handle movement on the mouse instead of shooting, but otherwise that seems like a reasonable layout. I have used similar layouts in the past, but with forward and back on 8 and 2 or 8 and 5.

  4. The problem I, personally, would have with that setup is that my left hand is not at all trained to use the number pad. I can see where there’s a certain efficiency in that layout, but I don’t think I could rewire my brain and muscle memory in such a way that would make it comfortable.

  5. I sprang for a G13 game controller and I can’t use the keyboard anymore. It does take set up initially for games, but I feel clumsy when I can’t use my thumb on a joystick to move now. The drawback is that sometimes with the thumbstick moving in a perfectly straight line requires concentration so I fall off some obstacles

  6. Sam:

    I got a G13 since I thought it would be a natural extension from my current set-up but I was ultimately never really that comfortable with it.

  7. If I tried this, I think I’d map movement to the numbers that correspond to the arrows, but that’s just OCD brain talking. Otherwise I think it’s a cool setup.

    I’ve used the number pad instead of the top bar for the actions in Diablo because like you said, it’s so much easier to move from key to key as long as you’re not using the keyboard to move as well.

  8. I also use the mouse/keypad for gaming, and was distinctly upset when that 5th Elder Scrolls game did away with the possibility. Mine is different from yours, though, in that I’m left-handed and use the mouse on the left side of the keyboard. I also have the keypad set up in a more intuitive (and apparently more common, judging by the comments), way. I much prefer games that have a pretty free approach to remapping. I suppose I could remap my brain, but it’s far easier simply to not play games that don’t allow it. God knows I have too many games to fill my time as it is.

  9. I’m a proponent of ESDF over WASD as I feel like I have access to more keys on my left hand with that configuration. Plus my left hand properly on home row feels more comfortable.

    Scalzi, I am with you on the right-click-move-forward concept though. I often refer to it as the “accelerator” method. I sometimes try to force myself to use traditional left-middle-finger forward key, but that muscle memory. The keypad mappings seem like they’re a holdover from the early Doom days before mouse movement really took hold. Good stuff.

  10. That’s not an unfamiliar setup. IIRC the default was using the numpad to move and the general left-ctrl for everything else back in the doom/heretic/quake days.
    Then the windows button became ubiquitous and maybe that’s when wasd became a thing? I do distinctly remember remapping all the keys in diablo 2 to the left side of a controller so I could sit back on the couch with just that and the mouse.

  11. That’s a bit like using a gaming keypad. I use one (a Razer Orbweaver) mainly with World of Warcraft. The main difference is that it uses a left-thumb-based joystiq for movement, which frees up the other fingers to cast spells/attacks. The mouse is used mostly for mouse-look, with ancillary mouse buttons for less common actions. The whole setup is gentler on my right hand.

    The downside is that setup and key mapping are kind of a pain.

  12. I’ve used various techniques in computer gaming, but not this one. I’ll try it and hope it improves movement and first person shooter capabilities in Freecell and Klondike solitaire. Thanks!

  13. Aha! You pathetic social justice gamma rabbit, you, this just proves that…

    uhhh, proves that…

    ‘ok, hold on… I’ll get back to you on this…

    Oh, right…


    So, there!

  14. So, left-hand mousing? Or slide the keyboard left half way through an open window to put the keypad under the left hand? Oh, wait. THE TENTACLE BEARD!!

  15. I use a different approach, a little $25 dongle called FLIRC that receives IR signals from any and all IR remotes and maps them to key combinations. I also have AutoHotkey running, so I can map any key combinations to mouse actions — buttons, wheel, movements — and to scripts to do just about anything. So basically I can do any input I can think of by pushing a button on a remote.

    I mostly use a little 4″ x 2″ x 1/2″ 18-button remote that I found in my bucket-o-remotes to do most of the actions I do other than typing words. I could haul out one of the old giant 100-button remotes and program it to do a lot more stuff.

    If you have a remote that’s a better fit to your left hand than the number pad, this might work for you. I don’t do gaming, so I don’t know if there might be too much delay involved.

  16. The control scheme makes sense to me intuitively, but I’m not convinced of its practicality in anything where you are likely to be looking significantly up. This scheme basically puts “more normally” on the mouse and “do stuff” on the keyboard, whereas the normal scheme puts “aim and use weapons” on the mouse and “move your aim point” on the keyboard.

