Sick of Video Games
The first time I remember getting nausea from a video game was in 1987. I was playing Gauntlet on my mom’s NES at midnight (I’d snuck out of bed after she went to sleep) when suddenly: Bam. Sick.
I wish that had been a one-time thing, but unfortunately it’s become the bane of my existence. As video games become more advanced I’m finding I have to suffer more to play them.
Getting sick from video games or other virtual environments is a pretty common problem. It’s called “simulator sickness”, and it happens when your eyes and ears are telling your brain things like, “Fuck! These three headed dogs are going to rip my fucking stomach out and devour my intestines before my very eyes! I must shoot them with this gun I have in my hands and then I must RUN THE FUCK AWAY!” but the parts of your body that detect motion and balance are replying with “Dudes, what the fuck are you talking about. We’re, like, just sitting here.”
The brain is left sitting in the middle like a parent between squabbling children. “Well, Balance and Motion, I’m not calling you liars, but Vision and Hearing over here are giving me some pretty strong evidence.” When it can’t get the kids to stop fighting, the brain says “fuck all y’all” and solves the problem entirely by making you want to throw up on everything you own.
Simulator sickness is pure misery for me. It starts with a tiny bit of nausea. Then, as the nausea escalates, I’ll start having cold sweats. I’ve yet to actually vomit because of a video game, but some have made me so sick I ended up staying in bed (or lying on the bathroom floor just in case) for the rest of the day. If I wasn’t so stubborn and
addicted to passionate about games I would have quit a long time ago. The better graphics get, the sicker they make me. It’s a very real possibility that one day in the not too distant future I won’t be able to game at all.
But that is not this day.
This day, I have tricks that help me get through most games with minimal discomfort. I am going to share those tricks with you, but I’m going to tell you right now: I’m not a doctor. I am in no way qualified to hand out any kind of medical advice. In fact, I suspect I’m probably giving myself cancer or something with all the Dramamine I take. Adopting any of these habits is probably a really bad idea, and if you do so and end up with liver cancer because of Dramamine, don’t blame me. I told you not to do it.
That said, the most reliable way I handle motion sickness while I game?
I go through a bottle of Dramamine a week, sometimes more, but it’s all I need to make it through most games. I do have to take it at least 30 minutes before I play, though; once I’m sick the only thing that makes me feel better is sleep. (I think it’s called Gravol in some countries that aren’t the US, but I’m too lazy to google it. You probably want to check that out before you take it. If I’m wrong and Gravol turns out to be a laxative you’re going to be super pissed at me.)
If I’m playing a game that I know is going to be extra rough on me, I’ll use ginger. I have ginger tablets that I can take with water, but I’ve found it’s far more effective to suck on pieces of crystallized ginger while I play. I’ve discovered that if I use Dramamine and ginger together for twenty hours in any particular game, as I did in Borderlands 2, that game usually stops making me sick. It’s like weird immersion therapy.
If the ginger and Dramamine aren’t enough, I’ll wear Sea Bands. I have no idea if these actually help, but I figure they’re not making it worse, so why not?
I’ve also found that it helps to have a fan blowing on me. That helps ward off the hot flashes and cold sweats, which means the whirlpool of misery I get sucked into as soon as I pick up a controller spins a little more slowly than it would have otherwise.
Sometimes a game is beautiful (and therefore sickening) enough that there’s nothing I can do to prevent myself from getting sick. When that happens (as it has most recently with Dishonored and The Last of Us) I usually suck it up and push through the misery. I just love games that much.
That was a lie. What actually happens is that I put the game on my shelf with the promise that I’ll finish “one day” and then refuse to let my husband trade it in, even if the game technically belongs to him. Those games sit on the shelf, giving silent testimony to my failures as a gamer, forever.
It’s all very sad.
(Why is Mirror’s Edge the featured image for this post? Because it got me the closest I’ve ever been to throwing up within 90 seconds of picking up a controller. DO NOT RECOMMEND.)