More help for seasick gamers

Last week I wrote about Doom Sickness (also known as "VR sickness" or "simulator sickness") -- that horrible feeling of nausea some people get from playing certain video games. I discussed a solution that worked for me -- wearing accupressure wristbands -- and asked readers if they'd found these bands to be effective.

I was bowled over by the number of people who wrote in (both at my original blog posting and in a related discussion on to say they get seasick while gaming. First-person shooter games are by far the biggest culprit, but readers cited problems with everything from driving games to Guitar Hero. Even Wii games affect some people.

Since I had already seen both raves and debunkings of the accupressure wristbands online, I wasn't too surprised that readers reported mixed results. Some people swear by the bands, while others have found them not to work at all.

Many helpful readers suggested other remedies for gaming-induced nausea. These were the most common suggestions:

Eat ginger: A number of readers cited the episode of the TV show MythBusters that found ginger pills (available in most drugstores) to be an effective cure for seasickness. Although MythBusters wasn't testing for video-game-induced motion sickness, it seems to translate -- several readers said they've had success with candied ginger (available at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's).

According to one reader, the amount of ginger ingested seems to make a difference -- ginger tea is somewhat effective, raw ginger more so (but difficult to eat much of), and candied ginger the best because it's easy to eat a lot of. If you're looking to curb your sugar intake, the ginger pills or perhaps pickled ginger (like you get with sushi; you can find it in many grocery stores) might be worth a try.

Take Dramamine: This over-the-counter motion-sickness medication works well for the people who mentioned it, but it also makes them drowsy -- which probably makes it difficult to play games that require fast reflexes. It's apparently most effective if you take it 20-30 minutes before playing.

Look away: Many people who had never experienced gaming nausea suddenly noticed a problem when they upgraded to bigger TVs or computer monitors. In other words, the more the picture dominates your field of vision, the more likely you are to have problems. Suggestions included using a smaller screen, sitting farther away from the screen, and forcing yourself to look away and focus on a fixed point in the distance every now and then.

Play through it: Some readers suggested that if you ignore the feeling and keep playing, your body will get used to it. Others said this is hogwash -- if you keep playing you're bound to get sick. Still others suggested a middle path -- try to get used to it a little at a time, perhaps while taking ginger or one of the other palliatives suggested here. If you start to feel very sick, stop and try again another time.

A few other quick tips:

  • Change the field of view in first-person shooters (not all games let you do this)
  • Crank up the refresh rate on your video card
  • Play games with a fixed camera angle, such as the Metal Gear Solid games (whose creator is reportedly a fellow VR sickness sufferer)
  • Have a fan blowing air in your face while you play

The operative phrase here seems to be "your mileage may vary" -- different things work for different people. I hope one of these solutions will work for you.

Many thanks to all who wrote in with advice. Know of other remedies I haven't mentioned here? Please add them to the comments below.


Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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