    It seems like it could be good for space sims, actually.

  17. Jeez, Scalzi, Winter Storm Hunter hasn’t hit you yet and already you’re getting twitchy, blogging about your game mouse! :-)

  18. That actually is an old school setup (or quite close to one) that was used many years ago by some of the better players at the time. Most have moved on to other setups but that was a preferred one at one time.

  19. It rationally makes sense, but my lizard brain is way too enslaved by muscle memory to try it.

  20. Wow, that’s … it’s very different but I can see why it works (except for walking mapped to mouse buttons which, agh, how, what).

    I usually switch WASD movement to QWES (three fingertips on one line feels much more natural than one in front, to me), move most other functions to surrounding keys (R to reload, D to crouch, A to activate, etc.), and always, always, always invert look.

  21. Man I thought I was a deviant for used asdf instead of wasd for standard FPSes. I remember when Descent first came out, and I needed to navigate a fully 3d environment, I eschewed the mouse entirely for a pure keyboard gameplay: If the Z-axis was the up axis, then left hand was z / y axis movement. Right hand was yaw, pitch, and rotation. x-axis movement was actually handled by my pinkies on the “a” and “;” keys, with my primary and second a weapons on my thumbs.

  22. Yeah, Nojh – I never had access to a controller with enough buttons to have anything but a keyboard-only setup for Descent make sense. I put together a keymap that made five out of the six axes pretty easy to reach… but that last one was always really awkward. Can’t remember which axis that was.

    Then Descent 2 came along with all those extra controls (bomb types, etc.) and made the whole thing *completely* hopeless.

  23. HJKL. For playing rogue-like games (rogue, nethack, …) and pretending you’re training your fingers to use the vi editor.

  24. Amazing, I’ve found someone with an even crazier layout than mine:

    Right click: forward
    S,G: strafe
    D,F: move backwards
    Left click: shoot
    Keys around SDFG: various activations. Usually E for activate, R for reload, T for zoom or secondary, Y for flashlight or secondary (the latter two depend on what is available for mapping)

  25. My set up is a bit weird, partly because I use a trackball (specifically the kind with standard mouse button configuration and movement controlled by a ball under the thumb – I’ve tried others, this one works best for me). I have the trackball beneath the number pad and tilted sideways so I can easily shift to tapping the number pad keys with my right hand, and my left hand uses QWES (I find WASD uncomfortable) and 1-7 of the standard numbers. MMORPG set-up, mostly, because when I play other games the set-up is a lot simpler and I can just use a stripped down version. Movement and interaction is partly on the mouse buttons, partly on QWES, commonly used action buttons are on main keyboard 1-7 and number pad 0-4, some rarely used abilities are on a comveniently clickable action bar set up in the bottom middle of my screen.

    It took some working out. I felt crippled when I first switched from my old Macbook (which had the no physical click trackpad) to a desktop and trackball, because suddenly I couldn’t swiftly access half of my action keys (8 through to =) and half of my movement keys (I didn’t have a number pad and I used the arrow keys + QWES to fine-tune movement because mouse-movement wasn’t an option). So, when sufficiently motivated it is certainly possible to retrain muscle memory! It wasn’t exactly a fun thing to have to do, though.

    I would love it if someone produced a gaming trackball that was still gimpy-hands-friendly. Extra buttons would be amazing.

  26. Cool to hear some classics mentioned. Heretic and Descent. I sort of remember loathing the Windows key for a while. I don’t remember which game or games it was but it used the left CTRL and ALT keys and boom Start menu and then you’re dead.

  27. I haven’t played that sort of game in a long time, but back when I did, I also mapped the board like that. The straight alignment of the numbers made so much more sense than the offset letters. And yeah, all you have to do is move your keyboard to the left. (Or if you’re left handed, you don’t even need to do that!)

  28. @bskinn, I loved using a keyboard for Descent also. Always used the numpad for almost all movement: 8/2/6/4 for pitch/yaw, 1/3 for slide, 7/9 for roll, and either -/+ or +/enter for up/down (depending on how the numpad was shaped). Then q/a/z with the pinky was burner/forward/reverse, with scattered other keys around there for everything else. When I get in the groove, I’m as smooth with that as I am with a joystick.

