If you believe the hype, it would be crazy to try and be competitive (or even competent) without sinking several hundred dollars into gaming peripherals before firing up your favorite shooter or log in to the World of Warcraft. Depending on the popularity of your favorite game and the peripheral vendor's opportunity to make some money, you might even find a range of products specifically designed to improve your performance in that particular title.
Of course, there are many more gamers than there are people buying all of this stuff, so the question stands: do you need a desk full of high-end extras in order to be a good player? Do you actually get more kills in Team Fortress 2 by having a higher-DPI mouse? Are you a more effective healer in your WoW raids if you have a keyboard with macro buttons? Or is there simply value in owning a more comfortable headset?
Hoping to test the effectiveness of the most popular peripherals, we decided to fire up a handful of our favorite games and connect a number of gaming products from competing vendors. Then, we compared them against each other and against older, "vanilla" peripherals that most people either received for free with their pre-built PC, swiped from the office, or picked up cheap after allocating more funds to obvious performance-enhancers, like video cards.
The beauty of high-end gaming peripherals isn’t so much that you can be the envy of all of your friends (honestly, who’s going to see you wearing a headset with LEDs on it if you game in your basement?) but that you feel elevated. You’re spending a little money on the luxury of high-end, high-quality computer accessories to prove that you’re not just some chump with 50 bucks to blow on a multiplayer title. You’re the real deal, and you’re not afraid to sink a little green into making sure you have the best experience possible and you’re more competitive in-game than the next person (Ed.: sort of like Air Maxes will add 6" to your vertical, right?).
I’m completely guilty of this. I get lured in by shiny peripherals with flashing lights and features that are probably higher-end than I need. I’ve been known to drop an extra $20 on a “gaming” model of a device because of the claims that it’ll improve my performance when I plug it in, for one reason or another. I was a staunch defender of mice with weight cartridges, even though it’s pretty clear that they don’t add much benefit, aside from giving you another way to personalize your experience.