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volume 1, issue 10

Today in loonygames:

New!! The Archives have been cleaned up, fead links fixed, and printable versions restored! Also, don't miss the new comments on the front page!

Livin' With The Sims: theAntiELVIS explores the wild and wacky world that is Will Wright's The Sims, asking the inevitable quesiton, "is The Sims the first step toward a virtual life where everyone is Swedish?"

Pixel Obscura: Josh Vasquez on Omikron: The Nomad Soul.

Real Life: Check out our newest comic strip, Real Life! Updated daily!

User Friendly: Updated daily!

Related Links:

Are You Sick of Games?:Our first article on the subject, by Jeff Solomon.


You've got an opinion...voice it! Drop a line to our Feedback column...you could end up with a free T-Shirt!

Random Feature :

Hey Half-Life fans! Looking for some good reads? Check out Valve designer Harry Teasley's guest editorial, our review of Half-Life, or our interview with Marc Laidlaw!

Search the Archives!

Still Sick of Games!

By Jeff "nonick" Solomon

From all of the feedback, though, there seems to be some common ground between both camps. While we can't say for sure if newer technology makes sickness more or less likely (though it does seem for most to make things better), it does appear that scenarios that involve fast running through corridors, tunnels, or other enclosed areas are more likely to cause sickness than slower action played out in open spaces. While this might seem obvious, it is important to note because it is one of the only consistent scenarios that seems to make people sick. Most other situations are more subjective.

It also seems that people who experience gaming sickness are more likely to feel it while watching others play (or while watching demos or movies) than when they're actually playing themselves. Tony Fabris sums the situation up nicely:

I discovered that, although I am fine while PLAYING the game, I get motion sick very quickly when I am watching a DEMO. I also get the same symptoms (to a lesser degree) when I'm watching someone else play.

While this is not true for everyone who wrote in, it does seem to be common for the majority of people. Perhaps watching a simulated 3D world without actually participating in it removes a person's control of his "world," and causes even further confusion between the senses.

Either way, and whatever the cause, there were several people who wrote in with some interesting solutions to the problem. While it doesn't seem to work for everyone, it does appear that people can condition themselves to avoid feeling sick.

Greg Patterson wrote in with the following story about a friend of his:

At first he was ill every time he played, it was funny yet sad to witness this. Eventually he became immune to the effects though! He had "trained" himself not to become ill anymore! It was amazing. He could play Quake with no problems, yet Quake was the worst game for him just a few months back. Something else to note: He stopped playing for a month and when he started up again, he started to get the simulator sickness again.

Chuck Underwood contributed the following, which helps explain why this might work:

Your body has an incredible ability to adapt to something that isn't right. Eventually the effects become less as your body and senses get used to it over a period of time. One example of this is a special that the Discovery channel did on the visual system of the human body. One study they mentioned was a test case where the subject wore special glasses that inverted everything that the subject saw so that everything was upside down. After about a week the brain corrected this and flipped the image back over. Of course, when the special headset was removed everything was upside down again. The point here is that the body can and will adapt.

Other readers wrote that taking short breaks when they began to feel sick often alleviated the problem. Derek Piasecki's sentiment seems typical of many readers:

I have found that even a one minute break every ten minutes (or 5 every hour) keeps [gaming sickness] from happening to me and a number of other people I play with. It would be quite simple for a game to implement a break timer. I am not sure how best to do this for a single person game (since they could walk the level for quite a while), but for deathmatches the enforced break could happen at the frag-limit or time-limit.

This is an interesting proposal, and one that could be implemented in a non-invasive manner, such as a trip to a map screen, a live-action movie, or something of that sort. Of course, this would have to be offered only as an option, since many people wouldn't want to be forced to stop playing an action-oriented game against their will.

So, we know that people get sick from playing games, and we've seen that the conditions that bring this on are varied and often unpredictable. We also have a few suggestions for how to overcome the problem. But gaming sickness is not the only risk associated with playing games on a computer. To this point, Anti Seppanen wrote:

Much more serious [than gaming sickness] are broken wrists and elbows and backs and so on. They are caused by [the] mouse and bad chairs. Treatment is usually quite expensive and long. In worst cases broken hands need operations and healing that can take a long time.

Anti's got a good point. Repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome are common for people who use computers often, and back injuries can occur from slouching over and leaning toward a monitor. In many respects, these problems represent a more serious- and underreported- threat from computer use than does gaming sickness.

Hopefully, technology coupled with insight and proactive behavior on the behalf of hardware and software developers will improve this problem. We've already seen ergonomic keyboards, mice, and chairs. As technology improves, the interfaces that we use to communicate with computers will advance to become more natural. The next generation of input hardware will most likely be speech based. It's tough to tell when that will become as common as the mouse and keyboard, and if speech input will ever replace the keyboard and mouse for good (I can already hear the shouts of protest from many people), but it's coming.


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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.