If you're like me, you've been a gamer since you can remember. You grew up playing games the likes of Wolfenstein 3D, and in actuality it was only the demo version since I was just a kid and my parents at that time did not believe in using a credit card to purchase a game "through the modem" .
You were playing Commander Keen and Avoid the Noid, all using the arrow or WASD keys on your keyboard. Soon we were using the mouse after a time of conversion from the comfortable keyboard controls, inside the bounds of gaming, we were running around in Rise of the Triad shooting enemy gangsters and dogs and taking out enemy monsters in Doom with our mechanical ball rodents.
Soon games became more detailed and required better accuracy and a quick wrist to be successful. Traditional ball mice would gunk up and skip across the screen, they just could not keep up.
Voila! Enter the Optical mouse in the form of the Microsoft Intelli-Mouse Optical. In general, the "new" Optical mouse technology of the time provided higher sensitivity, no skipping cursor across the screen because of gunked up mechanical features, and the mouse could now be used on a wide variety of different surfaces. Read here to learn how Optical Mice work.
The only limits were set on the capabilities of the LED optics of the optical mouse and the speed of which the processing of these images takes place, the measure of this is called Dots per Inch (DPI). It was not until the Gaming Mouse that DPI numbers shot up utilizing the Optical mouse technology. An Optical Gaming Mouse of the past couple years is capable of over 1600 DPI, example: Logitech MX518, yet early ball mice were capable of around 200 DPI. Over 8 times the resolution!
Although traditional LED Optical mice are still the majority rule, the Laser Optical mouse made its huge explosion into the Optical Gaming Mouse market with the introduction of the Logitech MX1000 in 2004. The initial advantage the Laser mouse provided was the exact precision of the laser sensor was more accurate than an LED based optical sensor. The MX1000 only had a max sensitivity of 800 DPI but its precision blew all previous mice out of the water, move your hands even the slightest bit and you will see the relative movement of the mouse immediately, no more "stuck" cursors because of the lack of precision. Laser mice can track on even a wider array of surfaces than typical LED based Optical Gaming mice can.
Since the MX1000, Laser mice have made leaps and bounds to where even 5600 DPI is possible as demonstrated in the Razer Mamba There are plenty of other specifications and features that matter on a gaming mouse nowadays, customization of mouse buttons, USB polling rate, max acceleration, even on-board memory storage to store profiles of the above mentioned options.
The computer peripheral we know as the Mouse has gone from plain and clunky to sleek and agile in a mere 10 years time. The Optical Gaming Mouse has played the majority part in the push for this technology and the race between the different companies in the market. The demand has grown as Gamers realize the limitations of the old age hardware and the near limitless possibilities of digital enabling them to step up their level of competitiveness. Technology is a beautiful thing, the Mouse is a platform where this has been shown over and over again.