Experienced Points: Can Virtual Reality Actually Hurt You?

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Sep 30, 2014

Filed under: Column 134 comments

My column this week is a little more anecdotal-ish than usual. It’s a bit about VR sickness in general, along with some of my personal experiences with it.

Just a bit of personal curiosity here, but have any games ever made you sick? Which ones? It’s been SAID that Descent made some people queasy, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say the game made them personally sick. It’s always “some [other] people”.


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134 thoughts on “Experienced Points: Can Virtual Reality Actually Hurt You?

  1. Descent never made me sick to my stomach, but it did give me plenty of headaches. I will say that it did a lot to develop my sense of direction and ability to think in 3D space with the way it handled its map layout.

    Side Story Time: As I remember is, back in the day Descent was the ‘other’ 3D game opposite Doom before we started calling them FPS, like they were these two opposing concepts to 3D and only one would make it out alive! I kinda genre war if you will.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Yeah, same with me. I think the reason people say descent made “other people” feel sick is that it’s not too bad for the one piloting the ship, but it’s really crazy for the poor schmuck trying to back-seat drive for you. Speaking of which, it’s an excellent tool for training people to stop telling the driver what to do.

      1. Rick C says:

        One day I was playing Descent II in the lab in college. I had a tendency to fly down those corridors that look like the inside of wrought-iron fence rails (i.e., a square cross-section that rotated as you go down it) while rotating in the opposite direction. Someone walked up behind me, said “is that Doom? URK” and clapped his hands over his mouth and ran out of the lab, presumably to throw up.

        1. Tom says:

          I love it when game geometry get all twisty-tunnelly like that, especially if you get to fly through a big helical thing. I seem to recall it was somewhat popular in the 90s, probably just to show off what the 3D engine could do – Descent did it, Unreal did something like it it in the mothership right at the end (yes, in the single-player campaign that everyone forgot even existed after a couple of generations of UT), most of MDK was built on it, even Thief 1 had a spiral corridor of sorts in Constantine’s mansion – but mind-warping geometry seems to be somewhat out of fashion these days. There’s a certain playfulness in 3D layout that was more common in 90s level design but has become quite rare now; sacrificed on the altar of realism, I suppose. Plus levels are often just a lot smaller now than the sprawling mazes of that era, so maybe there just isn’t enough room to fool around any more.

          1. Nidokoenig says:

            I think part of it is that people who did 3D when it was cutting edge had to basically invent it, which takes a lot of drive and expertise you’re not going to waste on a corridor shooter, you’re going to do something outlandish with it. Once the tech matures and you can get it off the shelf, boring people will use it to tell stories about Gruff Shootyman, his hatred for Nazis and his love of chest high walls.

    2. Volfram says:

      I currently have a roommate who once saw me playing Descent 3 out of the corner of his eye and complained.

      He does also suffer from a degree of hypochondria, chronic migraines, and gets headaches when looking at fluorescent lights. My other friends complain about disorientation.

      I called bull on one of them who claims to have no sense of direction on account of he’s SEEN me get lost in levels he said were straightforward and has never caught himself doing donuts in the ring in Bowser’s Castle on Mario Kart: Double Dash.(I realized I’d gotten turned around after I passed the wall of flames for the 3rd time.)

      My brothers and I never complained about disorientation or nausea while watching each other play.

    3. Friend of Dragons says:

      The only time I got queasy playing games was when I tried playing Descent on my laptop while riding in a car.

    4. Bryan says:

      Yeah, Descent 1 and 2 never made me sick when they were new (and I was playing the shareware version of each). I did get lost I don’t know *how* many times, though.

      Descent 3, many years later (after I saw a native Linux version of it; unfortunately Loki is long dead now so I doubt you can get it anymore), didn’t make me sick either. But I never got lost in it, either, so there’s that… :-)

      But I never watched anyone else play them (that I remember) either…

      1. Bryan says:

        On the other hand, VR. Somebody got a bunch of Google Cardboard setups, which mount an Android phone inches from your eyes, then split its screen in half and render each eye on each half of the display. One of the demos was watching some central object; so far so good. And when you turn your head, the motion tracker in the phone caused the demo to rotate … *the object*.

