You may have notived gamers tilting their keyboards when playing. Is this just a style-related thing or does it help their game? Let's take a look at why do pro gamers tilt their keyboards.
Pro Gaming & eSports
In the late 2000s, gaming became popular enough and accepted enough that gamers began to take their hobby to the professional level. Before this, competitive gaming had existed but was typically not officially organized. But by the time the 2010s reared their head, gaming as a profession was already commercially accepted.
Professional players are typically associated with a wider brand or team. Teams earn their money through sponsorship deals or winning tournaments. To increase their chances of winning, most teams play a variety of games, from one-on-one fighters to round-based shooters.
The only way one can go pro, as with any traditional sport, is with consistent practice and honing of skill. It can take hours upon hours of playing to “git gud” (gamer speak for "get good") at a game, let alone master it. The best players spend the majority of their week playing and practicing.
But consistent play-time is not the only thing a player requires to perform well. There is a physical aspect, as well as involving a player’s hardware and set-up. A lack of equipment funds should not stop anyone from playing. Still, there are a few practical things most pro gamers do to increase the quality of their performance. You might have even noticed some of the pro gaming Youtube players like Mongraal, Tfue, Shroud and Ninja tilting their keyboards. There's a reason they do this and it's normally because of comfort and keyboard playing speed.
That’s right; the keys on the keyboard themselves can also contribute to the need to adjust its orientation.
When it comes to more complex games with tons of features to consider, a player needs to be able to navigate his/her keyboard quickly and with ease. The button-mapping of some games can become incredibly widespread. Some players can find themselves struggling to move from one key to another because of the distance between them, or the positioning of their playing hand.
To circumvent this, a lot of players will tilt their keyboards to a more optimal position. A small change in the angle of your keyboard allows gamers to reach more keys. And that shift often positions your other fingers that aren't used for moving or direction, to be able to reach keys used for other abilities better.
For example, while most games make use of the WASD keys for navigation and movement, some games also use the QWER keys for specific movements and actions. Having the keyboard tilted vertically allows the player to access the latter of these sets of keys easier.
One such game that makes use of these keys is Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege, one of the most popular games in the world of professional gaming and eSports. Unlike a lot of other FPS’s (First Person Shooter), in addition to standard movement, Siege also features a “lean” feature which the player can use to peek around corners or hold different angles.
The additional movements require additional key functionality, and the default button-mapping for the “lean” has the Q and E keys for leaning left and right, respectively.
Fornite is another example where you have a lot of different key assignments to do things like moving, building, editing and switch weapons - sometimes at very quick succession. So there are quite a few more professional fortnite players that play with their keyboard almost completely vertical which often gives them better reach for their thumb. Checkout the video below where they explain why fortnite players pros often use their keyboards sideways, in more detail.
Video - Why Fortnite Pros play Fornite with keyboard sideways
The first thing you need to consider when playing on PC is your comfortability. Comfortability applies to several things, such as the gaming chair you sit in or the height of the desk at which you play. Importantly, however, the amount of comfort you have with your external devices is also very important. These are the things you are going to be playing with, probably for numerous hours at a time, so making sure you are always at ease when using them is a priority.
Often though, you are naturally inclined to change something you find uncomfortable. You may find yourself unconsciously turning your keyboard slightly when you play, or adjusting the resting position of your hands. It may be that you prefer to rest your hands at an angle rather than straight on and so you tilt your keyboard away from you.
Keyboards are typically not very well-designed ergonomically, and so it often falls to the individual to help ensure his/her comfortability and ease-of-use.
In professional gaming and eSports, gamers need to be physically comfortable to have a clear headspace and good focus. The environment can be competitive enough as it is, so any opportunity to alleviate some of that pressure is often taken.
Space is another reason why someone might tilt their keyboard, specifically, a lack of it. Depending on your set-up, your play area can become quite cluttered.
Monitors vary in size and can take up a good chunk of desk-space. Even the better, top-of-the-range monitors with smaller bases can be challenging to maneuver around. A well-sized desk can help to mitigate this issue, but even eSports arenas sometimes have small desks.
A mouse is also a significant contributor to the potential lack of space in your play area. Not only can mouse mats be quite large, but the mouse itself requires a lot of space to use as it is always in motion.
In competitive gaming, a mouse’s area of movement can become huge, but gamers do not have time to worry about that during a match. To help solve this problem, many of them will tilt their keyboards to sit more vertically on their desk. Tilting their keyboard gives them more space in front of them, which they can use freely for mouse movement.
A similar issue to space but more concerned with the keyboards themselves, a device’s size can also cause you to tilt it.
Some keyboards - especially the dedicated gaming ones - can be large. So it becomes necessary to tilt them away from the rest of your playing area or to move it away completely, to your lap or another surface.
A lot of professional gamers use a well-sized keyboard when they play, and a few arenas do not provide ample desk space. It thus becomes quite necessary to make a few practical adjustments to the orientation of one’s equipment. Tilting one's keyboard is one of the most straightforward changes one can make.
So, why do pro gamers tilt their keyboards? There are a lot of niche habits that pro gamers can fall into throughout their career. The tilting of a keyboard is only one of them, but it goes to show how great of a difference such a small thing can make.
You can also take a look at the GlobalOffensive CS:GO community post in Reddit linked below, where they discuss the pro's tilting their keyboards vertically.