6 Gaming basics

Talking to the game with your keyboard, mouse and controller

If you’re an experienced gamer, you might already know how to get the character in your game to move around on screen. Maybe you grew up with games, and automatically know how to jump or roll or kick, even if you’re playing a new game. As we play more and more games, we start to see patterns. Some games might have very different themes, but the way you move and interact inside these games stays basically the same.

You will have three main ways of communicating with the game through your computer: the keyboard, the mouse and the controller.

The games that you’ll find at the I-CAN PLAY centre will be two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D).

In 2D games, you can move up, down, left and right. Depending on the angle of the game it will either look like your character is flat against a wall, or it will look like they are moving around on a flat surface.

A two-dimensional game

In a 3D game, you can move ‘into’ the screen, and back out again (if your character walks backwards, for example). Here, your mouse will be an important tool since it will help you move in the right direction. In a 3D game you move up, down, left, right, in and out. The graph below will help you imagine it.

A three-dimensional graph


Different games will assign different actions to the keys on your keyboard, but there are a few common keys used in most games. The picture below highlights these.

Move around You can use the W, A, S, D keys or the arrow keys to move around in a game
Run / sprint In many games, you’ll run / sprint in the direction you’re already moving when you also hold down the shift key
Jump When you press the space bar you can jump
Quit To leave the game, press ESC

Common keys used in most games


In many games you use the mouse to point your character in the direction you want to go. The left mouse button will also be used to interact with objects or other characters in the game (kick the ball, pick up the item, shoot the arrow). In games like DOTA 2, you will use the mouse to move around instead of the keys we showed you above.

To find out how to move around and interact in a particular game, you can look for a section called ‘settings’, and then look for ‘controls’.

Left mouse button The main action
Right mouse button A secondary action
Mouse wheel Scrolling and sometimes also for clicking

Common mouse controls


Another device that you can use to communicate with a game is a controller. Even though controllers are usually used to play on consoles, you can also use it to play games on your computer. Like with the keyboard and the mouse, controls may change from game to game. You can, however, start by trying to use the controller for the purposes listed below.

Left joystick You use this joystick to move your character left, right, up, down and diagonally.
Right joystick You use this joystick to control the camera view (where you / your character is looking). This will also determine the direction you move in.
Direction pad In some games you can use this pad to move (instead of the left joystick). If you’re moving with the left joystick, this pad might open up a menu or activate special powers or items.
X, Y, A, B buttons The functions of these buttons will change based on the game you play.
Left trigger This button is often used for aiming.
Right trigger This button is often used for shooting.

Common functions of a controller

Exercise 9

Can you find the control settings for one of the games at I-CAN PLAY? Write them down, or take a screenshot to share with the site operator and other gamers.

What to look out for in a new game

Trying to play a new game can be exciting but also confusing. There are a few things you can look out for that will help you make sense of any new game. In section 1 we talked about the four things that define a game. Can you remember what they are? By keeping the first three defining factors in mind, goal, rules and feedback system, you’ll find all the information you need to play a new game well.

Finding the games you want to play

Games platforms

These days, a lot of people download games instead of buying physical copies. If you have an Internet connection, digital distribution platforms can make it easy to find and play the latest games. It even gives you access to free games!

The most popular digital distribution platform is Steam. Steam is great for gamers and for game developers, because it allows developers to make new games easily available. To access Steam you’ll need to follow these steps:

Step 1: Go to the Steam website

On your browser, type in That will take you to the Steam website. In the top right hand corner you’ll see the word ‘login’.

Step 2: Register

If you already have a Steam account you can fill in your account details when you click ‘login’ (top right hand corner) or ‘Sign in’. To create a new account, click on the button that says ‘Join Steam’.

On the ‘Create an Account’ page, you can fill in your details and register for Steam. You will need to accept the Steam Subscriber Agreement. Make sure to read through it before you accept, and talk to the site operator if you need any help.

Once you’ve put in all of your details, you will receive an email that will ask you to verify your account.

And now you’re ready to play!

Searching for games on Steam

Registering for Steam gives you access to an endless amount of awesome games. To find them, you can download the Steam app by clicking ‘Install Steam’ in the top right hand corner of the Steam website. Or you can search for them through the browser option.

Let’s take a look at how you find games through the steam app.

Step 1: Open Steam

Click on the Windows icon (check the Computer Literacy Basics section to find out where that is) and type S-T-E-A-M. This is what you’ll see:

When you click on the blue bar, your computer will open up the Steam application and ask you to log in to Steam.

