Game Philosopher

The philosophy of games and gaming

Left brain vs. right brain gaming

Posted by gamephilosopher on September 5, 2006

Friday afternoon I bought two very different games, Indigo Prophecy and Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones. These two games use very different styles of control.

Indigo uses the arrow keys to move the character and the control key to do actions. Other parts of the game require you to play Simon with colors and positions which correspond to keys on your keyboard.

Prince, on the other hand is a straight action game. Press space to jump, left-click to swing your sword and WASD to control your character.

Realizing that the two games had very different styles, I wondered if I should plug in my XBOX 360 controller to play either. Then an idea hit me.

Console games always use a controller where movement is controlled with your left hand and actions are controlled with your right. PC games, before mouse-look used your right hand on the arrow keys to move and your left hand to control actions. Now, spacial movement, like camera control or “looking” is controlled by the right hand on the mouse and actions are controlled by the left hand.

Why am I making a point of this? Because your right hand and eye are primarily controlled by the left side of your brain, and the left side of your brain is more adept at processing certain kinds of information than your right side. (and vice versa).

Check out this chart from


uses logic
detail oriented
facts rule
words and language
present and past
math and science
can comprehend
order/pattern perception
knows object name
reality based
forms strategies


uses feeling
“big picture” oriented
imagination rules
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy & religion
can “get it” (i.e. meaning)
spatial perception
knows object function
fantasy based
presents possibilities
risk taking

Notice that spacial perception is right-brained, which i believe means that its better manipulated by the left hand. Could this be why moving your character has changed from a right handed action (on the arrow keys) to a left handed action on WASD in recent time? Do you think a left handed person who has their mouse on the left of the keyboard has a harder time controlling their character because they do it with their right?

Another thing occurred to me. Many games have information displayed on the screen while you play, whether that be health, ammo, inventory, etc. Some games put that information on the right and some do it on the left.

Take Deus Ex as an example, (hosted on

The game has your health in the top left and your skills in the top right. Since they’re on the extreme of each side, only one eye is picking up that information. Is the correct eye processing the information best suited for the side of the brain it is directly connected to?

A quick look through google images shows Doom 3 health and armour are presented on the bottom left, whereas the Grand Theft Auto series always has that info in the top right.

Perhaps this is why i find myself with my face pressed up to the screen – so my more appropriate eye is able to catch the information presented on the opposite side of the screen.


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