    I never could understand the people who played it with a mouse…

  29. I tend to stick with a game’s defaults, although I’m strongly tempted to get myself an Xbox controller hooked up to my PC simply for some of the JRPGs I’m playing which were created for consoles, and ported with weird keysets as a result. And of course, no two series of games have the same key combos.

    For example: my favourite Final Fantasy games tend to use the keys on the bottom row of the left hand of the keyboard (X, C, V, B) to map to the standard four buttons of a console handset (the ones you control with your right thumb); with Ins, Del, End, Home, PgUp and PgDn standing in for the bumper buttons and the Start and Select buttons; and the four direction arrows for the joystick controlling movement. By contrast, I just recently started in on Tales of Symphonia, and the key-mapping there uses good old WASD for the directional stuff, and then has JKLI standing in for the standard four console buttons. Yesterday, I picked up Recettear for the first time in a while, and wound up intensely frustrated until I worked out they were working on the bottom row of the left hand for keys, this time starting at Z (and Z is the default button for everything). Plus the menu, for reasons known only to the developers, is mapped to W.


    It would be nice if all the developers and localisers picked one key-mapping and stuck with it.

  30. This may be the most unique control scheme I’ve seen since the one I learned on (naturally learned from my father, from whom I developed my love of gaming, especially FPS games):

    Left mouse, shoot; right mouse, move forward; middle mouse button, move backward.
    F, strafe left; G, strafe right; H, crouch; Y, jump; J, alternate weapon function; U, use; I, reload.
    Everything else is available for binding on a per-game basis.

    The two major advantages to this are that, first, I can play most low-intensity shooter sections (running through halls and the like) with just the mouse (providing minimal disadvantage during online gaming while eating or drinking), and, second, just about every key on my keyboard is within reach from my custom home position. It’s especially effective with my Razer Naga mouse, which has a 12-key pad under the thumb, configurable as either the number row or the numpad, thereby giving me weapon switching on the mouse, as well. It really is quite a lovely system for when you find yourself needing to bind a truly absurd number of keys.

  31. I game very VERY little, because my hand-eye coordination isn’t. But I’ve never liked WASD, because S is NOT down! It’s right there with left and right. So arrows/number pad make much more intuitive sense.

    Eh — I still miss joysticks with buttons, too.

  32. John,

    WASD was popularized by Dennis “Thresh” Fong, an early (and legendary) Quake player. Bear in mind that prior to that, players either used keyboard only (typically the arrow keys, space, ctrl and alt; Doom didn’t have “strafe” keys when it first came out IIRC) or the numberpad.

    WASD, as Thresh showed, allowed better use of the little finger and thumb around the core three fingers for movement, but also let two of the other three fingers be useful too. QuakeWorld (IIRC) introduced weapon scrolling, which was popularly mapped to Q and E. Before that, WASD located the player’s hand close enough to the number keys to quickly choose a specific weapon.

  33. Doom did have strafe keys IIRC, but they were mapped to something comical like , and . (because they were also probably), the default mapping was left and right arrows to turn and hold Alt to strafe instead. (Same as Wolfenstein 3D).

    WASD got popular because it moves your hands apart if one is on the mouse (Doom had mouse control, but I can’t remember if it was added in a patch), it puts your left hand on the home row (and the middle finger is usually longer hence comfortable to rest on W), and it’s close to the number buttons that were the default for weapon selection before mousewheels and as games had more and more controls like use and reload there were buttons handy for them.

  34. SpaceOrb 360
    I’ll always regret that keyboard and mouse won out over the SpaceOrb.
    Quake and Descent with the SpaceOrb were the best FPSs I’ve ever played.

  35. Hey, that is a great setup if you mouse left handed, which I do. (I am right handed, but my right hand complains if I mouse too much). I will have to try that setup. I’ve always found WASD awkward, and having had a previous life as a bookkeeper, I am perfectly comfortable using the numeric keypad.