Log in using the account details you created when you registered for Steam, and click LOGIN.

Step 2: Use the search bar to find your game

When you’ve logged in to your account, you’ll automatically go to the Steam Store page. In the top right corner of that page, you’ll see a search bar. This is where you will type in the name of the game you want to play.

If you want to find games that are free to play, you can also click on the tab that says ‘Games’. You will see a dropdown menu, where the first option is ‘Free to Play’.

When you click on ‘Free to Play’, Steam will take you to a menu of all the free games available on the platform. You can scroll through them and decide which one you want to play.

If you choose League of Pirates, for example, you will go to the game’s page where you will find all of the information you will need.

Step 3: System requirements

In section 5, we talked about the system requirements of games. You’ll need to know what they are, so that you can tell if your computer will run the game or not. When you get onto the game’s page, you can scroll down to find the system requirements.

Step 4: Play!

On the game’s page, you’ll see a green button that says ‘Play Game’. When you click on the button, Steam asks you to confirm that you want to install the game. When you click ‘Next’, Steam will ask you to accept terms and conditions. Make sure that you read these through carefully. Remember to ask the site operator before downloading a new game, and talk to them about the terms and conditions if there is anything you do not understand.

When you click ‘I Agree’, the game will start downloading, and you will be able to find it in your Library.

Types of games

These days, new and exciting games are coming out all the time. With that in mind, it would be difficult for us to give you a detailed breakdown of all the games you might want to play. Instead of telling you exactly where to find the right buttons, or what to do to win, we’re going to tell you about the different types – or genres – of games that you might find at the I-CAN PLAY Gaming Centre. That way, you’ll know how to play whatever new game comes your way. Here are some of the most popular genres for eSports.

Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA)

An example of how a MOBA is laid out

To understand this genre of games we should start with its name. MOBAs are played by opposing teams of players (multiplayer) who play together via the Internet (online). Each player controls one character in a team, and the aim is to destroy the other team’s main structure situated in a battle arena. The arena is made up of three lanes (top, middle and bottom). Along these three lanes, each team also has smaller structures that can be destroyed by the opposing team. In a MOBA, the player can choose to play one of a wide range of characters, often called heroes. Each of these heroes have different abilities. Some are good at long range attacks, some are strong and can take a lot of damage, and some can do magic. The hero that you choose will influence how you play the game.

MOBAs are complicated games. Even experienced gamers struggle to master them. But don’t worry! You’ll get the hang of it if you play through tutorials, watch other players (on YouTube or Twitch) and keep practising!

The most popular MOBAs in eSports at the moment are DOTA 2 and League of Legends (Riot Games).

DOTA 2 (Valve Corporation): a popular example of a MOBA

First Person Shooter (FPS)

This type of game lets you see the game through the eyes of your character. FPS games are usually fast-paced, and give you access to different weapons and special abilities for your character. While you’ll mostly be shooting your way through levels, some FPS games also have detailed stories and ask you to complete interesting puzzles. These days you can also play FPS games online with players around the world.

Overwatch (Blizzard Entertainment): a popular example of an FPS

Sports games

These games are part of a broader genre of games called simulation games, because they simulate the experience of playing a sport. Using the keyboard and a mouse, you control an individual player or a team, and follow the rules of whatever sport you’re playing. Some sports games also focus on strategy and team management.

FIFA 18 (Electronic Arts): a popular example of a sports game

Single player vs multiplayer

You can play digital games in many different ways. When you play by yourself against the game, it’s called single player.

When you play with one or more other players, it’s called multiplayer. By plugging two controllers into a computer, you can play local multiplayer. That means that the connection between you and the other player is not made online, instead you are in the same room.

When you play games with other players through the Internet, it’s called online multiplayer. You can either play with strangers, or you can play with friends. To play online multiplayer games with friends, you will first have to add them on Steam.

Step 1: View friends list

In the bottom right hand corner or the Steam page, you’ll see some text saying ‘VIEW FRIENDS LIST’.

When you click on that, Steam will open up your list of friends. If you don’t have any yet, you’ll have the option of searching for friends.

You can then search for your friends on the Steam platform. You can use their Steam handles (which will usually look like this: @example), their name or their email address.

When you find your friend, you click on the ‘ADD AS FRIEND’ button and they will appear in your friends list. When you are both online at the same time, you will be able to play the same game together as a team or against one another.