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How To Properly Place Your Hands on a Gaming Keyboard

In school, we’re all taught how to position our hands and fingers to type properly. Unfortunately, gaming academies are few and far between. Many of us struggle with keyboard hand placement when gaming, but it’s time to change that.

Proper hand placement depends on the genre and comfort. If you’re playing FPS and battle royale games, it’s best to tilt your keyboard slightly. MOBAs require you to place your fingers on the Q, W, E, R buttons. For MMOs and RTS games, your hand placement depends on your custom key bindings.

There’s no one-size-fits-all for hand placement, but you can make some minor adjustments based on the game you’re playing. This article will briefly explain the optimal hand placement for all common game genres.

1. Hand Placement for FPS Games

Let’s kick off this list with the most controversial genre when it comes to hand placement.

Most seasoned gamers say that you should put the keyboard at a 30-45 degree angle as it is supposed to be better for ergonomics. It also gives you better access to a few more commonly used buttons like Control, Space, and the number keys.

But the main reason to do this is that you get more desk space for your mouse that way.

Furthermore, FPS gamers tend to lean in to see better. Enemies are sometimes incredibly difficult to spot when they’re far away.

My friend, a Global Elite player in CS:GO, swears that flaring out his elbows on the desk helps him aim better by stabilizing his arm.

Ultimately, it depends on what feels comfortable to you. As long as your hands are on the W, A, S, D buttons, you’ll be fine. 

Slightly angling the keyboard and moving it away from the mouse is the only real trick here.

2. Hand Placement for MMOs

I know this will come as a huge shocker to new players in the MMO genre. You should use your mouse to move your character.

That’s because you need as many easily accessible keys as possible on the keyboard. Also, it’s easier to make quick turns with the mouse.

I played World of Warcraft for years before I learned this trick by watching Reckful’s stream (rest in peace).

You can (but don’t have to) use the same trick with FPS games. 

Angle the keyboard slightly to give you better access to the keys H, J, Y, U, and N. You’ll press these keys with your thumb and index finger.

The trick is to rebind the previously unavailable W, A, S, D keys for commonly used spells. When you run out of easily accessible letters, start a combination with Space, Shift, or Control.

3. Hand Placement for RPGs

Single-player RPGs look similar to MMOs, but they couldn’t be any different. 

You can and should use the W, A, S, D keys for movement. There aren’t nearly as many spells, so you don’t need to make any sacrifices.

Let’s look at The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim as an example. The standard key bindings are already good enough.

For pretty much any RPG, you can use the standard “gamer” layout:

  • Pinkie finger on Shift/Control.
  • Ring finger on A.
  • Middle finger on W/S.
  • Index finger on D.
  • Thumb on Space.

You can access the number keys easily for spells, weapons, and potions with the index, middle, and ring fingers. 

Also, the ring finger is close to Tab, which is commonly used in RPGs for the quick menu.

Just like with FPS games, you can but don’t have to tilt the keyboard slightly. Mouse movement is not nearly as important – instead, you should do what feels most comfortable for your wrist.

4. Hand Placement for ARPGs

ARPGs are again completely different from traditional RPGs. Some of them will have you using the W, A, S, D keys for movement, and you will need to use the standard “gamer” layout for such games.

But if you’re using the mouse to move, strategically placing your hand on the keyboard is essential.

You might have to customize a few key bindings to move them closer to your left hand. Try to keep all commonly used buttons on the left side of the keyboard.

For example, if your map is bound to the M key, move it to Tab, C, V, or B. Reserve all common spells and commands for the Q, W, E, R, A, S, D, F, Y, X keys.

If you play Diablo III, there’s a handy guide that can help on the Diablo III Blog. You’ll move a few key bindings closer to your hand and use the following hand position:

  • Pinkie finger on Tab.
  • Ring finger on keys 1 and 2.
  • Middle finger on key 3.
  • Index finger on R.
  • Thumb on Space.

This hand placement allows you to access a wide range of keys without straining your wrist and fingers. It follows the natural, relaxed state of your hand, so it’s very ergonomic.

5. Hand Placement for MOBAs

Just like MMOs, MOBAs are my forte. I’ve played League of Legends for the past nine years, and I played the original DotA before that.

I recommend that you stick to the default key binds for all MOBAs in most cases. The Q W E R layout is the best. You can also use the A, S, D, F keys and number keys for additional spells, items, and commands.

There are two primary hand positions for MOBAs.

Here’s the first one:

  • Index finger on R (also used for keys D, F, H, 5, 6, 7).
  • Middle finger on E (also used for keys 3,4).
  • Ring finger on W (also used for key 2, S).
  • Pinkie finger on Q (also used for 1, A, Tab).
  • Thumb on Space.

This is the standard layout that your friends teach you when you first start the game. You will seldom move your fingers from Q W E R, so you always know which finger controls which spell.

However, I prefer the alternative layout:

  • Index finger on E (also used for keys R, D, F, H, 5, 6, 7).
  • Middle finger on W (also used for keys 3,4).
  • Ring finger on Q (also used for key 2, S, 1, A, Tab).
  • Pinkie finger rests on Shift.
  • Thumb on Space.

