Well, I'll try and use myself as an example here. I've played games since before I can remember, I've always been into them, and always will be. I consider my Online Stomping Ground to be in the First Person Shooter genre, so I'll use this for the basis of what I'm about to garble out!
We'll cut it down into a few categories shall we
I'll be honest here, I don't have an amazing PC build. It's about 3 years old now and its been untouched, but it does me fine for everything that's currently on the market at the moment.
I'm currently running:
ATi Powercolor 4850 512mb
AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+
As you can see, nothing too spectacular, but why pay ludicrous amounts for the latest shiny card which will plummet in price in no time? I invested more in the motherboard - Next graphics card upgrade, I'll crossfire it with this one, little bit of a boost at no extra cost. Processor is starting to become a little bit slow, but for the minute, again it's fine!
I've read so many things that claim that gaming keyboards transmit signals at the speed of light, upgrading your playing ability, allowing you to kick ass at a phenomenal rate (Most likely while still chewing bubble gum!) - But in all honesty, it's a load of marketing jargon. Up until recently, I used an old DELL keyboard, that was about 20 years old (If not more) as my gaming keyboard; and my ability wasn't at all diminished compared to people who paid up to £100 for one.
I've just upgraded to a Logitech G15 Keyboard recently however, and if I'm being honest, it was because the noise of my old one wasn't appreciated. I love those clickity clacky keys! ...however, no one else seemed to. Bad times. Anyway! Back to the point! Ever since having this new shiny keyboard, my gaming hasn't improved whatsoever (If anything it's gone down a bit when the drivers get their knickers in a twist mid-game), so I don't think keyboards matter a huge amount. As long as you like the feel of it, and the keys, you're sorted.
Alright then, this is the key bit of gaming kit for me. I've had a few different mice, those little dinky ones (For a laugh... huh... How funny I was) to the Logitech Rechargeable ones that look like table elephants. But neither of them really felt right, they were too heavy or unresponsive. In the end I decided to indulge in the higher end of the market and got myself a Razer Diamondback mouse! I must have had it for about 5 or 6 years now, and it still never misses a beat. It's comfortable to use (Ergonomic as they call it. Fancy eh?) responsive and very sensitive. I can move my cursor from 1 side of the screen to the other in about an inch and a half. But again, looking at the stats, compared to modern day mice, it could be considered to be a bit behind.
The Gaming Surface
I use the table... Mouse mats annoy me. They're a waste of time, and your wrist sticks to them in summer. Not good. End of.
Any gamer will tell you that headsets are the way forward! Especially for First Person Shooters! They allow you to hear every little detail; the number of times it's saved me from some sneaky Russki walking up behind me, ready to lobotomize me! Splash out a little bit more for a surround sound headset, and it's well worth it. Not only for your gaming, but it makes watching DVDs on your PC a lot more enjoyable too! I'm using a Plantronics surround sound headset at the moment, great bit of kit! If this one ever packs in, I'll be sure to buy another one like it!
Speakers can still never be replaced, I have a headset and speakers hooked up at the same time. But just remember they're for different puporses.
Speakers - Deafening the neighbours at ungodly hours with music.
Headset - Gaming!
- Don't burn your cash on an unnecessarily high spec. system - There's unlikely to be a game that can use it to its full potential anyway
- Keyboards should be to your taste, I don't personally think there's much difference in gaming performance from any in particular
- Mousemats... Just why...?
- Don't get suckered in my Gaming Marketting Jargon! Anti-static-ghost-defriction coating my arse!
If you do want to improve your ability, my 2 suggestions are getting a good quality mouse, and a good quality headset!