Upgrades from the fringe.
NATHAN LAWRENCE is an old-man gamer who’s found that the right peripheral combination can help mitigate his ageing reaction speed for games, both online and offline.
wenty-four four years old. That’s roughly the age that esports professionals retire because of cognitive decline. That’s a fancy way of saying their reflexes have slowed down. It’s a sobering reality for this gamer who fancies his skills in the online foray, especially when you throw a decade on top of that retirement age. At risk of sounding even older, back in my day, when CounterStrike was a mod and the arena shooter still ruled supreme, there weren’t readily available newfangled PC peripherals that offered a competitive edge.
Hell, technological leaps were shunned by the competitive community. CRT monitors remained the standard thanks to higher refresh rates than the newer, slimmer LCD screens. Cleaning lint out of the base of your favourite ball mouse was preferable to the unreliable tracking of early laser mice. On top of this, a keyboard was the same as any other keyboard, and headphones really only offered stereo sound (not to mention the games), so it didn’t really matter what you had on your ears.
Fast-forward to today, and it’s a completely different game. While a lot of attention is, understandably, put on what’s beneath the hood when it comes to PC gaming, the serious online gamer should also take a look at what’s outside the innards to gain an edge. Before you young whippersnappers flip to the next article, this stuff will help improve your game, too, but it’s also a chance for the older gamer to compensate for our dulled reflexes.
What’s inside your PC does matter for these peripherals to be effective. If your rig is struggling to run a game at 60fps, you’re better off investing in a core upgrade first, before sinking extra funds into supplementary equipment. This is particularly important because the first peripheral suggestion is a gaming monitor.
There’s a lot of internet misinformation about frame rates. Some people are convinced we can’t really see more than 30 frames per second. Any PC gamer who’s played a console game capped at 30fps, then played the same thing at 60fps on a PC will know there’s a difference in terms of smoothness. Even if it’s only psychological (and it’s not), this greater feeling of responsiveness makes for a better gameplay experience.
But even some PC gamers argue that we can’t see more than 60fps, using this logic to justify shunning 120Hz (and above) gaming monitors. Without going too far into this argument, experts maintain the eye can see hundreds of frames per second, and while the brain may be the limiting factor in processing all of these frames, faster frame rates displayed on high refresh-rate monitors certainly help with the fluidity of onscreen motion. This ties more into a better feeling of responsiveness, and also helps with noticing details amid on-screen movements.
If you use a 60Hz monitor for gaming – and the chances are good you do, because they’re still very, very common – the screen is only capable of displaying up to 60 frames at a time, which means any framerate advantage beyond that won’t be displayed. Effectively, the screen’s refresh rate is the bottleneck.
This is why shooter fans, in particular, should consider investing in a monitor with a high refresh rate. The standard is currently 144Hz, but I’ve been testing the Asus PG258Q 1080p G-sync monitor, which has a 240Hz refresh rate. The trick is you have to be able to consistently hit more than 144Hz to see the benefit on this type of screen (but no more than 240Hz), but the smoother and clearer image makes it easier to track enemies compared to both my 60Hz and 120Hz test screens.
Obviously, you need a powerful Nvidia GPU to play at or near 240fps, and you’ll likely need to drop graphical settings to prioritise frames over fidelity, but the results are gorgeous in practicality if not in eye candy. In mathematical terms, this Asus monitor can display a new image every 4.16 millisecond. Compare that to a 60Hz monitor, which displays a new image every 16.66 milliseconds and, assuming you can hit 240fps, you can have up to a 12.5 millisecond edge over a 60Hz opponent.
Yes, we’re dealing in advantages graded in milliseconds, but I’ve had measurable improvements in KDR and overall confidence since using higher refresh-rate monitors. Assuming your internet is up to snuff and you’re playing a game with a decent tick rate, you have a better chance of seeing enemies with 60Hz screens (ever-so-slightly) before they see you. Additionally, for online shooters that link frames to your PC’s update rate, achieving higher frame rates that you can see on a monitor with a faster refresh rate means you’re sending information to the server more frequently than a 60fps opponent.
If you play shooters you should really think about upgrading to at least a 144Hz monitor