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volume 1, issue 2

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:

Still Sick of Games: Jeff Solomon's follow-up article to the original "Are Sick of Games?"

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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 :

Pixel Obscura: Josh Vasquez's regular look at the convergence of film and videogames.

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Are You Sick of Games? (continued)

By Jeff "nonick" Solomon

 

Can I prevent myself from getting sick?

Okay. So we know that games are going to get better someday. But what about now? What can you do to minimize your chances of experiencing simulator sickness from the games that are around today?

Since there are few quantifiable facts about the specific biological causes of simulator sickness, there are no known surefire methods that can be taken to prevent it, short of not exposing yourself to a situation that causes simulator sickness. There are drugs (such as Dramamine, Benadryl, Bonine, and Marezine) and herbal remedies that offer varying degrees of protection from motion sickness, but these work sporadically and are in no way a cure, and do little or nothing to prevent simulator sickness.

Much like with alcohol, the only way to not get sick for sure is to avoid it. And the only way to eliminate the negative effects once they're there is to wait them out. And speaking of alcohol…

It is commonly accepted that drugs and alcohol decrease the body's ability to compensate for rapidly changing environments, and that using them can bring on the effects of motion sickness or make people more susceptible to getting it. I think we can all see why that would be true.

With this in mind, the best thing you can do to hedge your bets is to stay away from drugs and alcohol while playing 3D games, as they further confuse the nervous system and can often heighten the effects of sickness.

It's also a good idea to stop playing right away if you begin to feel sick. Research shows that the lingering effects of simulator sickness become more serious with prolonged exposure. So, if you continue to play while you feel sick, odds are that your symptoms will continue to get worse and last for a longer period of time after you stop playing.

As mentioned earlier, there has been some discussion of this issue in Quake newsgroups, and a common "unofficial" remedy offered there is to switch from using hardware acceleration to purely software. While there is no official research to back this up, it seems to have worked for a lot of people. Changing from hardware to software rendering reduces the game's frame rate and use of lighting effects, which doesn't "invite" you into the game as much. Some day, as discussed earlier, it will ultimately be best to fully immerse yourself, but for now, until these games can truly reproduce reality, it's probably best to stay on the sidelines if you begin to feel sick. Of course, many new games are hardware only, which unfortunately eliminates this method as a solution.

So what's the bottom line, here?

So, I've just thrown a lot of information at you, much of which is admittedly only theoretical and hypothetical. What's the basic lesson that comes out of all of this? We now have games that are sophisticated enough to invite our bodies to believe that we're actually inside the world of the game, but once we're there, the games aren't good enough yet to be fully convincing. This discrepancy can cause simulator sickness. Someday, these games probably will be realistic enough to safely reproduce virtual worlds, but we're not there yet.

If you begin to feel sick while playing, stop. It's only going to get worse. If you're getting sick from playing a game that's running in hardware acceleration mode, try switching to software mode. Doing that reduces the game's ability to "invite" you inside, and therefore doesn't "disappoint" your senses as much.

If you're a developer, it's best to focus your best efforts on the 3D rendering engines and sound systems in the games. In light of the facts about simulator sickness, take this very seriously. If your games cannot effectively reproduce a 3D world, complete with completely believable visuals and sound cues, and, preferably, force feedback, your players are going to encounter difficulties while playing. Everything else won't matter at that point.

In a sense, it's scary to imagine that our technology has reached a point where many people can't use it because it's too much of an affront to their senses. However, as we progress, things will get better. We are the people on the forefront of this push to make our games more enjoyable, and to eliminate these kinds of problems when they arise.

This is a very controversial issue, and one that will surely excite and aggravate a lot of readers. That's why loonygames decided to go with it. However, I want to stress that I am not a doctor, a medical student, or a psychologist. And while I have done an inordinate amount of research on this topic, and have tried to understand for myself, and then clearly explain to you, what I have learned, there are inevitably going to be things that I've discussed that people will not agree with.

If you have any questions about this topic, or if you can contribute facts, please send them to our feedback section. This article is only meant to begin the discussion about simulator sickness and video games, and we look forward to further exploring this issue, learning more facts, clarifying existing facts, and correcting any mistakes or misconceptions that either we have made or are floating around in the widely available research.

This is cool stuff. This is serious stuff. We have the power to affect the future of gaming. We need to move forward with these issues on our minds!

 

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Credits: Are You Sick of Games? is © 1998 Jeff Solomon. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't do it, as it can make you (or us, for that matter) really sick.