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Fair Game: When Your MMO Makes You MM-Motionsick

Column By Lisa Jonte on September 06, 2013

Dizziness, nausea, vomiting… No, I’m not talking about the after-dinner pyrotechnics courtesy of the local greasy spoon; I’m talking about what often happens after just a few minutes of game time in your favorite MMO.

What it is:

Oh, you know the drill. You fire up a game, maybe it’s new, maybe it’s an old favorite that’s just had a major patch. Within minutes you feel just a little bit off. A few minutes after that, you’re salivating more than normal. Pretty soon you can hardly look at the screen.

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“Motion sickness is the uncomfortable dizziness, nausea, and vomiting that people experience when their sense of balance and equilibrium is disturbed by constant motion.”

Or, in the case of some MMOs, the illusion of constant motion, coupled with the real-time sensation of sitting in a chair, not going anywhere.

Why it happens:

Not everyone can agree on the exact cause, (or causes) of motion sickness, but the most accepted theory is that it has something to do with the relationship between your eyes and your inner ear, and a conflict between what each is telling your brain.

What you can do about it:

Everyone seems to have a remedy these days, and thank goodness for that. After all, it’s hard to be a rough, tough badass when you’re trying not to hork all over your keyboard.

Meds: Me, I’ve taken both Meclizine and Dimenhydrinate*, and both of those do technically work, but they seem to do it by drop-kicking me into an hours-long stupor, guaranteeing that I won’t be operating heavy machinery (or anything that requires actual consciousness) for the rest of the day.

You can also try allergy medications that contain Diphenhydramine, like Benedryl.

Home Remedies: Ginger tea, or ginger capsules, taken about 20 minutes before you start gaming. Even sipping ginger ale while gaming might be enough to offset the distress.

Acupressure wrist bands are effective for some, but not as pleasant as the tea.

Take breaks! Get up and walk around, go outside and get some fresh air, especially if the weather is cool.

Check your posture! Believe it or not, slouching is believed to be connected to certain stomach ailments. And while it may not specifically cause motion sickness, it’s not going to help it either. And really, who wants to be nauseated and in pain?

Sit back! As with posture, adjusting the distance between you and the screen might be just what’s needed.

Eat! Sometimes nausea can be headed off at the pass with a full (but not over-full) stomach. But avoid greasy and spicy food if nausea is an issue, as they will only make your suffering worse.

If you have computer glasses, wear them. I mean, c’mon, you have the things for a reason. And if the information your eyes are processing is part of the motion sickness equation, it only makes sense to make sure that information is a correct as possible.

Technical Options: Check your camera settings. Sometimes a simple solution works wonders.

Make sure you have sufficient lighting near your computer. Incandescent is better than fluorescent.

If you can, check/adjust your frame rate and graphics settings; lower frame rates are better suited to lower screen resolutions. This is what I had to do after one of the more epic patches to LotRO earlier this year. Not only had my camera settings been nuked, (swinging wildly about at random) but every change in character position (running turns, etc.) made me want to hurl.

Watch for lag. If the game is juddering and stuttering, walk away for a bit. Come back when your connection is better, the servers are less crowded or whatever it is that was causing the lag is gone.

Finally, talk to your fellow gamers. Not all instances of motion sickness are isolated. Sometimes game pates can have unintended consequences. If that’s the case, then the game’s producer needs to be alerted to the problem, so that it might be corrected.

Remember, your mileage may vary, and not everyone has the same (or same intensity of) symptoms. Try different methods and see what works for you. There are few things more frustrating than having one’s favorite pastime become untenable.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite remedy? Drop us a line in the comments.

*aka Dramamine

  • Image attribution:
  • Airsickness Bad - by Politikaner (Own work (own picture)) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
  • Cat by Juanedc from Zaragoza, España (Durmiendo  Uploaded by juanedc) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Lisa Jonte / Mother, writer, artist, editor. One time (print and web) comics creator, and former editor of the fem-centric GirlAMatic.com; now a secretive and hermit-like prose writer, (and not so secretive nor hermit-like blogger.) A gamer since way back, (no, seriously, waaaay back) her collection of gaming paraphernalia is older than most game store clerks.

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