Simulation Sickness: A Gamer’s Worst Nightmare?

Over the years, I’ve noticed that gamers usually develop a certain style of game they most like to play.  We all try out the various options and switch it up a bit, but at the core of our collections are the genres we love the most.  Some choose sports games, others like real time strategy (RTS).  I love role playing games (RPG) and adventures.  Let us not forget also, the ever entertaining platformers (another favourite of mine) and shooters, and every indie game in between.  With such a plethora of options, the choices seem almost limitless.  That is, of course, unless you are one of the unlucky population of gamers who are stricken with the horrible affliction of Simulation Sickness.

I, unfortunately, am a member of that sad population.  When I play certain games, mostly those with a first person perspective, I tend to become quite nauseous any time after ten minutes to a half an hour of game play and eventually, if I don’t stop playing, I will be sick.  I had always just called it motion sickness and likened it to the feelings that I would get when going on rides that went in a circular motion at the fair.  After dating the boyfriend for a few months, he asked me why I always refused to play first person shooters, especially since he’s somewhat fond of a particular few.  When I told him my reasons he informed me that there was, in fact, a specific name for my sufferings and it was “Simulation Sickness”.

According to Wikipedia, “Simulation sickness, or simulator sickness, is a condition where a person exhibits symptoms similar to motion sickness caused by playing computer/simulation/video games.

The most common theory for the cause of simulation sickness is that the illusion of motion created by the virtual world, combined with the absence of motion detected by the inner ear, causes the area postrema in the human brain to infer that one is hallucinating and further conclude that the hallucination is due to poison ingestion. The brain responds by inducing nausea and mass vomiting, to clear the supposed toxin.  According to this theory, simulation sickness is just another form of motion sickness.

The symptoms are often described as quite similar to that of motion sickness. Some can range from headache, drowsiness, nausea, dizziness, vomiting and sweating.”

By golly, that was exactly what I experienced every time.  You might wonder why I care so much, being as there are many

Yes, I have looked like this...except for the hands.

games that don’t utilize the first person perspective and I do just fine playing anything that doesn’t, but I will say that I do kind of miss first person shooters.  Not all of them, I’ve never had any interest in games like Call of Duty or a lot of the war based shooters, but during the Nintendo conference this year at E3, I could have cried when they announced a new Goldeneye coming out.  I spent hours of my life on that game in high school.  That one and Perfect Dark for the 64.  They were awesome and great to play with a bunch of friends.  Then, one sad and rainy afternoon in my first year of university, I was playing perfect dark and the symptoms of simulation sickness hit me for the first time.  Ever since then, I could not play any first person games without nausea and the threat of vomiting.  Let me tell you, it sucks.

I’m dying to play Portal and when it comes out, I want to play Portal 2.  The sad thing is, I’m scared to play them.  The boyfriend got me to play Bioshock one day (back when we first started dating and I didn’t want him to think I was a gamer wuss) and I spent about ten minutes in Rapture (the name of the city in the game, for any readers who don’t know that) and then it was either turn it off or get sick.  Now a sequel has come and gone and I still haven’t worked up the courage to try again.

I now find myself desperate to come up with some kind of solution to my problem.  I have Gravol in the drawer in the bathroom, I have purchased a stronger prescription for my glasses (they were so bad) and I have portal on my laptop (thank you Steam) which has a high definition screen.  I’ve been working up the guts to give it a go and plan to soon.  Here’s hoping that I can overcome or at least manage this irritation because I do NOT like to miss out on games.

If anyone out there suffers from this problem, let me know if there are any solutions?  Do you just accept that there are games you cannot play or do you power through it?  Are you fighting a losing battle or do you have strategies that work to get you through the game?  Let me know, because otherwise, I’m playing Portal with a bucket beside the chair.

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