  36. My brain hurts reading the description of your mouse buttons.

    I don’t know what game it was, but in my head the mouse (right hand) is for turning/swiveling/shooting, and the left (keyboard) is for moving. Intellectually I can understand the utility of what you’re saying, but trying to map that into movement in my head, my cerbellium responds “nope. so nope.”.

    Ok, now the real question that will bake everyone’s noodle–how do you have your vertical movement axis mapped. Is it “inverted” or no? That is, if you want the character to look at the ceiling, do you push the mouse up (away from you), or down (towards you)?

    My perception is that 90% of people are mouse-up/view-up, because that’s the default. However, I’ve played enough flight sims that pulling back towards me is up, so I always set the vertical inverted, and it drives me nuts when I play the occasional game with someone else’s character for some reason and (because it’s theirs) I don’t want to change the setting.

  37. The only part of your configuration that throws me is using the numeric keypad, but NOT for forward and reverse movement and instead using the traditional firing keys for that purpose. I’m so used to having Mouse1 be primary fire and Mouse2 being secondary fire that to see them like that would be very confusing for me.

  38. Maybe this is a stupid question, but why don’t you use a controller instead? I could never get used to using the keys and mouse when all my other systems use gaming controllers. The only games I could comfortably use the mouse for were games like Starcraft.

  39. And I thought my system, which appalls my gaming friends, was odd. I play on a laptop, moving with my right hand and “shooting” with my left. (I use the mousepad as little as possible. Numpad is movement and frequent actions (mounting, etc.) Action keys are number keys and alt+number keys on the regular keyboard.)

  40. @Craig Steffen – Depends on the game’s camera. For first person and tight over-the shoulder games where you don’t have a free camera (it’s tightly coupled to your character’s upper body movement) then I have it as the standard, where the reticle is manipulated directly as if it were a desktop cursor. But if it’s a third person game with a free floating camera, then what makes sense in my head is for pushing right/left to move the camera to the right or left around my character, and similarly pushing up should move the camera up and over the character.

  41. Having prestiged 10 times in call of duty on a ps3, I can say with certainty that game controllers suck compared to the accuracy you get with a mouse and keyboard on a pc.

    I tried several third party mouse adapters for ps3, but they all had crap resolution. I dont play games on consoles anymore.

  42. I’ve known the occasional gamer that uses Mouse 1 for forward movement. I always thought it odd except in the context of an MMO (I play LOTRO).

    In LOTRO, I do make extensive use of the number pad. And, as I occasionally stream my LOTRO game play, it drives my viewers nuts to witness. But hey, to each their own.

    Game on, John.

  43. And I thought I was the only one who used a right-half-of-keyboard arrangement, though mine is significantly different; here’s the core bindings I use as a starting point for most of my games:
    MOUSE RIGHTBUTTON: Zoom/Ironsights
    NUMPAD 1-9: Weapon/Equip slots, though usually not all are used.
    NUMPAD 0: Use
    UPARROW: Move Forward
    DOWNARROW: Move Backward
    DELETE: Left Strafe
    END: Reload
    PAGE DOWN: Right Strafe
    INSERT: Quickload
    HOME: Flashlight/Nightvision
    PAGE UP: Quicksave
    ENTER: Jump
    RSHIFT: Walk/Run
    RCTRL: Crouch
    You’d think I’d use LEFT/RIGHT ARROW for strafing, but that always felt cramped to me. The bizarre bits are that I JUMP WITH MY PINKY FINGER, and I use Invert Y-Axis, despite never really playing flight simulators.

  44. @scalzi: I move the keyboard over to the left a bit as I play.

    Ah! That makes perfect sense. The photo initially made me think you were using both the number pad and the mouse with your right hand, which seemed slow and awkward, but: you don’t! So, yeah!

    I don’t play games, so it’s a moot point, but if I did, your set-up makes perfect sense to me, except that I’d run the number pad with my right hand and the mouse with my left, on the left of the keyboard. But then, I generally mouse left-handed anyway. (I’m a righty who taught myself to write left-handed in high school; Ever since, I try to always pick up new skills with my left; I can always shift from left to right, but not the reverse. Still can’t draw worth a damn left-handed.)

    My drawing set-up is similar in spirit: trackpad on the left, drawing pad on the right, and keyboard beyond the drawing pad.

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