How To Play Virtual Reality Games Without Throwing Up

Virtual reality is the next big thing in gaming, but wearing the headsets causes motion sickness for some. Even I've experienced a little motion sickness while playing despite the fact I never struggled with it in the past (no vomiting yet). If you're worried about hurling, there are a few things you can do to make the experience more pleasant.

Why It Happens

Without going too deep into the science of it all — you can read more on that here — the cause of most types of motion sickness is sensory mismatching. Basically, your body thinks it's sitting still because you're not flexing muscles or showing other signs of motion, but your eyes and vestibular system are saying something different. If you've ever experienced a queasy feeling when trying to read in a moving car, you have an idea of what VR motion sickness is like.

The mixed signals can cause headaches or induce hot flashes and sweating, but researchers still aren't completely sure why the body responds this way. Some of the more plausible theories out there suggest that the body mistakes the confusion as a warning you've ingested something toxic (like when you get "the spins" after having a few too many cocktails). So, to be safe, your body makes you hurl. This physical reaction is also more prevalent in women for reasons that are still unknown (nearly four times as likely than it is for men). So ladies, take extra care when gearing up to try VR for the first time.

Take Plenty of Breaks, Sit Down, and Keep Your Head Still

If you read the manual for any VR headset they all greatly encourage taking regular breaks as you play. In fact, most games share a disclaimer when you start playing, or have warning messages on loading screens. These are not the same as Nintendo's suggestive "Hey, why don't you take a break?" messages, and should be taken more seriously, especially if you know you're prone to motion sickness. You can use a timer to plan out breaks or just remove the headset every time you reach an in-game checkpoint or save point. Shoot for taking a break for 15 minutes for every hour at least.

It's also a good idea to sit down and move your head as little as possible while playing. Sitting down helps you feel more grounded and can reduce dizziness or falling. And as much as you may want to use the natural motion of your head to look around at all the cool virtual sights, it can be a quick ticket to puke city. Ease into things and try to keep your head still while you get used to your new virtual environment.

If you start to feel sick, stop playing immediately! When motion sickness kicks in, you can't push onward and tough it out. Once your body has decided something's wrong, it's break time. Don't try again until you feel 100 per cent.

Bad Framerates Can Make Things Worse

If you you're like me, when a game starts to bug out you just keep playing hoping it will somehow fix itself. That's a really bad idea with VR games. Research by the Oculus Rift development team suggests low framerates and other performance issues can induce motion sickness much faster. If your game starts to freeze, glitch or have any other technical issues, stop playing and fix them. Back out of the game and reload a save file, close the application and restart it, or whatever else you need to do to get it all working perfectly again.

Hack Your Nervous System

Motion sickness is tied to your nervous system, so there are things you can do to prevent it from going haywire. All you need is a quick lesson in acupressure. There's a pressure point on your inner arm, known as the Pericardium 6 (P-6) or Neiguan, that can be used to relieve nausea and vomiting. Before you cry "Fooey!" and spit in a can, this technique has been shown to be fairly effective, and is often taught to cancer patients going through chemotherapy. Here's how to do it:

  1. Hold your arm up with your palm facing you and fingers straight.
  2. Place the first three fingers of your other hand — index, middle and ring — across the your wrist.
  3. Then place your thumb on the point just below them and remove your fingers. You should feel two large tendons in your arm where your thumb is.
  4. Use your thumb to firmly press and massage this point in a circular motion for two to three minutes.
  5. Repeat the process for the other wrist.

If you find this trick helps but you have to do it constantly, consider acquiring something that presses on the P-6 point for you. Sea-Bands, for example, are wristbands that massage that pressure point for you. You can strap them on your wrists, put on your headset, and play without having to stop too often.

Watch What You Eat Beforehand

Foregoing meals entirely won't stop motion sickness from happening — in fact, it might make it worse — but avoiding troublesome foods can at least decrease the chances of a spew-a-thon. If you know you'll be VR gaming later on, try not to fill up on spicy, greasy or fatty meals. It's also a good idea to stick with lighter, more frequent meals, as opposed to overeating during one big feast. And make sure you also drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated and your digestive system operating at its best.

