In the latest episode of Chihayafuru, Chihaya finds herself in a difficult position with her right hand injured. This doesn’t stop her from competing, of course, and somehow she manages to win the first two rounds in the Class A bracket using her off-hand. The plausibility of this success is pretty low, but watching this episode did spark an interesting idea.
Inspired by Chihaya’s performance in the first two rounds of the individual tournament and her will to play even with an injury (or maybe stubbornness), I decided to conduct my own little experiment (also because I’m a complete dork). I do not play karuta, but I was curious to see how well I could perform in something I was very familiar with after switching around my hands. The activity of choice was, of course, League of Legends.
League of Legends, which you may or may not be familiar with, is an online computer game that requires two hands to control. One hand operates basic commands such as movement or attacking on the mouse while the other hand controls your spells using several keys on the keyboard. In my case, I’ve been playing League of Legends (and computer games in general) for years using my right hand to control the mouse and my left hand to operate the keyboard. Even though I am left-handed, this is the natural orientation for me. If we remember, Chihaya’s problem in the episode was that after switching to her left hand was that she was slower because she was swinging in the opposite direction as normal. A problem that she fixes by mirroring her cards so that the same motions would be required to hit her cards as normal even though she was on her left hand.
With this in mind, not only did I switch hands so that my left would be moving the mouse, but I also re-bound the controls so that it would be the mirror of what it was. When my left hand was using the keyboard, the index finger would be on button four and the pinky on button one. When using my right hand on the keyboard, my index finger would again be on button four to keep the orientation the same. Similarly, even though I didn’t have a left-handed mouse, I switched functions of the buttons so that it would be the same as what I was used to.
After my controls were set the way I liked, I went ahead and played a few games with this unfamiliar setup. To my surprise, I was able to pick up on this new setup quicker than expected. It felt very strange in the beginning, but with some effort I was able to play with a little smoothness at the end of several games. That said, there were several things that I noticed about my playing during those games that explain why I couldn’t perform as well as normal and also reinforced my thought that Chihaya should not have been able to do as well as she did in those first two rounds of the tournament.
First, of course, is the time it took for me to reach a state where I was almost comfortable with the different controls. At the end of game three I was able to play much better than I did at the beginning of the first game. However, even at that point I would not call my play “good,” and it was certainly not the same level as I am normally capable of. If I invested enough time to practicing, then I’m sure I would eventually reach the level where I could play just as well as before. However, in the show, Chihaya picks up playing with her off-hand almost immediately and is good enough with it to beat two Class A players.
Another problem that I encountered while learning the new controls was that it was hard to forget the instincts that I already have from playing the game. It took a cognitive effort to remind myself that I had to hit the keys on the keyboard with my right hand. And on several occasions I caught myself failing to cast a spell because the fingers on my left hand were tapping the side of the mouse while my right-hand did not move at all or until too late. Also, the fact that I even have to think about pressing the keyboard buttons using my right hand at all indicates that I was moving much slower than normal. With regards to Chihayafuru, it seems almost impossible that Chihaya, the most instinctive character of them all, would be able to adapt so easily to something completely new.
Last, what I noticed from the way my left-hand controlled the mouse was that I had nowhere near the same precision with the cursor as I did with my right-hand. Moving the mouse in the right direction quickly was not an issue, but being able to stop exactly where intended proved much harder. I would very often overshoot (sometimes by rather large amounts) because my left hand simply did not have the control and precision necessary to keep up with what I wanted it to do. And even though the motions of what I was supposed to do were the same as it has ever been, the fact is that my left-hand lacked the experience to do it.
So what does this tell me? Pretty much nothing I didn’t already conclude while watching Chihayafuru. What Chihaya does is pretty implausible, but I’ll cut the show some slack because I still enjoyed the episode. And, after all, it did give me this fun little experiment to do.
Maybe I should try a barrel-roll next time….