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Motion Sickness: The Gamer's Bane

| 23 Jul 2008 15:57
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Videogame-induced motion sickness, with its dull headaches and stomach-churning nausea, is a curse upon unlucky gamers, but hope still remains for those who want to mash buttons without blowing lunch.

Motion sickness is believed to be caused by a disconnect between what the body feels and what it sees. According to an article on WhatTheyPlay, the sensation of motion felt by the inner ear conflicts with visual stimuli, fooling the body into thinking it's suffering from some form of toxin and forcing it to react accordingly, resulting in dizziness, fatigue, nausea and, if exposure remains for too long, epic chunder.

It can affect people in numerous unpredictable ways: While I'm a long-time FPS animal who's never experienced a single symptom from gaming, on a recent trip aboard the MS Chi-Cheemaun I discovered that while I loved being outside on the deck as we cut across Lake Huron, I could barely take two steps inside without almost falling over. As many as 33 percent of people are affected by motion sickness, a number that jumps considerably higher as conditions become more severe.

The particular type of motion sickness caused by videogames is called "simulator sickness," and is believed to be caused by the same kind of conflict between the inner ear and the eyes, as advances in graphical technology leave the body confused about whether it's being flung around violently or sitting on the couch. And while these sensations, not to mention the prospect of barf in your Wii Remote, can be frustrating, there are steps gamers can take to vanquish the vomit.

Sitting farther away from the television is the first and simplest way to alleviate game-induced motion sickness, as the increased distance can help the brain maintain its grip on reality. Ginger, which can be taken in capsules or brewed as tea, can aid with nausea relief by improving gastrointestinal circulation, while anecdotal reports of success with acupressure bracelets may also give gamers hope. Ultimately, the truly hardcore can just suck it up and get used to it; an article in Popular Mechanics says, "Experience often helps you get over [motion sickness]. It seems that after enough exposure to dizzying graphics, your brain learns that you don't die from poison every time you play a first-person shooter, and it lets you enjoy your fun."

A little suffering now for a lot of fun later seems like a fair trade, and fortunately there are no long-term complications from motion sickness unless the vomiting continues to the point of dehydration. The simple solution: When you feel lunch coming up, put the controller down.

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