Working on a motion (simulator) sickness theory

A few weeks ago I decided to go back and finish Infamous: Second Son. It was a game I’d played and enjoyed early in the PS4’s life span but as so often happens at some point I got distracted and drifted away.

Almost immediately I ran into a problem that I don’t remember having back then: “motion” sickness (which I guess more technically is simulator sickness since of course I wasn’t moving). Second Son was making me physically ill, and not just a little bit. I’m talking about breaking out into a cold sweat and needing to lie down for a while. There was a mid-game boss battle in particular that I just couldn’t get through because I’d get to where I felt like I was going to vomit if I didn’t put down the controller and walk away.

I wrote it all off to old age and uninstalled Infamous: Second Son so I wouldn’t be tempted by it.

Fast-forward a month or two and I started playing Watch Dogs, and having a ball. Then one night, Watch Dogs started making me sick! I couldn’t understand it. I wasn’t doing anything differently, so why all of a sudden was it having this impact on me?

Uncharacteristically, I stopped and thought about it, and two things occurred to me. One was that I was really tired that night. Second was that I had no lights on. And let me explain that.

Not too long ago (but after my Infamous experience) I was finding that by the end of the day my eyes were so tired that they’d start watering to the point that I couldn’t do much more than go to bed. Through some sequence of events that I don’t recall, I discovered that it was my habit of sitting in a dark room staring at a big-screen TV that was causing the fatigue. By turning on a lamp in the room my eye fatigue went away. I guess my mom was right when she’d always scold me for sitting in the dark!

Anyway since then I’ve been leaving a light on while gaming, usually. But that night playing Watch Dogs I hadn’t bothered turning it on. And that was the only night Watch Dogs made me feel ill.

I finished the main story of Watch Dogs a few nights ago, though there is still plenty to be done in terms of side quests and such. But I was ready for a break, and I thought about Infamous: Second Son again. And I thought about the light. So I re-downloaded the game.

Last night I fired it up, with my light on, and beat that boss battle. I still did get a little woozy after some time playing but nothing close to how I’d been feeling when I tried playing just a month or two ago.

[One sure-fire trigger to get me sick is when the camera moves unexpectedly without me moving it, which happens in Infamous because the character is really ‘sticky’ when it comes to surfaces he can jump onto, often grabbing things I didn’t intend for him to grab. I think it’s the same reason I sometimes get car sick (IRL) when I’m a passenger but never when I’m driving.]

I don’t have enough data to state any facts here; this is just a theory for now. Still, I thought it was worth sharing my story just in case anyone else struggles with ‘motion sickness’ while gaming. If you happen to sit in a dark room, try turning on some lights. It really seems to help me, and maybe it’ll help you too!

2 thoughts on “Working on a motion (simulator) sickness theory

  1. Some time ago, I read somewhere (no source, unfortunately, as I didn’t bookmark it) that putting a little dot in the center of your screen can remove simulation sickness. But I do not want to glue anything on my monitor! The second advice had been to make sure the room is light and to turn on extra lights pointing at the screen. I did exactly that and could then actually play 15 to 30 minutes of Team Fortress 2 as opposed to the 5 minutes I could do before.

    Again, no data to back this up (hello placebo effect), but it works for me, so I’ll take it. :p And for you as well, so there’s two people already. 🙂

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