There’s more to a good gaming PC setup than just your PC. Here’s what you should be thinking about when designing your ultimate gaming setup.1
If you spend a lot of time at your desk, you know how important a quality gaming desk setup can be.
There are a lot of elements to consider when designing your desk layout, chief among them comfort and functionality. But there are also considerations — like your audio setup, display placement, how you position your mouse and keyboard, and countless other small features — that can have a huge impact on how you interact with your PC.
We’ll be paying particular attention to ergonomics, or the science of increasing human accessibility, as well as aesthetics, or the way your setup looks. In this context, ergonomics applies to how our bodies interact with our technology, and how health and comfort are important considerations when putting together your ideal gaming station. While everyone has different tastes, and there’s no one ”right” way to put together your gaming station, we’re going to cover some of the most important options to consider when designing your ideal PC gaming setup.
Your gaming desk is arguably the center of your setup; it’s what everything else is built around. When looking for the ideal PC gaming desk, there are a few key areas you’ll want to think about: comfort (ergonomics), surface area, construction material, and aesthetics. Whether your desk consists of two sawhorses and a countertop from a certain Swedish furniture manufacturer or a metal and glass table that belongs in a modern art museum, you’ll want something that walks the line of form and function.
Start by deciding on your ideal desk surface. Glass, for example, might look nice, but it can make it difficult for a mouse to track, and a desk that can shatter is probably not ideal. Think about the weight you’ll be placing on the surface — such as multiple monitor arms or heavy displays — and make sure that surface is sufficiently sturdy. Also think about how you want it to look; polished wood is going to make a very different impression than marble.
Considering the space you’re working in is also important. If you have a smaller space to work with, you might want a more minimalist setup, perhaps paired with a small form factor PC. If you’re working with more room, an L-shaped desk that gives you plenty of space to spread out might be better. It’s also good to think about how often you move. Two sawhorses and an old door are much simpler to relocate than a giant PC case that also functions as a desk.
Comfort and health should be a priority. That’s why standing desks are an increasingly popular option that allow you to work or play standing up or sitting down. Sitting all day can be hard on your body, so having the flexibility to stand whenever you want can be helpful. Standing desks range from motorized, full-sized desks to smaller options that sit on your current desktop and can be lifted to an elevated position whenever you feel like stretching your legs. According to Dr. Drew Schwartz, a full-time chiropractor and part-time gamer, “Standing desks aren’t the cure for sitting, but periodically varying your posture and position help significantly.”
Another feature of your setup you’ll want to consider is cable management. Properly routing all the cables in your setup can greatly improve aesthetics, simplify cleaning, and mitigate tripping hazards. There is a huge selection of cable routing and management options out there, such as sleeves, velcro cable ties, and cable boxes.
Being able to actually see what you’re doing while gaming is pretty important, so you’ll want to think not only about finding the right display, but also how to best position it. As streamer Freya Fox told us, “Monitor placement will determine the feel of your setup. The trick is balancing ergonomics with aesthetics.”
Before you can decide where to put your monitor(s), however, you need to decide how many you want. Multi-monitor setups continue to increase in popularity as people discover the benefits of increased screen real estate for working and gaming, but newer ultrawide monitors are also an excellent option.
Once you have your monitors, it’s time to think about how best to position them. Two identical monitors side by side is a tried-and-true classic, but there are other options. Consider a television mounted to the wall above with a gaming monitor directly in front of you, or a display with another vertically oriented beside it.
If you want to move and adjust your display whenever you like, you’ll want to find a mounting mechanism that allows for that flexibility. Assuming your monitor is VESA compatible — which most modern displays are — you have a huge selection of options beyond the stand that came with your display. There are monitor arms that attach to your desk in different ways, or wall mounts if you want the arm off of your desk entirely. These arms can allow you to reposition your display in whatever way feels right in the moment, while also freeing up precious desk space. If you do decide to go the arm or wall mount route, be sure to double-check that the solution you’re considering can handle the weight of your display.
Placement is about more than just convenience — it can also impact your health. “Your primary monitor should always be directly in front of you, which will limit muscle strain in the neck from constant rotation to one side,” says Dr. Schwartz. “If you’re using a dual monitor system, I recommend having the secondary display immediately adjacent to the primary, with the option to go vertical. The monitor should be approximately an arm’s length away, and the height should allow the eyes to be parallel with the upper third of the screen.”
When it comes to comfort, a good chair makes a huge difference. So-called “gaming" chairs have surged in popularity over the last decade. Opinions about the aesthetics of these racing-style seats may vary, but there’s no question that the design has achieved widespread popularity. If you don’t care for the gaming aesthetic, well-designed office chairs will never go out of style, and there’s an even wider pool of options in terms of style, comfort levels, and price.
There are several factors to keep in mind when picking the right chair beyond just looks. “Adjustability is the key when you’re sitting for prolonged periods of time, and firm support is a must,” says Dr. Schwartz. “Armrest adjustability in XYZ planes is a wonderful addition in order to properly support your forearms, and adjustable or removable lumbar support is a winner.”
