PC Gaming Accessories and Peripherals: A Starter's Guide by@mm22

PC Gaming Accessories and Peripherals: A Starter's Guide

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Marc Magrini HackerNoon profile picture

@mm22
Marc Magrini

Huge fan of video games hoping to inform and entertain people

If you’re enthusiastic about video games, chances are you’ve heard about plenty of gaming accessories before. From computers and keyboards to mice and even chairs, it’s pretty tough to find technology that doesn’t have a version “designed” for gamers. Even on Amazon, one of their chairs labeled as a best-seller is a gaming chair with over 50,000 reviews.

As someone who plays quite a few games myself, I’ve looked at hundreds of these accessories and peripherals. While some of them truly do help people obtain a better gaming experience, not all so-called gamer gear is created equal. In this article, I’ll be taking a look at items marketed towards gamers and whether or not they’re worthwhile.

I’ll be separating these items into three categories:

1. Components, including computers and whatever is used to build them. In other words, essential items that are part of your gaming device.
2. Peripherals, including items that interact with your device, such as mice and headsets.
3. Accessories, including whatever your gaming device doesn’t interact with directly, such as chairs and mouse pads.

Gaming Components

When it comes to base components, labeling something like a computer or a graphics card as “gaming” can actually be pretty informative. The specifics can leave things somewhat muddled, however, so let’s take a closer look.

Computers

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To label a computer as one for gamers means it has components, features, and sometimes software specifically tailored towards gaming experiences. They’ll almost always have a dedicated graphics card and a CPU that can handle modern games very well. Gaming laptops, in particular, usually have larger designs and specialized cooling solutions, truly optimizing them for extended play sessions.

Many gaming computers lean more towards aesthetics, as well - RGB lighting and see-through side panels on cases make up the most common appearances of these devices. This will be a common theme going forward, but that lighting can matter more than you might think.

Graphics Cards

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By far, the most important components for PC gamers are graphics cards. While workstation-specific graphics cards and lower-priced variants are available, consumer-branded cards are by far the most popular. This is evident even today, where shortages on these cards continue to be a major problem. It is partially due to cryptocurrency mining, but these gaming-focused cards just happen to be really good at that, too.

While you could argue these cards are for everyone, the marketing around them gives quite a bit of focus toward gamers specifically. Nvidia calls their RTX 3080 lineup as delivering “ultra performance that gamers crave;” likewise, the 3090 is stated to deliver “the ultimate gaming experience.” Their rival company AMD isn’t exempt from this either, as the first statistics that they show for their flagship RX 6900 XT card are how well it runs games.

Third-party companies also make variations of these graphics cards with more obvious “gamer” branding. They don’t always provide much in the way of better performance compared to the normal cards, but these variations include features such as overclocking capabilities and greater cooling. It’s up to you and your personal needs, but if you can get your hands on something like an RTX card at retail price, your gaming experience will pretty much be at its best.

Motherboards

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This is where it gets a little tricky. The best motherboards for pure gaming are usually those that pair with usual consumer CPUs. If your only concern is squeezing out as many frames per second as you can, your best bet (at present) is the Intel Core series or the Ryzen 5000 series of processors.

The higher-end motherboards that pair with these processors will almost always have some sort of gamer branding, with RGB and special lighting featured prominently in their marketing. However, these boards can also justify their increased price; many of them are designed with excellent power delivery, allowing users to overclock their processors to their heart’s content. Gaming motherboards will also feature extra connectors and a richer set of features than basic, cheaper boards.

In a way, this makes motherboards unique from other components. If you manage to get one with RGB and borderline obnoxious “gamer” branding, you can usually trust in it being a pretty good motherboard.

Gaming Peripherals

While you don’t need them to have a good experience, gaming peripherals do end up offering their own edge every now and then. That edge changes its definition from device to device, however; even the best gaming peripherals might not be for you.

Mice

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Pretty much every gaming mouse you find will feature some form of RGB lighting...and more often than not, that’s what makes a “gaming” mouse. HackerNoon recently released an article discussing some of the best gaming mice out there, but the variations between different models of mice are vast - even when looking at the same manufacturers.

Some mice are optimized for games that require quick movement, seeking to cut their own weight by adding holes in their chassis. Other mice have more buttons than anyone would expect, allowing for users to make custom macros and inputs. Whether or not you focus specifically on gaming mice, I’d still recommend you do your own research and get a mouse that specializes in what you play.

