Virtual reality (VR) games have been gaining popularity ever since the release of the Oculus Rift a few years back. HTC came out with the Vive, PlayStation has its own VR headset, and even Android smartphones have gear that allows you to simulate a VR experience in a portable package.
But ever since VR headsets have become more mainstream, there have been fewer popular VR games. Resident Evil 7 has become a fan favorite for the PlayStation VR, while VRChat has been seeing more playtime with Twitch streamers because of its humor, and Sims-like feel, and the fact that you can chat with a lot of people, like a postmodern MIRC. But why so few games?
Price of admission aside (the PS VR + Camera bundle is already around P18,000 and that’s without the console itself), perhaps the biggest barrier of entry for most gamers into the VR scene is the nausea stories that accompany it. While the PS VR headset does accommodate wearing glasses, there are still those little things that make your head spin and your lunch to go back out into the world. Early reviews on Skyrim VR say that the game is virtually unplayable even with the hardiest of stomachs, as the movement and sensory desynchronization are really bad.
Motion sickness in virtual reality is still a topic under research, but the main thing scientists are saying is that there is a certain sensory mismatch when people use VR to play video games. Basically, your body is telling your brain that it’s sitting on a chair or couch, but your eyes are saying that you’re moving through a darkened corridor and there could be a zombie dog that will pop out from behind the corner at any moment. If you’ve ever felt queasy when you’re trying to read in a moving car, that’s very much like how you’d feel when you get motion sickness from VR.
Read the manual
So, how do you enjoy these VR games when they make you feel sick? One of the best ways is to read the actual manual for your VR device, especially how to set it up the first time. Most headsets come with instructions, and you should take the time to get comfortable with it on your first ride. Adjust the headset so it’s comfortable but secure at the back and at the front of your head. You wouldn’t want an actual shaky headset adding to your motion sickness.
Take it slow
The first thing you want to do when you go into the game is to check out the VR settings. Make sure that the movement of your head and the speed of movement coincides with that in-game. Moving your head to look around only to find that the look speed in-game is a little too fast or too slow, will contribute to you wanting to throw up. This isn’t a race, so be sure you’re good to go with your game settings before starting to play.
Take frequent breaks
When you know you have motion sickness, make sure you play at a pace that won’t make you uncomfortable. Taking breaks in between playing will allow you to relax and have your brain recalibrate itself. While taking breaks is actually recommended when you’re gaming the whole night, the advice goes double when playing in VR, a place our brains are not 100 percent capable of grasping outright. Don’t be envious of friends who adjust faster, go at your own pace.
Play in a comfortable area
Motion sickness from VR games is a symptom of a sensory mismatch, and our bodies can react to it in different ways. Sometimes people tend to get hot flashes or start to sweat for no real reason. When playing a VR game, make sure you’re in a comfortable, well-ventilated area. Put a fan near you to keep cool. You don’t want to make your motion sickness worse by playing in a cramped and hot environment (which is also bad for your PC or console).
Don’t play through glitches
There are some games where visual bugs still occur. While we’re used to this on a monitor or on a TV, things can get dangerous when using VR. When you notice that your game is glitching or dropping frames (lagged or jerky movements), stop playing and reset the game from your last save point. Don’t play through the glitches thinking that it will stop soon. Glitchy visuals tend to increase motion sickness, so play smart and take a step back.
Keep at it
Perhaps the most counter intuitive piece of advice, ever. If you feel sick after following all the instructions of your device and playing at a comfortable place, don’t put your hardware up for selling just yet. Like in many real-world scenarios, the human body needs a bit of time for acclimation, or the ability of humans to become used to an experience by gradual exposure to said experience. Keep your play times quick when you’re starting out, slowly increasing your time in the VR headset as you go along. Don’t go back into the game when you’re still feeling sick. It’s not a race anyway.
Remember, virtual reality is still a very new thing for us humans. Sure, you may have watched a lot of movies set in VR but it’s something totally different to your body and brain when you’re actually the one experiencing it with a VR headset. It’s a totally new sensory experience for most, and if you’re not used to it, you’ll definitely feel the effects. However, if you take it slow to build your tolerance, playing in VR will be the same as playing any other video game.