Getting Motion Sickness While Playing A Game Sucks

I have never been a victim of the dreaded “motion sickness” while playing a video game, but Katamari Damacy Reroll has put me down for the count twice this week.

I’m not a person who tends to get motion sick when playing games. While I’ve had my share of VR experiences that went wrong, and some attempts at GameBoy Colour play in the car went bad 20 years ago, I generally have a good constitution when it comes to playing video games. Images that whiz around onscreen? In the past, I would have said no problem.

That was until I popped Katamari Damacy Reroll into the ole Switch on Wednesday and starting playing it on my television. At first I was going strong, and then about 45 minutes in I started getting that signature headache and queasiness that signalled the start of motion sickness.

It felt like my eyes were floating into the middle of my head. Surely this cannot be happening to me, I thought.

It was, and it’s a bummer. I’ve been very excited for Reroll, and not being able to play it without wanting to hurl is no good.

I didn’t remember getting sick playing the original version of the game on PS2, and I even took a few minutes this week to dig out my disc and see if it would cause the same nauseous feelings.

I played the first couple levels on that platform and, boom, no sickness. Armed with the sadness that if I want the Switch version of Katamari, then I will be sick, I did some research to see what I could do about it.

First, I could just take some dimenhydrinate, which I know by the brand name Dramamine. This is the kind of thing that you might take if you get sick on aeroplanes or long car trips, and it’s a nice over-the-counter solution to a gaming problem. But I don’t want to have to dose up to roll a ball around, dammit!

Second, a piece from Lifewire claims that I could just sit far away from the television, but I am already sitting far away from the tv. I can’t get any further away!

That same piece also gives the advice to simply power through it, explaining that my body might just get used to it. You know, like a hot tub or something. There’s nothing more empowering than sitting in my living room trying not to vomit and telling myself that I am becoming more and more powerful every moment. Ah, yes, what a great solution.

I’ve also seen quite a bit of advice that says that I should try to chew some ginger or grab some ginger chewing gum. Apparently ginger helps treat motion sickness, so when I have the chance to get some delicious spicy root I will try that out.

It’s a weird experience to be so completely knocked down by a video game that I want to play so desperately, so I am very willing to hear any and all folk solutions for treating motion sickness in games. As a first timer, this is something totally new for me, and I can’t say that I’m enjoying it.


Comments

    There’s nothing more empowering than sitting in my living room trying not to vomit and telling myself that I am becoming more and more powerful every moment. Ah, yes, what a great solution.

    I don't mean to laugh at your misfortune but my imagination ran with this bit.
    Honestly it must suck to love gaming and have to suffer this, I didn't even know such a thing was possible for years until a friend walked in while I was playing Halo and spun his head away from the screen, I was surprised when he told me FPS games make him sick.

      Sounds like they might be bulimic with just that quote to go on.

    In my experience, "power through it" is quite possibly the worst advice for dealing with motion sickness. I tried it with VR (the PSVR freebie with the little Sony robots), and ended up with a headache and mild nausea that stayed with me for nearly a week.

      You just didn't power through it long enough. You should have given it another week or two of constant play, and then decided whether it was working or not.

        I tried coming back to it every day for a week, and couldn't stomach it for more than a minute - after that initial extended play session, I felt ready to hurl every time I moved through the environment right from putting on the headset. Even now, 2 years later, just thinking about it turns my stomach.

        Ymmv, but in my experience, it made things way worse. I've had better luck playing until I start noticing the nausea, then stopping and doing something else, and coming back to it the next day. Did this with CoD MW2 back in the day, and was able to play for 3x as long before feeling ill after about a week.

      Power through it is a bit misleading. You shouldn't play while sick. The strategy is to play til just when you start getting symptoms and stop. Rinse and repeat and over time you should increase how long it takes before you get sick, or even overcome it entirely. So in the authors case, play for about 30 minutes then stop and take a break. Try again a couple hours later. With any luck over a couple weeks of exposure they'll be able to play for longer spells.

      That of course, is if he's lucky. I get severe simulator sickness from a number of games (basically all FPS or over the shoulder FPS) and nothing I tried helped. I can't even manage 20 minutes in Half-Life2 even today :(

      The weirdest thing is it's not every game, it's not even every similar game, or every game using the same engine. For example, I can play CS or CS:GO with no problems but HL2 is a no-no. So there is something the developers are doing in a particular game to cause the problem.

    A lot of PC games make me quite sick and a few console games. Have you tried playing tabletop or Handheld?
    The thing is, it's not motion sickness, it's sim sickness. Motion sickness is when the fluid in your ears says you are moving, but your brain says you aren't.
    Sim sickness is when your brain says you are moving, but your ear fluid says you are not.