While you game, consider chewing gum, sucking on hard lollies, or whipping up a batch of ginger tea to fend off stomach problems. Ginger is known to soothe indigestion and reduce nausea. If you don't want tea, consider a ginger supplement instead, or even a ginger ale. Some people have even found success drinking alcohol before donning a VR headset, but proceed with caution. It probably won't work for everyone, and if you try it, I at least recommend going with a ginger-forward libation like a Moscow Mule.

How To End Motion Sickness Before It Starts

'.On our first family road trip, I was excited to play navigator. I'd look down at the map, look up to see where we were, back down at the map, then up again. I was doing a decent enough job until about five minutes in, when my upper lip began to sweat. My head and guts were swimming. I'll spare you the details of how this story ends, but it's not pretty..'

Read more

Chill Out, Literally

The hot flashes that come along with the other symptoms of motion sickness are more than just annoying. They can exacerbate your feelings of nausea and increase the odds the spinning wheel in your brain will land on "vomit everywhere". A little cold air will do the trick. The cold air on your skin will cool you down and get your mind to focus on that instead. Place a fan right in front of your gaming chair, crank up the AC, or better yet, open a few windows to get a cross-breeze going with some fresh air.

Fight Off Motion Sickness With Cold Air

'.We do a lot more travelling than normal during the holidays, and sometimes motion sickness can catch us by surprise. If you find yourself feeling queasy with no meds nearby, focusing on the horizon isn't your only chance for relief..'

Read more

Adjust In-Game Options and Play Smart

Make sure your setup isn't what's making you feel ill. It's important you calibrate your VR headset per the instructions provided by the maker. Do not assume you can skip that step! If your headset allows you to adjust field of view (FOV), either in-game or through other settings, turn it down as much as you can. Cale Hunt at VR Heads suggests a low FOV is less likely to cause motion sickness, though it will take away from some of the realism of VR. Still, playing is better than barfing.

If your game allows it, changing the way your character moves can help a great deal too. In my experience with Resident Evil 7 VR, for example, I had to adjust the character's movement speed to line up with my head motion speed. Once I fixed that, playing the game felt natural and I didn't have any other issues. And some games let you completely change how you move. You may be able to teleport around instead of walking, or do a complete 180-degree turn at the press of a button. If those options are there, use them until you're more used to VR.

There are a few tricks you can do while you're playing too. When moving around, or turning in circles, lock your eyes to one point and focus on it as you move. It's a classic trick dancers have used for ages to keep from getting dizzy. When you go into a cutscene, or the game takes over control, close your eyes. Your body is already confused and moments like that only add to the confusion. Closing your eyes in general can be useful if you need to take a quick mini-break. At the very least, close your eyes during loading screens to give your brain some breathing room.

Keep at It

When it comes to VR gaming and motion sickness, there's bad news and good news. The bad news is you might not be able to enjoy it at first — like, at all. The good news is you will probably get used it if you're willing to invest the time and effort. Studies have shown that people who spend more time in virtual environments manage to eventually overcome their motion sickness. Over time, your brain learns how to properly interpret what you're seeing and experiencing, and your body gets better at handling the discomfort associated with VR motion.

That said, acclimatizing to VR will be uncomfortable, and there's no knowing how long it could take. Start a VR gaming session using these tips and play until you start to feel sick, then stop. When you feel better again, give it another shot. And if you can help it, do these sessions when you aren't too tired and more likely to give in to the vomit gods. Continue this VR training process until your brain realises what you're doing isn't actually harmful and stops sending those mixed signals for good.

This story originally appeared on Lifehacker


Comments

    Alternative: eat fistfulls of dramamine like they're M&M's.

    "Many VR games give you the option of looking around with head movement, or using the thumbstick of the DualShock 4 controller. Use the latter option when you can. "

    This quote is from the article linked on not moving your head. This is =TERRIBLE= advice!

    Do the exact opposite: by all means keep your head still when you don't need to look around, but if you do need to look around, always use your head to look around, DO NOT use a thumbstick/joystick to look around if you are prone to sickness. Ask any VR developer, they will tell you that yawing movements with a thumbstick are the biggest no-no. That's why many games don't smoothly let you turn with a thumbstick, they turn you discretely in steps with each stick press. When you move your head, your avatar moves its head in unison, giving you nice harmony between your real body and virtual body.