Keyboards

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You might be surprised to learn that this is where things get truly complicated. There are plenty of gaming keyboards out there, but a fair amount of them offer little more than pretty lights and edgy designs. Chances are, you’ll want to set your sights on a mechanical keyboard; especially one with linear switches to allow for greater input during gaming.

Mechanical keyboards are more complex than you may realize, however. There are hundreds of different switches, numerous sizes and layouts, and thousands of enthusiasts with their own opinions on what’s the best. There’s even an entire subreddit dedicated to mechanical keyboards with almost 1 million members. Typical gaming keyboards use Cherry MX switches, but opinions about these from enthusiasts are mixed; if you prefer sound or feel to a pretty design and extra features, you might want to do some further research on your own.

Monitors

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A monitor is yet another item that actually benefits from the “gamer” branding. Typical gaming monitors are usually designed with high performance in mind - particularly large refresh rates, low response times, and wide-viewing-angle panels. If one of those features isn’t present, you’re looking at the wrong monitors.

Even so, the word of the day is “research.” Ultrawide gaming monitors typically have curved panels that some might find aren’t suited for certain titles, and monitors with higher resolution can end up with more washed-out colors if you go for something cheap. There’s something for everyone out there, but don’t expect a monitor that can handle everything at once...unless you’re willing to shell out over $700 for it.

Gaming Accessories

To round off the list, we have accessories - items that don’t actually benefit much at all from the “gamer” branding. It will be hard to find amazing options out of the items listed here, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. At least, for the first two types.

Headsets

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Being a combination of both headphones and a microphone, you’ll be hard-pressed to find headsets without the word “gaming” in front of them. The sound quality can vary from one headset to another, so there’s not an easy answer as to which one you should go for. You can check out a HackerNoon article on some of the best gaming headsets if you’re dead-set on getting one.

Headsets are by far the least egregious of gaming accessories, as more expensive ones can still manage to be reasonably priced while also providing great experiences. Still, you might find it more worthwhile to get your hands on higher-quality headphones alongside a separate microphone. You lose out on some of the convenience, and the total cost may vary depending on what you get. But with a bit of smart buying and - again - careful research, you can trade in those shiny RGB lights for an easier time hearing an enemy player’s footsteps around your next corner.

Mouse Pads

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As you might expect, this is where gaming accessories start to cross the line. Mouse Pads are Mouse Pads, and all those “gamer” ones do is add some LEDs to sell for a much higher cost than they’re worth. Certain Mouse Pads do have a justification to their cost, such as the Logitech G PowerPlay - a Mouse Pad that boasts wireless charging with compatible mice. But for the most part, this is one gaming item you can afford to avoid.

Chairs

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Perhaps one of the most infamous examples, and for good reason - gaming chairs are, more often than not, awful. Many of them follow the same build with a metal frame and low-quality materials, making budget gaming chairs a complete waste of $100+. I can speak from experience, having owned a gaming chair within that price range myself. It started to fall apart after just over a year, and I was glad to get rid of it in exchange for a finer mesh chair.

More expensive gaming chairs will offer finer features and greater comfort, but at those prices you can find plenty of non-gaming alternatives that both match and beat those options. Still, for the sake of playing devil’s advocate, check out the video below to see a case for gaming chairs. They’re certainly not for everyone, but that doesn’t mean no one can enjoy them.

Final Verdict: Do Gaming Accessories, Peripherals, and Components Deserve Their Title of “Gaming”?

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I wholeheartedly agree with the idea that a “gaming” item is just something used as a cheap marketing tactic. However, that tactic can be a pretty good indicator for people serious about video games. Peripherals usually make good use of that branding, boasting features that gamers would most care about. Components aren’t as great with that marketing, but you can trust more gamer-friendly items in that area to be pretty good choices - even for non-gamers. Accessories, on the other hand, shouldn’t even be considered. Their definition of “gaming” amounts to very little substance, and in some cases, just marks products that should be avoided.

The world of computer gaming continues to grow, so it’s unlikely to expect any of this branding to go away anytime soon. It’s not always a good thing for an item to be labeled as “gaming,” and it’s not always a bad thing, either. I would still recommend readers keep an eye out for anything with that label if it catches their eye. That way, you can make sure which companies truly care about the “gaming” label.

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