As PC gamers, we love to debate the merits of the various configurations our hobby allows. Some of us swear by our ultrawide monitor, a 14-button mouse, or the type of switches that sit underneath our keys. Others have strong feelings about cooling techniques and overclocking, and some of us are still arguing about WASD and its eccentric (but likable) neighbor ESDF.
When we talk about this stuff, it’s like comparing cars in a parking lot, talking engine tech and tire preferences. However someone who uses the C key to crouch is not welcome, and they do not deserve our respect. The C key is the bastion of fools, and as a community we need to shame its use.
C is the male nipple of keyboard bindings, a remnant that’s for some reason survived decades of gaming evolution. The original System Shock was the first first-person game to use posture control (it’s literally called this on page 24 of the manual), assigning T, G, and B to three different vertical states.
Feeling the gravity of alphabetization, crouching drifted to the C key in the early ‘90s. In that time, it was a sensible bind: most early FPSes (even Unreal Tournament at the end of ’99) asked players to put both hands on the keyboard—the arrow keys were the accepted input method in genre-defining games like Doom and Dark Forces. Back then, Left Ctrl made a lot of sense as a trigger: it’s prominent, it borders just two keys, and the word ‘control’ connotes nicely with the act of firing a weapon. Maybe most of all, the position of the arrow keys meant that most of us were aiming with our dominant hands, a tradition that continues with the mouse.
None of those advantages apply now that we’re using the left mouse button to shoot stuff. With Left Ctrl liberated from its early responsibilities as a primary fire button for about 15 years, it’s now the safest and most obvious choice for crouch.
What am I meant to press C with? My thumb? When my left hand is on WASD, the pad of my thumb is askew. In this more perpendicular position, only a portion of the surface area of my thumb is available, and the range of motion, even to double-jointed mutants like me, is a limited arc. This is part of the reason spacebar is the natural partner for the thumb: it’s the biggest target on most keyboards, and binding it to a reflex action like jump feels natural.
...and it puts you at a disadvantage
Wait, some of you heathens actually press C with your index finger? You give up your god-given ability to move laterally to the right (D) in order to crouch? Carmack’s ghost, it’s worse than I thought.
Crouching is pretty important in a few FPSes, for recoil control and other reasons. In games that put a big emphasis on headshots, like CS:GO, changing the position of your head by crouching can change the outcome of a fight. There’s even a special technique where you have to simultaneously move sideways and crouch in CS:GO: crouch peeking.
CS:GO, Source Engine games, Mirror’s Edge, and other FPSes also feature crouch jumping, allowing you to crouch in midair to tuck your legs in order to reach higher platforms. Do you bind C to crouch in these games? You are deeply troubled. Go ahead, crouch jump for me. I would enjoy watching you fail to jump atop a mundane wooden crate.
The blame actually lies with developers who continue to assign the C key to this action by default, which surprisingly includes a few of the popular first-person games in the world. Some noteworthy offenders:
- ARK: Survival Evolved
- Borderlands 2
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
- Call of Duty: Black Ops III
- Doom 3
- Doom (2016)
- Far Cry 3
- Far Cry 4
- Killing Floor 2
- Quake II
- Quake III
- Rainbow Six Siege
- Unreal Tournament