Event handling

Event loop

Pygame will register all events from the user into an event queue which can be received with the code pygame.event.get(). Every element in this queue is an Event object and they'll all have the attribute type, which is an integer representing what kind of event it is. In the pygame module there are predefined integer constants representing the type. Except for this attribute, events have different attributes.

Constant nameAttributes
ACTIVEEVENTgain, state
KEYDOWNunicode, key, mod
KEYUPkey, mod
MOUSEMOTIONpos, rel, buttons
JOYAXISMOTIONjoy, axis, value
JOYBALLMOTIONjoy, ball, rel
JOYHATMOTIONjoy, hat, value
JOYBUTTONUPjoy, button


To handle our events we simply loop through the queue, check what type it is (with the help of the predefined constants in the pygame module) and then perform some action. This code will check if the user has pressed the close button on the top corner of the display, and if so terminate the program.

for event in pygame.event.get():
    if event.type == pygame.QUIT:
        # Close the program any way you want, or troll users who want to close your program.
        raise SystemExit

ATTENTION: You have to call the event queue regularly when using pygame! Apart from fetching the available events, calling the event queue is also the way of pygame to interact with the operating system internally. If the event queue isn't called regularly, your operating system will assume that your program doesn't work correctly anymore and possibly make it look like the program crashed (in Windows the window becomes white). If you don't want to do anything with the events you should call pygame.event.pump() every game loop to make pygame process the events internally.

Keyboard events

There are two types of key events in pygame: KEYDOWN and KEYUP. These events have an attribute key which is an integer representing a key on the keyboard. The pygame module has predefined integer constants representing all the common keys. The constants are named with a capital K, an underscore and the name of the key. For example, <- is named K_BACKSPACE, a is named K_a and F4 is namned K_F4.


This code will check if the user has pressed w, a, s or d.

for event in pygame.event.get():
    if event.type == pygame.QUIT:  # Usually wise to be able to close your program.
        raise SystemExit
    elif event.type == pygame.KEYDOWN:
        if event.key == pygame.K_w:
            print("Player moved up!")
        elif event.key == pygame.K_a:
            print("Player moved left!")
        elif event.key == pygame.K_s:
            print("Player moved down!")
        elif event.key == pygame.K_d:
            print("Player moved right!")


There is no integer constant for capital letters. Instead, key events have another attribute called mod, which is the modifiers (shift, ctrl, alt etc.) being pressed simultaneously as the key. The mod attribute is an integer representing the modifier being pressed. Each modifier's integer value are stored in the pygame module under the name of KMOD_ and their name. For example, Left shift is named KMOD_LSHIFT, Tab is named KMOD_TAB and Ctrl is named KMOD_CTRL.


This code will check wether the user pressed a, Left shift + a or Caps + a.

for event in pygame.event.get():
    if event.type == pygame.QUIT:  # It's still wise to be able to close your program.
        raise SystemExit
    elif event.type == pygame.KEYDOWN:
        if event.key == pygame.K_a:
            if event.mod == 0:  # No modifier.
                print("You pressed 'a'")
            elif event.mod == pygame.KMOD_LSHIFT or event.mod == pygame.KMOD_CAPS:
                print("You pressed 'A'")
                print("You pressed 'a' with another modifier than right shift or caps.")

Mouse events

There are three types of mouse events in pygame MOUSEMOTION, MOUSEBUTTONDOWN and MOUSEBUTTONUP. Pygame will register these events when a display mode has been set.

MOUSEMOTION is received when the user moves his or her mouse in the display. It has the attributes buttons, pos and rel.

  • buttons is a tuple representing if the mouse buttons (left, mouse-wheel, right) are being pressed or not.
  • pos is the absolute position (x, y) of the cursor in pixels.
  • rel is the position relative to the previous position (rel_x, rel_y) in pixels.

MOUSEBUTTONDOWN and MOUSEBUTTONUP is received when the user presses or releases a mouse button. They have the attributes button and pos.

  • button is an integer representing the button being pressed. 1 for left button, 2 for mouse-wheel and 3 for right button.
  • pos is the absolute position of the mouse (x, y) when the user pressed the mouse button.