This is less efficient because your pinkie finger isn’t doing anything. But you use your Ultimate (on the R key) once on most champions in team fights.

The only exceptions are champions with low cooldown Ultimates like Corki, Nidalee, and Kog’Maw. You might want to use the first layout when playing them.

Your wrist can rest on the wrist rest or table. You won’t feel any pain from this hand position.

6. Hand Placement for RTS Games

RTS games have the wildest key bindings of any game genre. Many of them will have you screaming in pain after playing for a couple of hours.

That’s why adjusting the key bindings to be close to one another is key.

We’ll use StarCraft as the representative game of the RTS genre because it’s both complex and very popular.

You should keep your keyboard horizontal in front of you, but try to leave some extra space for rapid mouse movements.

Here’s how to position your fingers on the keyboard:

  • Index finger on H.
  • Middle finger on D.
  • Ring finger on S.
  • Pinkie finger on Z.
  • Thumb on B.

Bring all other key bindings in between and close to these keys. Note that your fingers should never stay locked in the default position.

Keep your wrist in the air because it allows for quick key presses. This is also healthier for your wrist. 

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to hold your wrist in the air all the time. Take a break when your arm gets sore.

7. Hand Placement for Platform Games

Here’s the first genre on the list that makes you use both hands on the keyboard, not just one.

For the vast majority of platformers out there, you only need a handful of keys.

If the game uses arrow keys for movement, you use the same finger placement as with W, A, S, D, but on the right hand:

  • Index finger on left arrow key.
  • Middle finger on up/down arrow keys.
  • Ring finger on right arrow key.

If the game’s jumping is on Space, use your thumb to press it. 

If there are any additional controls, you use the other fingers. I prefer to bind all actions to the A, S, D, F keys. It feels natural to press those buttons with your thumb on Space.

Super Mario Bros

If there’s one famous platformer with a horrible default key layout, it’s Super Mario Bros

The default is A for jump, Z/Y for running/shooting fireballs, and B for dash.

Gamers recommend that you use your thumb to press both the A and Z/Y buttons.

8. Hand Placement for Sports Games

Sports games like FIFA, eFootball, and NBA all have different controls. You’ll either use the arrow keys or the W A S D keys to control the player.

Keep your keyboard horizontal in front of you because you still have to use several other buttons. Additionally, keep your thumb on Space and use it to press the bottom row keys if there are any bound actions.

Your pinkie should always rest on Shift because it’s usually the Sprint button.

If Rocket League is your game of choice, you should change the default keybinds. 

You can either use the mouse for camera controls or the Numpad. Use your left hand for the W, A, S, D keys and the pinkie for Shift. 

9. Hand Placement for Fighting Games

Fighting games are one of the few genres that are much easier to play on a controller.

Nonetheless, it’s possible to be great at Street Fighter without one.

I recommend that you bind the W, A, S, D keys to control your character. Next, use the U, I, O, J, K, L buttons for all moves. Alternatively, use your left thumb for jumping with the Spacebar.

The trick is to position your right hand this way:

  • Index finger for U/J.
  • Middle finger for I/K.
  • Ring finger for O/L.

This is super intuitive and comfortable. Also, move your keyboard to the middle of the table. It’ll be even more comfortable.

10. Hand Placement for Car Racing Games

In most car racing games, you can choose between the W, A, S, D layout and arrow keys.

For W, A, S, D players, here’s what I recommend:

  • Index finger on D.
  • Middle finger on W.
  • Ring finger on A.
  • Pinkie finger on Shift/Ctrl.
  • Thumb on Space/C/V/B.

You can then use the right hand on the arrow keys for the camera. If you’re racing a manual with a clutch, use the pinkie for shifting and the thumb for the clutch. 

For arrow key racers, I found the following to be most comfortable:

  • Index finger on E.
  • Middle finger on W.
  • Ring finger on Q.
  • Pinky on Shift/Ctrl.
  • Thumb on Space.

You can then use the Q, W, E buttons for manual shifting. This position is very comfortable for both your hands.

11. Hand Placement for Battle Royale Games

Most games in the battle royale genre will have you using the default FPS setup. Angle your keyboard and use W, A, S, D to move.

Since enemies can be anywhere, move your keyboard as far from the mouse as you can. You’ll need the extra space to aim more precisely.

Fortnite

Fortnite deserves a special mention because this BR game has building mechanics.

If you’re using the default function keys to build, you should make the switch to something else.

There isn’t a universally accepted keyboard layout for Fortnite, though.

For some ideas, you can watch this video by itsJerian where he goes over a few keyboard settings used by pros:

Once you know what layout to use, I strongly recommend using the keyboard at an extreme angle. 

You can go up to 60 degrees, and you’ll get more space for your mouse. More importantly, you can access all the keys you need.

Final Thoughts

Placing your hands on your shiny new gaming keyboard isn’t always straightforward. It depends on what kind of games you play.

The main takeaway is that no layout and setup should feel too exhausting (apart from Starcraft). 

Always keep your wrist completely straight. Don’t bend it if your keyboard is at an angle. Instead, follow the keyboard with your elbow.

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