First person video games and... vertigo?

So, I’m wondering if anyone else has gone through this, and if there’s a way to get around it.

I’ve never been much of a first-person gamer, but a couple of months ago I started watching my friends play them, and various video game reviews online, and I’ve found a strangeness that bothers me.

When I watch first-person games for more than, say, 10-15 minutes, I start getting serious dizziness. My ears start to pop*, and things start to shift in my vision- everything gets kinda spinny, and stays that way for anywhere between ten minutes to an hour. I get a nice kick of nausea from it, too.

I’ve found that eyedrops help a little (as my eyes tend to dry out pretty easily on their own) which makes me think it’s gotta be an optical thing, at least partially?

Anyone else run into this and have some suggestions for it?

*Note, my ears pop a lot. I have Eustachian tubes that just don’t function real well.

No ear-popping, but I would get motion sickness from games as primitive as Doom back when it was new. The last video game console I ever bought was an impulse buy of a used Nintendo 64 at a flea market and Super Mario 64 was high-resolution enough to make me really motion sick. (I haven’t played video games more recent than that, but I assume that they would be even worse for me.)

(It isn’t just video games–I remember going to a giant-screen Imax-ish (but projected across a dome, IIRC) theater at Six Flags, and the film from on a roller coaster was more sickening to me than actually being on a roller coaster.)

I too occasionally get motion sickness from first person shooters. The last one I played was something WWII based on the PS2, so it’s been a while. 90s ones, like Doom, Quake, etc. didn’t do it for me, but by the time of the PS2 they would do it. For me, I could play 10 or 15 minutes, then I would have to take a break to look and walk around, and then I could play more. If I played long enough to feel bad, then it usually wouldn’t go away until the next day. I had to stop and let things settle before I felt anything.

My understanding is that it has something to do with the vision system reporting that you’re moving around, but the ears reporting, “nope, still sitting on your ass.”

The odd thing is, that I’ve never gotten motion sickness from actual motion. Roller coasters, boats, back seats, reading in a car, etc. have never given me the slightest bit of queasiness.

Okay, that’s heartening. Because I don’t get motion sick from other things. But this, man, it’s a killer. Even ‘slow’ games. So yeah, it might just be mind-and-body not syncing on the movement thing.

I don’t play (or even watch) video games, but here is something I’ve noticed:

I watch videos on YouTube occasionally. Sometimes they have rapid action. Likewise I go to movies now and then (e.g., Star Warts) and they have fast action scenes. These fast-action scenes in videos and movies can be a bit blurry, especially the backgrounds or other parts of the scene that aren’t really the focus of the action.

I find that those fast-moving somewhat-blurry backgrounds can be a bit dizzifying.

If you’re riding roller coasters, bobsledding, or anything like that, you can focus your eyes on any part of the scene you like, and actually focus rather than letting all that background become a crazy blur. I think that makes the difference between getting dizzy and disoriented, versus not.

My personal experience comes from flying sailplanes, which regularly entails flying in steep tight circles for, possibly, many minutes at a time. Pilots are regularly taught to look out into the distance, towards the horizon, and NOT to look at nearby stuff much, and especially not to look longer than brief glances at things inside the cockpit. (When I was learning to drive, we also learned to “aim high in steering”, meaning to look far ahead down the road.) I’ve found that, when one wing is pointed down at the ground, it’s dizzifying to look down at the ground past the wing-tip – it’s like looking down from the top of a very tall building. Looking up into the sky past the other wing-tip has a similar effect.

And it’s important not only to look out at things toward the horizon, but to actually focus your eyes on things and not let it all become a blur (as it might when you’re flying in tight circles). My instructor, some years ago, made an explicit point of that one day when we did spin training. (Here’s a video of what spin training in a glider looks like. No, that’s not me in this video.) I was taught, very explicitly, to look out into the distance and focus on the things I see, and NOT let it all just become a blur. We went out over the middle of San Francisco Bay to do this, and he had me call out loud the names of the cities around the edge of the bay as they came around. That was all specifically to prevent becoming dizzy and disoriented.

When you watch action videos or games and stuff in the background scenery just blends into a blur, I suspect that’s what makes it disorienting.

