Meet the final mouse and keyboard player in the HCS Raleigh open bracket

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RALEIGH - On the main stage, a grand final caliber matchup is about to begin, and the crowd is swelling in size. OpTic Gaming and Sentinels, two of Halo Infinite’s truly elite teams, are about to square off. The churn begins in the game before, people jockey for position as two of the three odds-on favorites to win the Raleigh Major are squaring off in round 2 of the Champions bracket.

In a small corner of the Raleigh Convention Center, at station 16, Salman “SnarkyBrowny” Mahmud yells “OH MY GOD” as he executes a quick back-to-back beatdown. By comparison, the game going on in this corner is insignificant compared to what’s about to happen on the main screen. Third Eye Esports, SnarkyBrowny’s team, is in Losers Round 5, they’re unlikely to sniff the main stage’s smoke machine’s exhaust. They eventually lose, but not after a 20-minute map five that was nail-bitingly close.

There’s one caveat, though: SnarkyBrowny is the last remaining mouse and keyboard player left in the tournament.

Halo has, historically, been played on controllers. The decision to pivot to cross-input for Infinite reignited the Sisyphean “aim assist bad” vs. “controller players need aim assist” debate. This debate will be had by our children, and our children’s children: it’s an argument without an end.

SnarkyBrowny has been playing Halo on the mouse and keyboard since Reach dropped in 2019, but says he never took the competitive side of the game seriously until Halo 3 was added into the Master Chief Collection. Then, Infinite dropped and its competitive scene was announced to be cross-input. “It [Halo] was the one game that was just satisfying to get kills,” SnarkyBrowny said. “And for me, it felt like when you won, you actually earned it.”

The taptaptap of the controller has been replaced in some corners with the clackclackclack of a keyboard. Currently, there are precisely zero players on HCS partnered teams that play on mouse and keyboard. There are also zero mouse and keyboard players in the Championship bracket. While 343 remains committed to cross-input, that doesn’t mean that two decades of history will evaporate into mist – the HCS Raleigh Kickoff Major didn’t feature any cracked mouse and keyboard zoomers who came in and upset a big name team.

“If I was competing with the people on MCC Halo 3, on PC, on the mouse a keyboard; If I was playing against the top guys and not getting completely destroyed … I know like this is my chance right here, a fresh game for everyone to learn,” SnarkyBrowny said.

For now, the controller reigns supreme, but that doesn’t mean it’ll remain at the top for long. Decades of muscle memory on controller won’t fade easily, but there’s a new generation of players, competitive-minded players, that could turn the tide as far as the preferred input goes. When will it happen? A year? A decade? Never? That question is up in the air.

For now, the controller remains supreme, but tomorrow is a new day.