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Left Handed Computing

June 29, 2017

I had forgotten why I dislike the computer version of Skyrim until I installed it on my newest computer. I’m left handed. I use my mouse with right handed button settings, but Skyrim isn’t having any of that. Sure, the buttons are changeable, but whenever I go into the menu’s the program reverts my mouse’s settings to being right handed, never mind the fact that even Windows lets me decide. I could just use the right handed settings, but then I’d have to rethink my computer use when I left the program. I could just retrain myself to be right handed and conform to the … but that isn’t going to happen. I’m not changing how I think just to use one program.

This sort of thing messes with my head, having to remember when the keys work one way, and when they work another. Now I select with my pointer finger, now I use my middle finger. Using a computer is supposed to become intuitive after practice, and with this sort of unthinking programming it isn’t, and can’t be. Why did they do this? Having to spend this much thought on the controls distracts from my gaming experience, kills my suspension of disbelief and forces me to split my concentration between the game and the controls.

For that matter, why don’t computer games come with a standard left handed key set up. The standard set up that every game I ever seen comes with works poorly at best if you’re lefty. Skyrim, for instance, has you direct your character’s point of view with your mouse – presumably set to the right of your keyboard – with most of the other keys set up on its left side. My choice is to either use the keys as they are, that is with both my hands hovering awkwardly hunched over the left of the keyboard Quasimodo like. Or to reprogram the keyboard every time I want to use a new program. I play games when I’m tired, and this sort of lack of consideration on the part of game programmers is frustrating.

Some ten percent of the general population is thought to be left handed, and I’ve always thought that among gamers and computer enthusiasts the number is higher, yet for some reason computers and games are almost universally designed with a right handed bias. Try holding a “ergonomic” gaming mouse with your left hand some time. Not very comfortable, is it? I’ve heard rumors of such a beast existing, but I’ve never seen one, just as I’ve never seen big foot. One tech I talked to said he had seen one, which was over priced and poorly made.

If you think I’m making a big deal out of noting much remember that lefties used to be beaten in most schools for writing left handed, much as Native kids were for speaking their native languages. At least we weren’t taken from our families while they did this. Forcing lefties to live right handed caused  psychological damage in many cases, and to this day many of us are sensitive about this sort of thing. In my case make that temperamental.

It might not seem like a big deal, but this is the sort of “do it my way or the highway” thinking endemic in older models of business thinking. It’s a mentality that tells customers to take what they’re given, grateful to be allowed to buy a product at all, and expects them to be happy for the privilege.

Do you remember how PC’s were once called simply IBM computers? Back in the day the main options were to buy an IBM or an Apple. When Compaq introduced the 486 processor it stole the show for smaller manufacturers and changed the market forever. IBM had thought it continue selling 286 processors with its computers. They though their customers would be satisfied with what IBM decided to sell them. The customers bought Compaqs. IBM never did recapture its market share.

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From → Computers

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