When I first heard about Gamer Goo, I thought it had to be a gag, like novelty vomit or fake dog poop. "Hand lotion created for gamers?" Come on. That's either Onion-level irony or a barefaced marketing scam. An interesting product with a relevant hook that actually does what it promises was not on my list of predictions.
Gamer Goo—I still haven't decided whether the name is brilliant or just awful—was founded by Justin Clark, whose inspirational story is about as prosaic as they come. "My hands got sweaty when I played," he said. "I got tired of wiping them on my pants between games or embarrassingly passing a controller with sweat on it to my buddies." So he decided to do something about it.
Justin Clark is not a chemist, but he became acquainted with one while working on his MBA at Florida Tech. Together with a biomedical engineer they spent six months putting together a bewildering array of isopropyl alcohol, silica, glycerin, xanthan gum, eucalyptus globulus leaf oil, and numerous other essential oils and chemicals that ultimately became the Goo.
The lotion promises to improve your grip on mice and controllers by keeping your hands dry while you're playing, even if you're a profuse sweater. The complex theory goes something like this: Sweat causes slippage, and so no sweat means no slip. It's also an invigorating balm, the marketing slip says, coming in three powerful, nigh-intoxicating scents—cinnamon, peppermint, and orange—that will keep you alert and focused through even the longest, most grueling gaming sessions.
Sure enough, the first thing I noticed when I received my Goo in the mail was the distinct cinnamon smell powering through the squeeze bottle, the ziplock bag containing the bottle, and the padded envelope it was shipped in. The peppermint and orange aren't anywhere near the same level of nasal kapow, but the cinnamon is strong. Not offensive, unless you really dislike cinnamon, but very much in your face. (Tip: If you don't like cinnamon, stick with the peppermint. I’m serious, this stuff is not subtle.)
Getting the Goo on my hands was an unexpected emotional roller coaster. It's very thin and watery when it first goes on, much more than your conventional moisturizer, which was initially alarming. My mind flew back to my original assumption that the "Gamer Goo" was an uncomfortably literal gag, and I'd just squirted it all over my hands. After a few seconds of rubbing it grew very sticky, like a thick puddle of spilled orange juice. That, somehow, was even worse. Any thoughts I had of at least getting some half-decent moisturizing out of this stuff immediately went out the window.
But then it started to dry into a powdery layer, not sticky at all and not even visible, but still very obviously present. The scent was gone too, replaced by a very faint whiff of something vaguely chemical, like a cheap soap. I think my hands looked slightly whiter than normal after the Goo dried, but as a Canadian boy born and bred, judging the relative whiteness of my skin tone is an iffy proposition at best.
I'm not a professional gamer and I don't suffer from unusually sweaty palms, but I do play an awful lot of games and my current fling with Subnautica has been causing me considerable stress. The Goo was clearly doing something: It didn't give me a Charles Atlas grip where before my hand was sliding around like an over-excited Peewee hockey team, but when I put the clutch on my mouse and pounded the keys with the desperation of a man who needs to get out of the water right the hell now (Subnautica is very scary), everything feels slightly more secure and certain.
Does it actually work? The "energy and focus" bit is pure marketing guffola: Gamer Goo's got a powerful smell, sure, but it goes away quickly and I'm not convinced of the energizing efficacy of an overcharged air freshener.
But for improving grip, I'm going to say yes, it really does. The antiperspirant layer is distinct and effective, and it holds up well under pressure—at least as much pressure as I was able to generate. It's obviously situational: Everyday gamers who don't suffer from palmar hyperhidrosis probably won't have a lot of use for it, and it's clearly more useful for holding on to a controller than a mouse. But if you're dealing with the aggravation of a slippery grip (or the embarrassment of passing a wet one to your buddies), I can't believe I'm saying this, but Gamer Goo is worth a try.