Now that gaming is cool (again) the breadth and variety of "gaming" items you can spend hard-earned money on is increasing exponentially. But who needs another pair of shoes that's $50 extra just because it's green? If you're looking to gear up for gaming, what you'll want to spend money on first is a good set of input/output accessories. (Assuming you already have a PC or console.)
Some of these items will work with either one of the major core consoles (Xbox 360 or PS3) and a PC, and for most we've selected a high-end and an "everyday" offering. The High-end gear is what the pros use, and if you're serious about getting competitive, you could do worse. The everyday gear is the stuff that won't break your bank, but also won't let you down.
WASD the Night Before Christmas
High end: Ducky Shine 2
Mechanical keyboards are the name of the game for the pros. This means a keyboard that comes with a separate, mechanical switch for each key, instead of the pressure-sensitive "dome" pads on standard consumer-grade keyboards. While there's no shortage of options in the mechanical gaming keyboard market, most are garish and a little over the top with their "gaming" styling. Enter the Ducky Shine 2. LED backlighting is the only giveaway that this isn't just your standard keyboard. But underneath its classic styling you can select any variety of the sought-after "Cherry" mechanical switch you desire, for precision tactile response.
Everyday: HP Wireless Elite v2
Wireless input devices have become reliable enough to be an obvious choice for anything but critical or competitive use. The HP Elite v2 stands out from the crowd of capable wireless keyboards with a sleek, thin form factor and nicely-responsive keys.
Not Even a (Gaming) Mouse
High end: Mionix Naos 5000
Mice come in all shapes and sizes, but for something you're going to have your hands on all day, everyday, you'll want it to give you a good experience. The Naos, with its satin feel and ergonomic shape, will impress with the way it becomes an extension of your hand. Responsiveness is precise and (best of all) adjustable. A fabric, no-tangle, cord and adjustable weight add a pro level of polish. Plus you can change the color of the LED illumination for a little extra swag.
Everyday: Logitech M570
Same as with keyboards, if you don't absolutely need a anchoring you to your hardware, ditch it and go wireless. The Logitech M570 offers precision and control comparable to wired mice, but also comfort comparable to a mouse costing far more. Plus, the trackball makes it feasible to transplant your PC to the living room for true PC lap gaming form the comfort of a sofa. Win-win.
There Arose Such a Clatter
High end: Astro A50
If you're going to spend more than you want to on headphones, you may as well spend as much as you can. For roughly the cost of a top-of-the-line console, you can get these wireless beasts that offer amazing sound and all-day comfort. The bonus is a pro-gaming pedigree that even higher-priced headsets can't beat.
Everyday: Corsair Vengeance 1500
Corsair cements its position in PC tackle as the leader in high-end performance from gear that doesn't look like it was designed for teenagers with these quality headphones that you can get away with wearing in the office and still perform well enough to help you pwn noobs. If you only want to think you spent a lot on your headphones and still get quality and performance, the Vengeance 1500s are your huckleberry.
A Smaller Clatter
High end: Klipsch s4i II
Klipsch has updated its best-selling in-ear phones with volume controls and a ribbon cable design that make these noise-reducing powerhouses even more travel friendly. If you can tolerate in-ear phones (some people, understandably, can't) the power and noise-canceling ability of these will probably surprise you. They work just as well for gaming as listening to music on a plane, and even without music playing can dampen unwanted noise to manageable levels.
Everyday: Urbanears Medis
For those who can't tolerate in-ear phones, the Medis offer a compromise. The "ear click" system uses a removable and customizable nub to lock the phones in place between your upper and lower ear folds, keeping the phones stable without the need to jam and pray. A fabric cord makes for tangle-free travel and a fun selection of colors will make you feel hip.
Prancing and Pawing
High end: Razer Onza
The Xbox 360 controller is one of the most ergonomic and best ever made. But if standard equipment is too pedestrian for you, hot shot, the Razer Onza offers just enough of an enhancement to make you feel like you've spent wise money. With slightly enhanced response, slightly improved ergonomics and a nice hand-feel, the Onza will get you where you're going, even if it's just to "I spent more money than the other guy" Town.
Everyday: FPS Freek
For a quick, cheap improvement to the feel and control of your stock gamepads, these snap-on thumb stick extenders add a lot of punch. By almost doubling the height of the standard controller thumbsticks, the FPS Freaks add fine detail control and reduce muscle strain. Plus they're designed by NASA engineers, which you can remind people of when they laugh at you for having plastic caps stuck to your controller.