Here's a short example using some of the attributes of each mouse event:

for event in pygame.event.get():
    if event.type == pygame.QUIT:  # Close your program if the user wants to quit.
        raise SystemExit
    elif event.type == pygame.MOUSEMOTION:
        if event.rel[0] > 0:  # 'rel' is a tuple (x, y). 'rel[0]' is the x-value.
            print("You're moving the mouse to the right")
        elif event.rel[1] > 0:  # pygame start y=0 at the top of the display, so higher y-values are further down.
            print("You're moving the mouse down")
    elif event.type == pygame.MOUSEBUTTONDOWN:
        if event.button == 1:
            print("You pressed the left mouse button")
        elif event.button == 3:
            print("You pressed the right mouse button")
    elif event.type == pygame.MOUSEBUTTONUP:
        print("You released the mouse button")

Since there are no predefined constants for the mouse button attribute in the pygame module, here's the values for each:

Left mouse button1
Mouse wheel button2
Right mouse button3
Mouse wheel scroll up4
Mouse wheel scroll down5

Scrolling the mouse button will generate pygame.MOUSEBUTTONDOWN and pygame.MOUSEBUTTONUP events.

State checking

It's possible to call functions from the pygame.key and pygame.mouse module to receive the state of the key and mouse. However, it's not the recommended way to process events in pygame since there are some flaws with it:

  • You'll receive the states when the function is called, which means you might miss events between calls if the user is pressing buttons fast.

  • You cannot determine the order of the events,.

  • You still need to to call one of pygame's event functions for pygame to internally interact with the operating system, otherwise it'll warn that program has become unresponsive. The functions you can call are:

    • pygame.event.get() to get all events or event types (by passing the types as an argument) from the queue.
    • pygame.event.poll() to get one single event from the queue.
    • pygame.event.wait() to wait for one single event from the queue.
    • pygame.event.clear() to clear all events in the queue.
    • pygame.event.pump() to allow pygame to handle internal actions (is called implicitly by the functions above).

Keyboard events

The key module has a function pygame.key.get_pressed() which returns a list of the state of all keys. The list contains 0 for all the keys which are not pressed and 1 for all keys that are pressed. Its index in the list is defined by constants in the pygame module, all prefixed with K_ and the key name.

pygame.event.pump()  # Allow pygame to handle internal actions.
key = pygame.key.get_pressed()
if key[pygame.K_a]:
    print("You pressed 'a'")
if key[pygame.K_F1]:
    print("You pressed 'F1'")
if key[pygame.K_LSHIFT]:
    print("You pressed 'left shift'")
if key[pygame.K_q]:  # Press 'q' to exit the program

If you want to check for a single key press instead of if the key is held down, you can store the previous state of all keys in a temporary variable and check if the value changes:

pygame.event.pump()  # Allow pygame to handle internal actions.
key = pygame.key.get_pressed()
if key[pygame.K_q] and not previous_key[pygame.K_q]:
    print("You pressed 'q'")
if key[pygame.K_p] and not previous_key[pygame.K_p]:
    print("You pressed 'p'")
previous_key = key

The statement evaluates to true only when the current key is pressed down and the previous key isn't pressed down. To check whether the user released the key you only have to switch the not keyword (if not key[pygame.K_q] and previous_key[pygame.K_q]). For this to work properly, you have to set the variable previous_key = pygame.key.get_pressed() before the game loop, otherwise you'll receive a NameError.

Mouse events

The mouse module has functions that lets us check and set the position of the mouse as well as check the buttons pressed. The function pygame.mouse.get_pressed() returns a tuple tuple representing if the mouse buttons (left, mouse-wheel, right) is being pressed or not.

pygame.event.pump()  # Allow pygame to handle internal actions.
mouse_pos = pygame.mouse.get_pos()
mouse_buttons = pygame.mouse.get_pressed()
if mouse_pos[0] > 100:
    pygame.mouse.set_pos(10, mouse_pos[1])  # Reset the mouse's x-position to 10.
    print("YOU SHALL NOT PASS!")
if mouse_buttons[2]:
    print("I'm right, right?")
if mouse_buttons[0]:  # Press left mouse button to exit.
    print("Program left")

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