Let’s talk about something really uncomfortable that I’m encountering trying to play Elder Scrolls: Morrowind: simulator sickness. (DUN DUN DUNNNN….)
I feel uncomfortably motion sick when playing first person games. Any game that does not show a physical ‘body’ to control usually triggers it. So we’re talking Bioshock, older Elder Scrolls (what I’m struggling with right now), Halo games, Wolfenstein, heck even that old screen saver that sped through dungeon tunnels triggers my hurl response.
The top theory for why simulator sickness happens is basically that a disconnect occurs between what we are seeing vs. what our bodies are feeling. Our lizard brains equate this with the hallucinogenic side effects of being poisoned. This triggers a ‘poison response’ from our lizard brains making us nauseous, encouraging us to vomit to be rid of the ‘poison’ we’ve ingested. I found an interesting white paper describing the phenomenon in detail which gave me some insight into why it happens, if you’re interested in the science. (It’s pretty dry, be prepared.)
So – what the heck am I going to do to be able to play awesome FPV games?! Here are the top 5 solutions I’ve found.
Top 5 Ways to Decrease Motion Sickness while Playing Video Games
1. Adjust Your Field of View
The closer you are to your screen, the higher you want your field of view to be. The tunnel vision effect of a low FOV is a major trigger of simulator sickness. Your games should have a configuration option to increase your field of view – worst case scenario you will have to go majigger the code in your config files to increase it.
2. Turn On More Lights
Gaming in the dark not only puts tons of strain on your eyes, but it can also hit the barf button. Giving yourself a solid frame of reference outside of what is happening on your screen will ease your swimming vision. The unmoving items in your peripheral vision will help complete the feedback loop between what you are seeing and what you are feeling – you are stationary and so is everything else. No need to get bent out of shape, Lizard Brain.
3. Turn Off Head Bob or Weapon Bob
In games that present you with two types of movement happening at once, such as a head bob AND a weapon bob happening together as you run around, can cause some serious motion sickness. Turning off these periphery movements can help settle you into the game.
4. Attempt Traditional Motion Sickness Aides SHORT TERM USE ONLY!!!
There is some research out there stating that the more you play a game that makes you motion sick, the more used to the stimuli your body will get. Powering through and getting used to the game in short bursts, while stopping gaming when you experience sickness, is a slightly masochistic way of getting over it. You can use an over the counter anti-motion sickness pill to help you in the VERY SHORT TERM to get used to the movement of the game. If you are resorting to popping pills to play games, it’s time to try a new game.
5. Get Up Often
All of us gamers are terrible at breaking up our game sessions to actually move around, stretch, and relax our eyes. However, including time to get up and move around, and even (horrors!) go outside and get some fresh air will alleviate gaming motion sickness. As soon as you start to feel symptoms, take a break and move around, get some water, and relax. Your game will be there when you’re ready to come back and try again.
So – I have a few ideas to help my Elder Scrolls motion sickness problem that I’ll be attempting later. Do you have any more ideas that help you get over motion sickness while gaming? Let me know in the comments!