    Personally, FOV helps a lot of people, but it doesn't help me. What we've, (my friends and I), have figured out is that it appears to be a frame rate issue. If they aren't consistent enough, it makes me feel unwell. Some games just make me sick no matter what. Examples are Dark souls, escape from dead island and tony hawk's underground, but only when off the skateboard. =P

      First of all, on the topic of this article, I'll say this: getting motion sickness in games is incredibly frustrating - it feels like something of a disability that nobody gives a flying f*ck about. If a person doesn't get it, they just don't seem to "get" it. Often you can find yourself the red headed stepchild on a forum for even mentioning someone's beloved game is flawed in some way. If people don't understand, they can be quite cruel about this. Whereas - you, the person who paid $50-100 for a game that makes you sick, might feel quite aggrieved.

      For instance, the witcher 3 has paralysingly low FOV, particularly in Witcher sense mode and to a lesser (but still bad) extent, any time you are inside a structure. Nobody gives a flying f*ck about that. Certainly not the devs, who offered zero way to modify it* (more on that later). Sure, some guy eventually fixes it with a mod that sort of works, which then breaks because they update the game and then maybe he doesn't update the mod for another 6 months.. it's just a crapshoot and it's sad that TotalBiscuit is gone - because at least there was a person who used to mention FOV when reviewing games.

      ..I'm a little dubious (or at least skeptical) that you're getting sick from framerate in a non vr application, but I can't discount your experience - but I can tell you that Dark souls definitely does have a narrow FOV. I have had to play with mods to zoom it out or it absolutely will make me sick. I can't remember tony hawk underground but I can believe that when you get off your skateboard, the view probably does foolishly get very narrow. The lions share of 3rd person console games completely disregard motion sickness in favour for down right claustrophobic levels of view range. Always the same. You're right behind the character and they have about 60 degrees FOV.

      Sim sickness.. wow, that stuff is incredible. I've never felt such a strange feeling as moving in VR. Before you get sick (which is almost instant), the general feeling of unease is incredible. I have no words to describe it, but something is immediately not right.

      I will offer a little bit of experience for my motion sick brothers and sisters, though - I can confirm that owning an ultrawide monitor can rectify some of the issues, if the game supports it. For instance, the aforementioned Witcher 3 can finally be played by myself, now - because I can see more of the screen and I no longer feel like I'm in a cardboard box looking out. This is a hack that actually gets around the developer not giving a sh.it and providing no ability to view their game in anything other than the hideous FOV they designed it with.

        FOV adjustment often doesn't help me. Tried using it for Dead island and it does absolutely nothing.
        I'm fine in VR...until the frame rate drops, then instant sim sickness.
        I actually spoke to various indies at pax about Sim Sickness because they often don't think about it.

        I think the cause varies between people. For some it might be variable frame rate, others FOV, others light sensitivity or even the fact the game looks "too real".

        Personally I think there is something wired "wrong" in my brain because I also get migraines triggered by flickering lights. The same sim sickness symptoms (nausea, unease, eye strain, migraine) happen if there is a bad fluro light or say a fan spinning between me and the light. Sometimes while driving the light flickering between trees on the side of the road creates the same sensation.

          FOV doesn't trigger it for me. Any game where the camera is sumulating the bobbing of the character's head for you oh boy does that bring it on pretty fast, any game that has the ability to turn that off is fine. Also sensitive to frame rate, when it's noticiable to me it's like the screen is flickering but most other people don't notice it.

          There are some games I'd love to play but can't because of it for instance Fable is forever on my TBP pile.

    Yes, Power Through = Worst Advice EVER. That's like telling someone allergic to peanuts to keep eating more and more until it goes away.

      Except that's actually a treatment for allergies. They literally continue to expose people to small levels of the allergen to build up a resistance.

      It's not about "overdosing" it's about building up via limited exposure.

        Absolutely - I'm saying, the 'power through it' mentality is like continuously feeding an allergic person the nuts. The slow exposure method definitely can help - I used to be deadly allergic to cats - and the same principal works here.

    What can ACTUALLY work is a very gradual introduction of a game to your eyes/brain. This depends on what's causing your sickness, but basically, you play the game for as long as it takes for you to start feeling unwell and then STOP. I don't care if it's 5 minutes or just 30 seconds, you just STOP. And you don't go back until you're feeling completely FINE. The next time you might be able to last 6 minutes. The next time 9. Then half an hour, until eventually you can play for as long as you like. That works for me, but it has to be a game I'm REALLY excited about to be worth making that investment of error.

    Also: FOV and Vsync/Frame rate settings are a big deal for me, if I buy a game these days that has no setting to adjust this, I'll return it instantly - there's no room in my collection for lazy developers with their heads in the sand about the motion sickness issue. Another factor is the size, or lack of, any sort of HUD. If I play a FPS with a minimal HUD, it's more likely to make me barf than one with an overly-complicated HUD - maps, compass bars, huge crosshairs, etc. These bits stylistically annoy me a lot of the time, but can make otherwise unplayable games bearable.

    I used to get motion sickness with FPS games, but seem to handle them pretty well now. One thing that changed is that I got some glasses, so I do wonder if part of the problem was eye strain.

    Never used to got motion sickness but fortnite and one of the recent cod games made me feel sick and get a headache. No big losses wasn't a fan of either. No other games have done it.

    Last edited 18/12/18 8:10 am

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