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.


Girls Are Gamers Too!

As a girl who has been gaming since she was physically capable of holding an Atari controller, I am frequently insulted by society’s portrayal of the typical “gamer”.  That image everyone automatically has of a pasty skinned boy, sitting in front of a television or computer screen in the dark, a maniacal look on his face and the current game reflecting in the lenses of his glasses.  When I was younger, this was always what people would think of when someone mentioned nerds or gamers.  I always just figured they didn’t understand and normally, I didn’t let it bother me.

As I got older and more sophisticated consoles came out onto the market, another common image appeared in relation to gaming.  You know the one: a room full of guys, snacks spread all over the coffee table as they all cheered and screamed, competing for the best score and loving every minute of it.  This was a less insulting portrayal in some ways.  Obviously, gaming was becoming more mainstream and more and more people were getting into it as it was more widely accepted.  There was, however, still one problem with this image for me.  There were never any girls on that couch, controller in hand going head to head with all those guys.

I spent a huge amount of my social time when I was in high school doing exactly what those pictures all portrayed.  I sat in my living room with a bunch of my friends for hours on end playing 4 on 4 death match in Goldeneye and Perfect Dark on the 64.  I put hours of my time and effort into Ocarina of Time, completely immersed in the storyline and loving every second of it.  I struggled along with all my friends to beat each course of Mario Kart 64 and earn the top spot on the podium and it was a huge victory every time I pulled it off.

But still, every time I would talk about video games with someone who didn’t know me very well, they looked at me like I was insane.  Like they couldn’t believe that a girl would be that into something that was reserved for guys and they almost looked down on me for it.  It was actually a very frustrating thing to deal with.  To want to talk so badly about my latest conquest in the world of gaming and to say one little thing about it and end up with a room full of my friends just staring at me like I’d grown another head was almost embarrassing, like time would freeze and nobody knew what to say.  While they were talking about going out on a date, I was sitting there with nothing to say because they wouldn’t understand if I broke in with, “You know, last night I finally found the fire arrows and was able to beat that temple that’s been holding me back for a week.”

After a while, I started to hide my natural, nerd-like tendencies.  I still gamed on my own and with the same three or four guys for hours of Goldeneye on a Saturday afternoon, but my inner gaming spirit was being crushed because I couldn’t share in excitement every time I finally beat a game or a certain boss.  It seemed like nobody I hung out with really cared.

Years later, I now live with the boyfriend and finally, I can share my triumphs with someone.  He’s actually excited when I beat a boss I’ve been trying to kill forever or when I finally hit the end of a game and the credits start to roll, I get congratulations instead of odd looks.  It’s nice to be able to share something like that, no matter what it is.

Curious, I took a peruse around the internet the other day and discovered that there are others out there, just like me, who want others to recognize that girls are involved in the gaming world as well.  I’m not talking about the bombshells they put on television so guys will watch and drool over new game announcements and hot outfits (not that I dislike those shows, they’re pretty fun to watch), but women actually working towards opening the door wider for others to get into the industry and become a larger part of the gaming world as a whole.  See the websites here and here.  I may not be interested in the development portion of gaming, but knowing that more and more women are getting involved in it, makes me think that perhaps there will be more games that appeal to a female perspective.  These do exist, but not in the number that are designed for guys in mind.

Remember all you male gamers out there, there may not be as many of us, but us female gamers do exist and we’re buying the same titles, earning the same trophies and building up the bragging rights just like you.

This is what it frequently looks like when I game.