If you’ve played a decent amount of competitive multiplayer games on console over the past year or so, you’ll have likely run into some players that are aiming a little bit too quickly, almost as if they’re using a mouse and keyboard. In an age where cross-play is more prevalent than ever, running into an M&K player isn’t unheard of, but what about games like Rainbow Six Siege which currently have no crossplay?
Chances are, you’ve still run into a mouse and keyboard player, using third party hardware to gain an advantage.
The culprits are colloquially referred to as XIMs, named after one of the companies who makes this hardware. These XIMs are tools that players can use to essentially recreate the mouse and keyboard experience while playing on console, which a lot of players who use controllers would basically consider cheating. Looking into XIMs on Google will return a host of Reddit threads and forum posts about how using a XIM is against the terms of service for both the PlayStation and Xbox, but any attempts to report players is seemingly futile. However, the need for this hardware wouldn’t exist if console makers did more to incorporate mouse and keyboard support.
Speaking from experience, playing Rainbow Six Siege on Xbox Series X can be quite frustrating because of mouse and keyboard players. Siege is such an aim-reliant game due to its one hit kill headshots, so having to compete with a mouse and keyboard player who can turn 180 degrees faster and control their recoil better is a nightmare. Sure, superior positioning and a good flanking strategy can be just as important to winning in Siege, but in a straight 1v1 gunfight, I’ll lose to the mouse and keyboard player 90% of the time, at least.
Those who use third party hardware to run mouse and keyboard set-ups will tell you that using the tools isn’t cheating, in the sense that it doesn’t make you automatically better at the game, and there’s certainly truth to that. Stick me on Siege with a mouse and keyboard and I’ll be getting 0 kills and dying every round, guaranteed. However, the mouse and keyboard does offer enough advantages to accentuate a good player’s abilities, particularly when it comes to controlling recoil and precise aiming.
Of course, the XIM player probably doesn’t mention that they’re also a Diamond player on a smurf account.
XIM players will also say that using their set-up isn’t cheating because console and controller players have aim assist, which supposedly makes things more even. The debates of M&K versus a controller with aim assist are way too big to be broached in this kind of article, but to go back to Siege, aim assist isn’t even a thing in that game’s multiplayer. It’s only available in the Terrorist Hunt/Training Grounds modes. If XIMs don’t give a player a competitive advantage because of aim assist, surely it stands to reason that XIMs must offer a competitive advantage when a game has no aim assist to begin with.
Incorporating mouse and keyboard more into consoles feels like the only solution as going after hardware like XIMs is going to be difficult, and maybe even misguided. A Vice article from 2019 about XIMs sees the writer speaking with the creator of XIMs (the company), who just goes by the name Mark for fear of being harassed by anti-XIM players. In the article, Mark explains that the XIMs aren’t cheating because they’re still bound by the limitations of the console’s maximum turning speed. Even if you’re using M&K, there’s still deadzones and other console specific issues to circumnavigate, which a XIM doesn’t do.
However, Mark notes that some other companies, like Keymander and CronusMax, promote the ability to use mouse and keyboard to specifically dominate other players, with the ability to create custom macro profiles to perform actions that a controller player wouldn’t be able to do. This is in direct contrast to XIMs which, according to Mark, “can’t do anything that a standard controller can’t do. It’s just a different way to interface with the game.”
If this is to be believed, it seems like the actual XIMs product has caught the brunt of an outrage that they might not even have been responsible for. Perhaps online shooters on consoles are being plagued by players who are using hardware like Keymander and CronusMax, but due to the popularity of XIMs, it’s being blamed just by virtue of the fact it’s more well known. It’s become the layman excuse for an issue it’s not even trying to create.
Something else that would make combatting this hardware much more difficult is that XIM usage has also been praised by the disabled community for being a genuinely accessible option for those with mobility issues who struggle to use controllers. That same Vice article from 2019 goes into detail about how XIMs as a whole have been a godsend for those who aren’t able to use regular controllers, and it’d be unfair to throw the baby out with the bathwater if banning all XIMs meant those players could no longer enjoy their games. They have just as much of a right to play video games as everyone else.
So what can be done? Banning XIMs and hardware of the same ilk seems like it would do more damage than good for the people who legitimately need it to play video games. Just because the curb-cut effect exists doesn’t mean it should be used to ban players who aren’t using that principle to gain an advantage. However, that means players using mouse and keyboard on console are still going to be able to run rampant thanks to this hardware.
The only proper solution would be to make the mouse and keyboard set-up compatible with consoles by default, instead of having to use a third party proxy to circumvent any detection software or barriers. If mouse and keyboard users can just plug in their tools and play without any issues, it would go a long way to establishing fairer, more balanced lobbies for everyone who’s looking to play.
Those who prefer mouse and keyboard because of their own mobility and disability issues would be able to play their games on console without using any third party software, and making it an option for everyone means it would be easier for games to matchmake players based on their inputs. M&K players would be matched with fellow M&K players, either on PC and console, and controller players would have to worry less about being sniped by an M&K aimgod.
Would this still completely solve the issue? Probably not. You’ll still get some tryhard diamond smurfs dominating bronze lobbies and ruining the fun for everyone by sneaking into controller lobbies with mouse and keyboard set-ups, but it would give Sony and Microsoft more ammunition to actually ban these users. Right now, XIMs and other hardware of its ilk sits in a morally grey area where people aren’t sure if it is or isn’t cheating. Drawing a line in the sand by letting M&K be available on all games, and then matching players based on those inputs, would remove the need for that third-party hardware for those with disabilities, meaning it’d just be a tool for the competitively minded to try and gain an unfair advantage, making them liable to be banned.
Will that ever come to pass? Probably not, but there’s a large enough contingent of players who are finding their enthusiasm for online shooters being sapped by mouse and keyboard players. If someone wants to play on mouse and keyboard on console, whether due to their disabilities or because of personal preference, that’s their prerogative, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of controller players.
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