What is a Dead Zone in an FPS?

By Naomi Bolton

Updated September 22, 2017

The first-person shooter (FPS) genre is based on the concept of showing you the game world through the eyes of you -- as the character in the game. Instead of viewing your character, you only see his or her weapon and surroundings, which provide a more immersive experience. Due to the competitive online multiplayer aspect of the genre, precise control is very important. Gamers play first-person shooters either with a mouse and keyboard on a PC, or with an analog controller on a console. No matter which control method you prefer, the dead zone settings have a large impact on the way in which you interact with the game world.


In first-person shooters, you use the right analog stick (on a console) or mouse (on a PC) to look around the game world. A targeting crosshair, placed in the center of your viewpoint, represents where your ammunition will impact when you fire a weapon. The dead zone specifies how responsive your controls are when moving the viewpoint and, with it, the crosshairs. With a small dead zone, your crosshairs will move immediately when you move your mouse or the right analog stick. A larger dead zone requires you to move the mouse or analog stick farther from its point of rest in order to move the crosshairs on your screen.

Small Dead Zone

The advantage of a small dead zone is responsiveness. Because it requires less effort to move the crosshairs, you can look around and acquire targets faster while playing. You also have more precision in making fine adjustments, such as when aiming with a sniper rifle. The disadvantage is that, because the controls are so sensitive, it can be hard to keep your crosshairs centered on your target while you are moving. Because the game picks up any movements you make with the mouse or analog stick, your viewpoint can change unexpectedly while you adjust your position or if you are startled by other players.

Large Dead Zone

A larger dead zone eliminates unwanted movements that occur if the controls are too sensitive to your input. This means that your aim won't be spoiled if you accidentally move your mouse or analog stick slightly once you have acquired your target. Larger dead zones also prevent the problem of ghosting (also called wandering or drifting) that can occur when analog sticks start to wear out. Because the right analog stick is used so much in first-person shooters, the wear and tear can cause the stick to not center correctly. With a small dead zone, this causes the camera to spin around without your input. The downside of a large dead zone is that the controls can feel unresponsive, especially if you are used to a small dead zone.


On a console, the only way to adjust the dead zone for a first-person shooter is through the "Settings" or "Controls" menu of games that support this feature. If the game does not allow the adjustment of the dead zone, you are stuck with the default settings of the game and the controller. For current generation consoles, the Playstation 3 has a smaller dead zone compared to the Xbox 360. On a PC, the dead zone can be adjusted from within supported games or by using the configuration utility of your mouse.