WASDTuesday, Jul 5, 2016 · 500 words · approx 3 mins to read
I type funny and it’s Quake’s fault. One of my dogs sat on my lap this morning while I was here at the computer sorting a couple of things out. He sat up and put one paw on my wrist rest in front of my keyboard, and one paw on my left hand. They like posting on Instagram (entirely by themselves of course, I have nothing to do with it, nosiree), so I figured I’d take a picture so Ted could post it later (he’s great with the iPhone, despite a complete lack of opposable thumbs).
While watching Ted deftly choose a nice filter and tap out the description, I noticed where my left hand was resting. Left shift, A, W, D and space. I was formally taught how to type at school in a word processing class, and while I remember the lessons like I was taught yesterday, ever since I got into Quake that’s been the natural place to rest my left hand on a keyboard.
I don’t do too badly with it either. Because I’m learning a new keyboard layout eventually, I’ve been practicing my regular QWERTY layout typing quite a lot recently with various web-based typing tests and games. My accuracy is decent (95%+ if I’m in control of what I type) and my word rate is pretty high (75-80wpm). Looking into where I make mistakes, they’re predictably in the key area where there’s overlap between my hands. Y is a hard key for me to hit accurately depending on what came before it. I hit B with my right hand index finger. In fact, the number of keys I hit with fingers on my right hand is significantly higher than the number I regularly hit with my left, because my hand is offset to the left because I rest on WASD. Stands to reason, really.
Would I trade 33% a higher average words-per-minute rate to get me into the century club, for the memories and enjoyment of playing Quake in the late 90s? Of course not. Would I trade backspace being my favourite key a lot of the time because I’m not that accurate? Don’t be silly.
Quake was a real turning point in my life to the point where it’s almost completely responsible for my career. I’ve written about it before, but loading up GLQuake for the first time on a 3dfx Voodoo upended my understanding of what computers were capable of. Thinking about it now, where I can remember the exact sequence of what I tried in the graphics options before settling in to play through the first time, gives me shivers. Maybe I’ll build an old Pentium 90 and bring that class of machine back to life again.
Anyway, WASD is just muscle memory, and that’s malleable. I’ll fix it eventually.