Sometimes just practice isn't good enough. Any good athlete will tell you that the tools you use will be just as important as the training and mentality you bring to the field. The same holds true for the gaming world and while being a natural shot or an intuitive strategist helps, having the right equipment makes all the difference in the world. So what exactly should the console/PC gamer be looking for when it comes to accessories? There's a lot, and much of it boils down on personal preference, but it's always nice to be pointed in the right direction.
Some people will swear up and down that Logitech is the way to go, others will look for more exotic, mechanical brands. Personally, I've never found a mouse I've enjoyed more than my DeathAdder and picking the right mouse was half the fun. The Razer line of mice is varied enough that most individuals should be covered, and though the prices can get a little high I find what they offer to be most acceptable. After all, a mouse is something that you use every single time you're on a computer, for just about every single application. Shouldn't it be one of the most comfortable thing you've got on the desk? Those who're making their first foray into more serious (or just extremely frequent) computer gaming should definitely take a look at what Razer has to offer. Even if it's just a transition into something better down the line, there's no reason not to make a switch.
My only suggestion? Never go wireless. Why bother having the worry about batteries, and connection interruption when you can just use the plain old USB. That tiny wire doesn't get that much in the way regardless.
Astro A(series) Headset
While many of the individual products mentioned here have a bit of personal preference to them, there is no doubt in my mind that gaming on a headset is far better than any surround sound setup could ever be. The audio quality is sharper, the built in mic is generally high quality, and you can avoid waking up the neighbors. Console gamers may have a more difficult time running a high quality headset, particularly if they're not using the most advanced entertainment system out there. There are however, HDMI audio adapters that can be purchased for anyone who's really looking to make the switch.
Much like the mouse, a headset is a long term investment, and thus can cost a little more than anyone really wants to pay. The Astro A40 series sits at a cool 250 USD, and while this may be one of the best sets on the market there are plenty of other options that are just as good. As a brand Turtle Beach has never let me down before, and for PC-only players Razer and Steelseries offer some very reasonably priced headsets that will definitely make a difference.
Mad Katz Fight Pad
The fight stick is something that has ruled a lot of fighting games for a while now, giving the mentality that not owning one will doom you to defeat. This may be true if you're simply trying to use an Xbox 360 controller, or are otherwise floundering with trying to learn the arcade format. For those who don't have the money, or are too afraid to make the switch to a stick, there's the fight pad. The amount of difference it makes for most players is pretty impressive, and is perfect for the casual fighting game player. Best yet, more serious gamers can compete just fine against the pros with a pad, as this most recent showing at Evo2k10 showed. The only downside is they only come in one size, and finding one can be a pain depending on where you live, but for 40-50 bucks (depending on the model) it's not a bad route to take at all.
Shadow 6 Wireless PS3 Controller
This may seem like a stretch, but I'm a very firm believer that the PS3 controller just doesn't feel that comfortable for shooters. It works beautifully for every other type of game in the world, and naturally the design is something that's been around for a long time, but for a straight up match of Modern Warfare I don't feel at home with it. That's when I decided I needed a replacement, and that's when I found the Shadow 6. Perhaps it's a cop out, but having a comfortable controller in your hand is really half the battle, and the Shadow 6 takes the best parts of the PlayStation controller (the overall design) and just moves a few buttons around. By reversing the left d-pad and the analog stick movement feels more fluid, and the overall size of the controller isn't made larger by any means.
For RPGs, puzzle games, strategy, or platforming I don't think anyone will find much of a difference. For shooters? Most definitely, particularly if anyone has ever wanted a more slimmed down version of the current 360 controller.
Wii Classic Controller Pro
I was never a fan of the Wii Remote, Nunchuk, Classic Controller, or any of its attachments. None of them have ever felt comfortable for prolonged periods of time, and it's sad to stop playing a game simply because my hand hurts. The Wii Classic Controller Pro changed that for me, offering a slightly larger controller with a marginal increase in comfort. I mention this here because while console/PC gaming has a very wide variety of tools at its disposal, the Wii is a bit more limited.
Very few things affect it, as motion controls are the highlight of the system, but for those games that go without that sensor bar the Classic Controller just felt like a cheap tiny piece of plastic.
The Classic Controller Pro changed a lot of that. Anyone who enjoys the Wii (particularly the classic games) should do themselves a favor and buy this controller. It'll make a nice difference in the long run.