Regardless of your stylistic preference, you’ll want to consider your height and weight when choosing the right chair. A chair designed for a larger person might not be as comfortable to someone smaller, and vice versa.
Mouse and Keyboard
Whether you already have a mouse and keyboard or not, you’ll need to figure out how they fit into your setup.
“The only thing that I look for in a keyboard is that it’s small enough”, says González Molinillo of the Overwatch League. A smaller keyboard can free up desk space and allow for more placement flexibility.
But it also depends on what you’re playing and your personal preferences.
“It depends on the game, but for 99% of the time I have my keyboard directly center of my screen and my mouse to the right,” says Fox. “Sometimes, if I'm playing an FPS like Overwatch, I will tilt my keyboard in a diagonal orientation to allow for more mouse space for aiming”.
Whatever feels right is probably the route you want to go, but you want to make sure your desk can support those preferences.
Your hand and wrist health factors in as well, as some people might need wrist support. If you want or need the extra cushion, you can get a wrist rest designed to match just about any setup or preference, from polished wood to memory foam.
The traditional mouse pad has changed a lot over the years; now there are cloth pads with custom prints that cover your entire desk, or hard surface pads with RGB integration and USB passthrough for more convenient access. A mouse pad may not be mission critical, but it’s another way to add some luxury and flair to your desk setup. If you’re looking for a high level of performance from your mouse, it’s worth considering the surface you’re using it on.
Controllers are also a great option for PC gaming, and if you use one regularly, you might want to incorporate it into your setup. This can mean anything from a custom controller stand to a wireless charging station that sits next to your PC, and you can push things even further if you’re interested in other control peripherals.
If you’re a flight or driving sim fan, you’ve probably seen extensive setups designed to emulate the cockpit of a fighter jet or a sports car. Even if you don’t need something quite so elaborate, positioning your racing wheel or flight control sticks in a way that makes them more accessible is absolutely worth considering.
This is your space, so it should accommodate and reflect what you’re passionate about.
Does elaborate lighting make you a better gamer? Probably not, but it can help with immersion.
Like much of what we’ve discussed, there’s a crossover here between health and aesthetics. Staring at a monitor uninterrupted for too long can cause eye strain issues, and the way you light your space can help with that.
Something as simple as a floor or table lamp can make a difference if you’re upgrading from an overhead light. Colored lighting solutions, like LED backlights, can add a splash of color with relatively low cost, while remote-controlled colored LED bulbs don’t require any sort of network connectivity. None of this is difficult to install, and can make a huge difference in your space.
Not everyone needs a lighting setup this complex, but when you’re streaming, sometimes high levels of customization are important. According to Fox, “I use a variety of lights from LIFX smart bulbs to standard LED video lights with gels on them. I also have a few ‘uplights’ which are just LED par lights that you'll find in any stage or theater production.”
Smart lighting solutions like those from Philips Hue and Nanoleaf can create unique light profiles that react to the game you’re playing, making your entire room an extension of what you’re seeing on your screen.
Between these smart lighting solutions, ambient light strips, and RGB integration on PC components and peripherals, it’s easier than ever to turn your room into one giant light show.
A monitor with built-in speakers can get the job done, but why limit yourself to a simply passable audio experience? There’s no shortage of gaming headsets across a spectrum of different features and price points.
If you’re more of an audiophile, remember that even the most high-end headphones can be used with a computer. External headphone amps and DACs (Digital-to-Analog Converters) can go a long way toward simulating a high-end audio experience worthy of an expensive set of headphones. Even an entry-level USB DAC can make a big difference.
Though most gaming headsets have mics that are fine for communicating over Discord, you may want to invest in a standalone microphone and possibly an arm or mount. This is especially true if you’re recording voice for production or streaming. As with headsets, you can get a microphone specifically targeted to whatever you’re looking to record, and with the connectivity options you need to integrate it into your setup.
If you’re big into streaming, chances are your desk is going to look a bit different from the average gamer. The perfect streaming setup is an entire subject of its own, but here are a few elements you’ll want to consider when building out your streaming rig.
You’ll need to consider camera placement, and how you want to handle lighting. “I use a 3600 lumen ring light,” says Fox. “It's insanely bright and can be adjusted manually depending on how much light is needed. That sits directly in front of me with my camera mounted inside the ring.”
If you’re using a green screen, that’s an entirely separate setup process, and one with its own lighting needs. You’ll want to choose the right microphone and mic arm/stand, as well as condensers, mixers, and other sound equipment you can use to mix the perfect levels for your stream.
If you’re using two PCs to stream, you’ll want to make sure you have an appropriate setup for both, with multiple keyboards, mice and monitors, or the ability to switch between the two.
The Perfect Setup
We can’t tell you what your perfect gaming desk setup looks like, but we can say it should be comfortable, functional, and distinctly yours. Combining all of these elements doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated, or expensive. It just needs to work for you.