One thing that helps a lot of people is adjusting Field of View. This doesn’t really help if you’re watching someone else play (since you probably can’t change their game settings) or a video but, if you’re playing, it can make a big difference.

Field of View is described in this article along with some other possible fixes. Again, it’s harder if you’re just an observer and can’t make tweaks.

Old school first person games give me serious motion sickness. Newer ones, not so much, since the bobbing that causes it is no longer popular.

A lot of people don’t like motion blur in games because it makes them dizzy. I personally don’t like the lack of motion blur, as the shuddering makes me a bit uncomfortable sometimes.

The best way to deal with it, much like the rocking of a boat*, is to focus on what is static and what is moving, keep tabs of them in relation to each other, and orient yourself in the space that way. If the image moves in a way your brain isn’t accommodating for, that’s what makes you dizzy.

*The trick with seasickness is keeping an eye on the horizon, so that your brain registers your body’s motion correctly. If you focus on the vessel it will expect you to be straight when you’re actually tilted and cause you to be sick.

I don’t get motion sickness [probably because I don’t in real life] but I do have vertigo sort of issues occasionally. Back when I still had my gaming desktop, I ran with a large 28 inch diagonal monitor, so it pretty much filled my field of vision. In games where I was on platforms or cliff sides [looking at Everquest 1’s Kelethin or Lord of the Rings Online’s Lothlorien I have issues just like if I were running around the platforms in real life [I have height fear issues in real life] I can come close to running off a platform and get the same pounding heart fear reaction as if I were actually on a roof and near the edge. ] I think the mind is immersed enough in the game that I forget I am not pixels at the moment =)

That’s me exactly. I used to love first person shooters but at some point, they started to make me sick. It’s not all of them either. I could play the original Halo and the first one or two Gears of War but other games of the time would make me motion sick. I’m not sure what it is. I don’t play any more so cannot comment on anything in the last few years.

It’s definitely not just you. Descent was famous for this back in the day. Like others, I get vertigo sometimes when I run up a sharp path in 1st person games. A lot of VR games are still experimenting with how to prevent motion sickness.

I don’t experience it as much any more, mostly because I’m so used to it now. My advice would be to buy Skyrim (it’s cheap and it will run on practically anything these days) and play it for yourself, so you get used to being in the moment.

I played Castle Wolfenstein with no problems but that was 20 years ago on my x386.

My friend showed me his rad new video game setup one time, I think the game was Halo, in his darkened room with a rather large screen. I was able to watch for like 10 minutes before I was to nauseated to continue. I haven’t really tried watching or playing a FPS since.

I do have poor (but corrected) vision and some condition where my eyes don’t work well together so that might be a factor. I just can’t focus that quickly.

The only time I ever experienced motion sickness was the very first time I played a FPS (Wolfenstein 3D in '92). I took about a 15 minute break before I went back to it and have never had that problem again.

One issue I still have is occasional vertigo when playing some game where I’m climbing to extreme heights like the top of a church in Assassin’s Creed. I’ll look down in the game and get that slight dizzy feeling that I would in real life. No solution for that yet other than taking a moment to get used to it like I would in real life. It seems to take about a month without the height trigger to reset before I’ll experience it again.

I’ll often have a little bit of motion sickness when playing a new first person shooter. It goes away after I’ve played a little while.

When watching someone else play, I almost always get motion sick. It doesn’t matter how long I watch, it doesn’t get better. I’m pretty sure it’s because I would react by moving one way, but they are moving another. I get the same reaction when watching some videos of car racing, filmed from the drivers POV.

I get quite motion sick when watching someone play FP video games. VR does the same.

My solution is to not watch someone else play video games. I don’t think my life is really poorer for this.

Yep. Had this all my life. Kept me from playing first-person games for years.

The newer games are MUCH better at their graphics rendering. Specifically, the rastering of the images. If they are imperfectly done, its what causes the imbalance in what you see, and causes the nausea and other symptoms.

If you can play those games in third-person view, it helps immensely, as it gives your eye something constant to focus on, which stops the rastering issues.

I played Skyrim for about a year in third-person view, until they had the graphics update that made first-person much much better.

Halo, however, still drives me into a screaming ball of nausea and headache. So I don’t play it.