Still Sick of Games!
By Jeff "nonick" Solomon
While the exact causes of gaming sickness might be too complicated and unknown at this point for me to discuss competently, I can share several reader experiences that show that there are certain patterns of gaming that are more likely to activate the problem. In the end, these real-world testimonials will probably prove to be more informative than a detailed textbook definition.
The first set of feedback that I'm going to share relates to my original hypothesis that a certain level of technical prowess is required in a game before it can become "realistic" enough to cause gaming sickness. Based on the research that I had done for the original article, I concluded that most people didn't experience gaming sickness prior to the Quake 2 era. Boy, was I wrong.
I dramatically underestimated the ability of older games to generate feelings of sickness in people. From the feedback I've received, it is abundantly clear that people have been experiencing these problems with games that date to well before Quake 2. On this subject, Charles Burkett wrote:
The game that caused me the worst motion sickness was Wolf3D, hardly a realistic virtual environment. The second worst was Duke3D. However, Descent 2 in hardware mode (which can run at up to 100fps and is very sharp in the graphics area) causes no motion sickness for me. I think my motion sickness (don't know about others) comes from a fast frame rate coupled with quick turning in the game (I'm a mouse user in most cases, but I use a joystick in Descent 2, which makes me "turn" much more smoothly). I used to get VERY sick playing Wolf3D when sliding in front of walls and looking for secret doors. The walls flying by at a quick pace made me almost immediately nauseous.
Rory Kostman concurs, and offers an explanation as to why older games like Wolfenstein 3D and Doom might actually cause more severe gaming sickness compared to newer games:
Many people I know were terribly susceptible to both Wolf3D and Doom/Doom 2. These same people have no trouble at all with Quake. Wolfenstein was very enclosed, with no weapons bob, which was very nauseating. One particular map in E2 (huge maze of secret walls) was the worst. Doom never bothered me, but several of my hard-Quakin friends absolutely can't play DOOM. Five minutes and we're all examining their lunch in a bucket.
Rory's theory is that newer games like Quake that use techniques like weapons bob can more accurately simulate virtual environments, therefore causing less bodily confusion than older games that offered clunkier renditions of 3D worlds. This is similar to a theory I posed in the original article that stated that gaming sickness would eventually become less common as technology and game engines became advanced enough to fully sell the concept of a 3D world.
Sam Winzar conducted an informal experiment along these lines. He explained that he often suffered from severe gaming sickness, and then sent the following message:
to try an experiment: I purchased a video accelerator card (Creative
Labs, Voodoo2, 8 megs) and have started to play Quake2 in the
office lately. The results have been surprising: Very little sickness.
When it does appear, it seems to be tied to overall exhaustion (end
of the work day, etc.) and the ambient light in the room.
I've been able to play for up to an hour without feeling sick.
Sam's comments, in addition to several other very similar stories I've received, lead me to believe that we may already have reached the point where newer technology is making things better, rather than worse.
The majority of feedback I've received seems to finger Wolfenstein 3D and Doom/Doom 2 as the worst gaming sickness culprits. I could go on for pages reprinting messages that attest to this. However, there is still evidence to support that claim that, at least for some people, things are still getting worse. Several readers who had never experienced sickness while playing older games reported that they found themselves unable to play Quake 2 or Sin.
Robert Kenyon conducted an informal research study, and concluded that for him, newer hardware and game engines cause more gaming sickness. Here's a breakdown of his personal tests:
Clearly, this is a very informal study conducted by a single person, but it shows that, at least for Robert, a newer game engine coupled with better hardware produced the most serious symptoms of gaming sickness.
So, we now have two clearly documented camps of sick people: one that experiences less sickness with newer games, and one that experiences more. The most obvious conclusion to draw from this is that gaming sickness is, to a large extent, extremely subjective. Clearly, no one is going to tell Sam that he's wrong, and that he should actually be feeling more sick when he uses his Voodoo2 card. The converse is true for Robert.
|Credits: Illustration © 1998 Mike Sanzone. Still Sick of Games is © 1998 Jeff Solomon. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't do it...it can totally make you (or us, for that matter) sick.|