    As for sitting vs standing: I think it would be better to do whatever your toon is doing. It won't feel great to be sitting down if you are in control of an avatar that is standing up or walking, and vice versa. Miming walking on the spot might even help when your avatar is walking.

    If you are so sick/dizzy that standing up isn't a good idea, you are past the point where you should be taking the headset off for a break.

      You should be taking the head set off the minute you start feeling the headaches coming on

    How many people are actually experiencing this?! The amount of articles around this leading up to PSVR launch was making me nervous as I have typically always had bad motion sickness but I have never once felt too ill whilst playing VR and in long sessions sometimes too.

    I play RE7 with no comfort settings full motion and i feel fine. The only thing that did screw my was trying driveclub with the controller but thats because i use a wheel all the time anyway so that really threw me off but with a wheel dirt rally or driveclub are just insane and i can sit for hours if i want to.

    Im just interested in how many people does this affect? is it a real issue or just something people fear mostly??

      I had a small amount of nausea if I was moving and looking around with my head simultaneously, but it always passed fairly quickly. Which is sort of odd since I don't get motion sick.

      People do get nauseous from VR, it's an actual issue with your body being at rest and yet visual feedback suggests motion - you're less likely to get nausea from sitting still and looking around or using room scale VR.

        Meh i feel dizzy most of the time anyway - a side effect of extreme anxiety in my life lol

        Maybe thats why i dont feel it here - it actually takes my mind away from the stress haha

        It was just an actual question because although i understand people may get it first trying it or whatever (my wife freaked and asked me to take it off when she started going under water in that shark cage thing... Didnt even get to the sharks she just didnt like the motion at all!) my question only arises as the more VR has been used most people dont seem to report on these issues anymore

      Never felt it myself. The worst I've felt about VR was annoyance at extreme pixelation, and the weight of the headset+sweat.

        Extreme pixellation - I have great eyesight and it never bothers me - the immersion of being there and being able to look around compensates for it imo. Sweat only happens for me with PSVR on extremely hot days too. Otherwise weight and sweat hasnt been an issue

      From what I understand the motion sickness involved with VR is more accurately called (or was previously more commonly referred to as) simulator sickness. Normally motion sickness the "reading in the car" thing - your inner ear can feel that you're moving, but your eyes tell you that you're not moving and your brain says hey wtf is going on. Whereas simulation sickness is the inverse, your eyes tell you that you're moving but your inner ear says that you're not.

      My friend's wife gets pretty bad simulation sickness, she can't even catch glimpse of the small window of an FPS game on a screen across the other side of the room without feeling ill. Though she was able to handle stationary VR experiences pretty ok.

      It is something you can acclimatise to though, I never had such severe discomfort that I had to stop playing but I did feel it in some things particularly with artificial locomotion and joystick yaw, but now I can handle pretty much anything without even the faintest hint of that dizziness.

      Well I can tell you this. I've had 14 people try out my Rift, and all except one started feeling the first discomfort that warns of impending nausea within 20 minutes. Several got ill much faster.
      The only one who didn't react at ALL was the 10 year old daughter of one of my friends. She was just trucking around in there like there was no tomorrow, and never felt a thing.
      That said, with the advice from this article, some practice, and mindfulness about what you're doing, what experiences you try, how you feel, and some good motion controls, it can be limited a LOT.

      I think it's natural for people who don't have problems with it themselves to assume that it's the same for most others, but that really hasn't been my experience, and the amount of articles about the subject would seem to back that up.

    If your headset allows you to adjust field of view (FOV), either in-game or through other settings, turn it down as much as you can.Uh. This is probably bad advice too. I mean I'm not sure that anything actually lets you make that adjustment unless you're using something like VorpX to hack in VR compatibility with a non-VR game, but generally you want the FOV to match real life EXACTLY - the whole point is to fool your mind into thinking it's real, if the FOV is off and the game world is warping and deforming as you move your head then it sure isn't going to make you feel any better.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now