Motion sickness is a horrible sensation that you might be familiar with when traveling. However, you can also get motion sickness playing video games.
In this article, we explain a little more about motion sickness, why video games can cause it, and how to try and stop getting motion sickness playing video games.
What Is Motion Sickness?
If you’ve ever felt queasy when travelling by car, boat, or plane, you’ve experienced motion sickness.
According to the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, motion sickness happens when “the inner ear sends different signals to your brain from those your eyes are seeing.”
This is because, as humans, we are very good at knowing where we are and how our body is positioned. As such, it can be very confusing when what we see is different to what we feel.
Symptoms of motion sickness can vary from person to person, but generally those suffering will experience headaches, nausea, dizziness, and sweating.
The term “simulator sickness” has also been coined as a subset of motion sickness. This came from pilots who experienced sickness while training in flight simulators. This is the same principle as video games, where the visual stimulus is virtual. You are sitting still in your chair, but there’s lots of movement in the game.
Why Do Video Games Cause Motion Sickness?
Unhelpfully, it’s impossible for you to know precisely which video games will give you motion sickness. A game that is fine for you may make someone else ill. And if you’re lucky, you may never experience motion sickness playing games.
However, there are common things in games that are more likely to cause motion sickness.
If the game is played from the first-person perspective, like in most VR games and many shooters, where you are looking through your character’s eyes and can’t see a body, this is a sure-fire recipe for motion sickness. That said, third-person games can be equally problematic.
It’s also unhelpful if the camera bobs up and down (to simulate head movement) and the object your character is holding (for example, a gun) has its own bob.
Other bothersome elements include the use of motion blur to try and make quick turns more realistic, or a small field of view where your vision is tunnelled.
Examples of games that could cause motion sickness include Half-Life, The Witness, Fallout, Far Cry, Jazzpunk, and Mirror’s Edge.
How to Stop Motion Sickness Playing Video Games
Sadly, there isn’t a guaranteed solution to stop you getting motion sick while playing games. However, there are various steps you can take to try and minimize the impact.
Be prepared to suffer through some testing, though. As there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, you might have to run through multiple options until you find something that works for you, personally.
Also, just because you solved the problem in one game, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can apply the same techniques to another. Some games you might not even be able to play comfortably at all, depending on the customization they offer.
That said, here are some ways to help reduce motion sickness while playing games.
1. Alter Your Physical Environment
Before you alter the game’s settings, you should first try and improve your surroundings.
Open a window to get some fresh air in. Increase the amount of light so you can use your surroundings as a frame of reference (natural light if possible, but anything is better than a dark room.) Sit up straight and maintain good posture. Don’t sit too close to your screen—an arm’s length away minimum.
2. Take Regular Breaks
The longer you play a game, the more likely you are to feel sick. Take regular breaks away from the game to acclimate your body. The length of time you play is up to you, but we recommend no longer than 30 minutes without taking a break.
You can even use one of these apps that remind you to take a break .
3. Increase Your Field of View
Our eyes can see around 180 degrees horizontally. However, games set their field of view (FOV) predicted on the size of your screen and the distance you sit from it.
However, if this is misaligned then it can cause motion sickness, like if the FOV is low and you sit close to the screen.
You will need to fiddle with the FOV to your liking, depending on screen size and distance, but generally 90 to 110 degrees is good for close up and 60 to 75 degrees is good when you’re further away.
4. Use a Crosshair
A crosshair can help you focus on a static reference point. No matter where the camera moves, the crosshair remains in the same position. Crosshairs are classically used in shooters to mimic a weapon’s sights, but they are equally valuable in other genres.
5. Reduce Camera Sensitivity
You want to have the game camera mimicking real movement as much as possible. If your camera sensitivity is too high, your in-game vision will quickly swing round at the lightest touch. Try reducing the camera sensitivity so it provides more purposeful movement.
6. Disable Motion Blur
Motion blur is a common technique in games. If you turn the camera quickly, the vision blurs. This is partly done to try and simulate the blur our eyes handle naturally, but also to cover up graphical imperfections on lower frame rates.
Many games go overboard with the blur, which then confuses the brain and causes motion sickness. Motion blur can be unnoticeable when done well, but it’s best to disable it.
7. Disable Camera Bobbing
In some games the camera will bob up and down to simulate head movement, but this can be off-putting considering your actual head remains static. The effect can be exacerbated when the character is holding something that also bobs. If possible, disable all of this entirely.
8. Speak to a Doctor
The NHS says that you can buy medication from pharmacies to prevent motion sickness. However, speak to your doctor to find out if this is the right solution for you. Alternatively, you could try acupressure bands that puts pressure on the wrist to try and relieve nausea.
If you feel sick playing the majority of games and nothing is helping, you might not be suffering from motion sickness. In this instance you should talk to a medical professional to understand the cause of the problem. For example, it might be that you need to wear glasses.
Still Getting Motion Sickness? Try Different Games…
Hopefully these tips will help you stop experiencing motion sickness while playing video games. And, in turn, that will help improve your gaming experience overall.
If all else fails, you might have to try playing different games. You are unlikely to experience motion sickness symptoms playing simple games, so take a look at these browser-based text adventure games .
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