How to Overcome Virtual Reality Sickness and Keep Gaming

June 1, 2020 • April Miller

Virtual reality (VR) headsets drop you into an immersive virtual environment and allow you to do everything from riding roller coasters to conquering the galaxy as Darth Vader. They also tend to give people motion sickness, which can make it difficult to enjoy your games. What is virtual reality sickness, and how can you overcome it so that you can keep gaming?

What Is Virtual Reality Motion Sickness?

If you’ve ever gotten motion sick when playing a game in virtual reality, then you’ve experienced VR sickness. It can cause nausea and sweating similar to what you’d experience on an airplane or a boat on rough seas — or when you’re on an actual roller coaster instead of a virtual one.

In addition, you may experience headaches, dizziness, salivating, vomiting and eye aches. If you’re not used to VR gaming or don’t adapt well to digital immersion, then it’s likely you’ll experience the motion sickness video games cause.

Studies indicate that women are more susceptible to VR sickness than men, but all genders can experience this discomfort when playing in virtual reality. In fact, if you do experience this phenomenon, then it’s time to take a step back and focus on the causes and solutions.

Causes of Virtual Reality Sickness

The symptoms of VR motion sickness can be strong enough for you to sit out. It’s now critical to understand what causes those symptoms.

These problems happen because there’s a disconnect between what your eyes see and what your body experiences. Your brain thinks you’re moving, but your body doesn’t get the same signals because you’re sitting down or standing still. In a way, your brain is torn between two realities, which is sure to disorient you.

Your eyes focus on the constant digital stimulation and your ears listen to the sounds. While the visuals can cause headaches and eye aches, disorientation in your ears is what will lead to a lack of balance. Then your skin and muscles sense the outside world while your other senses focus on the VR world.

You lack your typical full range of vision and you see constant stimulation. Your body’s natural response is likely to be the main cause of your virtual reality sickness. However, other factors play a role.

For instance, the VR headset itself can cause motion sickness. Some have three degrees of freedom (3DoF) and others have 6DoF. While 3DoF is the standard, newer virtual reality headsets are beginning to offer 6DoF. This dynamic will give you better sensory awareness and feeling of your surroundings.

Additionally, if you’re experiencing any latency, it can worsen the effects you feel with motion sickness. Latency is a slowness, lag or delay with your VR game that can disorient you if sounds and visuals don’t line up. With headsets, a higher refresh rate will result in less latency. Typically, you’ll want 90 Hz at the very least.

Overcoming VR Sickness

Whether you’re using your iPhone for VR gaming or any other console, motion sickness can take its temporary toll. No one wants to quit a gaming session just because they’re feeling nauseous and dizzy. What can you do to find a VR motion sickness cure, overcome VR sickness and keep gaming?

New information is emerging about the steps you can take to stay on top of your motion sickness.

Start by taking baby steps. If you dive in and go for a marathon VR session, you’re going to end up with your head in the toilet. Instead, play for a few minutes at a time. When you start feeling sick, stop playing. Take a short break and let your nausea fade before you try again. In many situations, you can overcome VR sickness by gradually extending your game times and taking a break whenever you feel ill. 

Another idea is to have someone around tell you that you’re not going to get sick and that you’re going to be fine. Nausea and motion sickness can sometimes become a self-fulfilling prophecy — you think you’re going to get sick, so you do. One study of naval cadets found that by telling them they wouldn’t get seasickness, fewer cadets got sick! It sounds silly, but it’s surprisingly effective.

A different suggestion involves something simple — a portable fan. Blowing cool air across your skin — which will feel colder when you break a sweat as you’re playing — can help keep nausea and motion sickness at bay. No one knows why this technique helps, but if VR sickness is keeping you from playing, it might be something worth trying.

You can also try having some ginger before, during and after you play, or simply when you feel the motion sickness setting in. People often point to ginger as one of the best ways to kick nausea to the curb. It’s a simple and tasty solution!

Finally, if nothing else worse, consider popping a Dramamine, Bonine or other anti-motion sickness medication. In some cases, these medications can help prevent the motion sickness and nausea that accompanies virtual reality sickness. You should definitely try out some of the other techniques first, however. 

Importantly, you should not use your VR device if you are already under the weather. Motion sickness can worsen your symptoms, like nausea and dizziness. Ear infections, too, are an immediate sign you should not use VR — it will significantly throw off your balance.

Then, with these practices, you’ll be on your way to fully immersing yourself in the virtual world, illness free.

Game On in Virtual Reality!

Whether you’ve got minor motion sickness when you’ve got a VR headset on, or you find yourself in a full-blown vomiting fit after a few minutes of gameplay, virtual reality sickness is something that affects a large number of players.

Try taking baby steps and playing in short bursts until your body adapts to the conflicting signals that it’s receiving. You can also set up a fan in your gaming room. Gaming with someone or having ginger can help, too. If all else fails, Dramamine is an accessible way to stop virtual reality motion sickness in its tracks.

Once you find the causes and fitting solutions for your specific motion sickness, then you can get back to VR gaming without a care in the world.

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