Video Game Motion Sickness


Ever since seeing The Blair Witch Project in a movie theater from the front row, I've been basically unable to watch any shaky film footage or play any first person shooter (FPS).  For that matter, I wasn't able to play any video game with bad camera angles or any games that included a lot of moving around in enclosed spaces.  I seriously believe that something about that movie rewired my brain.

When Gears of War came out, I was sucked in by the cool commercials featuring Gary Jules' eerie cover of Tears for Fears' "Mad World."  I played through the tutorial mission and was literally incapacitated by nausea for FOUR HOURS.  

I've since then overcome my "simulator sickness" to the point that I can play Call of Duty: Black Ops for six hours straight with no ill effects.  I thought I'd share what I've done with everyone else out there who would like to play FPSes but can't because of their video game motion sickness. 

First off, let's talk about what the issue is.  About.com tells us:
"Motion sickness caused by video games, sometimes called simulator sickness, is caused when there is a disconnect between what your eyes are seeing and what your body is feeling."
Furthermore, Popular Mechanics states: 
"One theory about motion sickness posits that it occurs because the area postrema portion of the brain associates the visual/balance discrepancy with hallucination. Since seeing things that aren't there is often a sign of poison in the body, the brain tells the body to purge, unleashing the hot dogs."
Hot dogs aside, this is a very common issue.  Googling "video game motion sickness" currently produces 451,000 results and 97,900 for "call of duty motion sickness!"  Among these results are a number of remedies and workarounds.

  1. Fix your environment.  Two things frequently recommended are making sure the room is well lit and sitting far enough away from your television.  From my personal experience, how well lit the room was had no impact whatsoever.  However, sitting further away definitely lessened my sense of video game motion sickness.
  2. Medicate yourself.  I can't vouch for Dramamine or Benadryl, because those drugs make me incredibly drowsy and I can't justify taking drugs just to play a video game.
  3. Consume some ginger.  Eating ginger, chewing ginger candy, or taking ginger pills may actually help you.  Afterall, the Mythbusters found that ginger was actually a plausible remedy for seasickness.
  4. Listen to Oprah.   Per Oprah Winfrey: "Some like Psi Bands because they use acupressure to help relieve nausea caused by motion sickness, pregnancy, and chemotherapy. But we like 'em because they're cute!"  I don't think you should ever use the words "chemotherapy" and "cute" in the same sentence.  Despite that ridiculous juxtaposition, Psi Bands really were the only thing that got me through the indoor levels of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
  5. Immunotherapy.  Google defines immunotherapy as "The prevention or treatment of disease with substances that stimulate the immune response."  I'm pretty sure that I shouldn't really be using that word in this context.  I'm sure "Hair of the Dog" would be equally wrong.  Perhaps I should just say that I think my video game motion sickness is nowhere near a severe as is used to be because I've better conditioned myself through hundreds of hours worth of Call of Duty. 
  6. Dial down your look sensitivity.  I noticed that I have virtually no inkling of motion sickness with Call of Duty: Black Ops.  However, I'd feel at least a little terrible every time I played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.  It appears the default "look sensitivity" of Black Ops is lower than that of Modern Warfare 2.  I won't win as many head-to-head encounters, but I also won't be laying motionless on the floor hating myself for hours.
Hopefully one of those six suggestions can help you get past your video game motion sickness.