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The WASD monopoly and how I am marginalized as an ASDX player

Friends, let's talk briefly about control schemes.

Not too long ago, Mike shared over Skype that he was hard at work with his real-life job, teaching WASD to non-gamers. It was a job thing. I won't offer all the details. The important thing was that I totally ripped his statement (and his momentum) apart by proudly declaring that I am part of the ASDX master race. S is forward, X is back, and A and D strafe. JUST LIKE GOD INTENDED.

Having a strange keyboard control scheme is like the internet era's version of being left-handed in many ways. My first stop in any non-360 controller game is always the controls menu, and god forbid if a game doesn't allow key remapping. I actually had to use a separate keyboard remapping program just to play Transformers: War for Cybertron, because the geniuses who developed the game failed to consider that for some people, S stands for Strut Forward (or as Mike suggests, Sally Forth), and not, uh, Switch Direction.

What I found out

Out of curiosity while putting my thoughts together for this article, I Googled "wasd asdx". I ran into quite a number of very interesting stories and statements:

  • A post from this Penny Arcade thread called “Am I the only person who doesn’t use WASD?” had this little aside: "I'd like to see someone try to use the old System Shock controls on a modern FPS, though... ASDX movement with a bunch of other really weird stuff bound around it.”
  • A post on this blog is entitled “Significant Personal Transformation”, where the writer discusses his journey of discovering WASD from the heathen wiles of ASDX.
  • A post from this forum thread states: “...the WASD doesnt work for everyone..... some of us have short stubby fingers, and use ASDX.”
  • And from this thread for some obscure game called Regnum Online: “I use mostly keyboard when I'm in fight, ASDX combination (instead of WASD - an old habbit [sic] since DOS FPS games)...”

That’s not all of it, though. There’s a veritable smorgasborg of WASD/ASDX discussions all over the net. Someone jokingly blames Ultima Underworld and System Shock for his ASDXism. Another gamer prefers it (“like a good hacker”) because he likes his fingers to be aligned when in their home position. Some MMO players from World of Warcraft and Guild Wars have recommended ASDX for maximum skill hotkey access.

The crazy award, by the way, goes to this guy, who “has some bizarre setup where right click = forward, forward thumb = back, E and R are strafe, A is jump, C is crouch, and... well, nothing else is really standard either.”


What I think about it now

Let’s get back to the whole ASDX thing, though. I’m fairly convinced that I do suffer from the ASDX disease because I was playing System Shock long before mouselook became a Thing. It got so ingrained into my gamer muscle memory that soon I found myself rebinding all subsequent games into a comfortable System Shock-ish keyboard layout. I’m sure most of you went through the same phase -- the dark ages of no standardized control layout, and its consequence of bestowing upon you a collection of oddball bindings of choice.

This is why I cannot in good faith trust any game developer that releases a PC game without any way to rebind the keys. These people did not go through the same experience that we did, and these people certainly do not recognize the diversity of the community they are serving in releasing a game for the PC. In a perfect world, even the most obscure indie would have a way to remap the keyboard controls into one suited to us. Unless, you know, all the frustration is in the name of ART.

Yeah, that makes it so much better.

What about you?

What are your keyboard control quirks? Do you jump with the shift key, like a certain strange person I happen to know? Do you still open doors with the spacebar? Who else do you know who uses a mind-boggling control scheme? Share your strange keybinding knowledge with the community!

(Incidentally, I am also a reverse mouse Y-axis guy. But that’s a whole other article.)

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