        ARRRRRRG, instant nausea. I had to rip it off immediately.

        When I tried a different demo, where the headtracking moved the camera in the display, it worked out a *lot* better.

    5. Cuthalion says:

      My mom can’t play Descent. She can’t even play Super Smash Brothers. Too much camera motion.

      I guess some people are just very prone to motion sickness. She also can’t read in the car. (Although I get a little nauseous reading in the car, too, I don’t have any problem with video games.)

    6. Groboclown says:

      When I first played Descent, I believe I felt more of a vertigo than a sickness.

      Then I applied the Ender philosophy – the enemy gate is down. Once I viewed the nose of the ship as down, it was all good for me.

  2. steves says:

    Sick? Nah. Nothing short of almost poisonous* levels of booze/food makes me sick – huge ferries in choppy water, massive turbulence in ropy old planes, even Oculus dev kit 1…I have a stomach of iron.

    Major wobbly-legged vertigo though, games will do that to me. Half-Life 2 I remember as the worst offender. That bridge + helicopter level, yikes!

    *interestingly, disagreement between vestibular & visual systems is a common effect of many poisonous substances, and violently throwing up is the best thing your body can do when it thinks it’s poisoned, so we can probably thank evolution for this

  3. guy says:

    Half Life 2 sometimes makes me feel sick.

    1. Dave B. says:

      And me as well. I think Portal did too, on occasion. The strongest sense of vertigo I’ve felt in a game was in Portal 2, at a part near the end when you walk up a tunnel that is sharply slanted, but because of an optical illusion, looks completely vertical.

      EDIT: Also, long drops or falls in first-person games can give me a physical sensation of falling, in my stomach. It doesn’t make me nauseous; it just feels weird.

      1. MichaelG says:

        Some of those backflips you end up doing in Portal 2 were too much for me.

        1. Knight of Fools says:

          I played the first Portal when I was relatively young, and had to stop when I placed two portals next to each other on the ground and starting flipping around.

          I must have adapted, because after that I never had an issue with first person vertigo. I’m sure starting out when I was still a teenager helped. If a new game came out with a brand new degree of vertigo inducing acrobatics I don’t know if I’d be as able to adapt.

    2. Tim Keating says:

      Understandable. The current state of the Half-Life franchise makes me pretty queasy.

    3. Felblood says:

      The canal levels in Half-Life 2 were the only game to ever make me motion sick, and I get crazy motion sick in cars on regular basis.

      I think it’s the way you slide around on the muddy floors that does it.

      It doesn’t feel like you feet are slipping, it just feels unnatural.


      Oh, and all of hlf-life Source. No idea why, but this was not a good investment for me. Maybe it’s the crappy textures and models viewed at resolutions far beyond what the creators intended.

      1. Dt3r says:

        Ha, and I thought I was the only heretic that couldn’t make it through Half-life 2! All of the source engine stuff bothers me to some extent. I agree, I think it’s that near instantaneous acceleration that makes me sick.

      2. Barnaby says:

        This was my experience, too. I’ve never felt sick in any other game, but the level in HL2 (I think it was called Water Hazard?) driving that boat around always made me queasy. And I don’t even get motion sickness from cars, roller coasters, airplanes, etc. I searched around a few years ago, and it seemed there were a not insignificant number of other players who’ve had similar experiences. I still sometimes wonder why it’s just that level.

    4. Humanoid says:

      I’ve never played Half-Life 2 (or its predecessor), but just watching gameplay video of it sets me off in about 5 minutes. To this point, I’ve never been able to watch the Spoiler Warning season of it. There was one other game that made me uncomfortable but was manageable, I think it was Bloodlines but might be wrong, which might suggest it’s just a general Source engine thing, but aside from Bloodlines I’ve never played another Source game.

      Maybe there are a lot more games out there I’d have issues with, but I don’t generally play FPS titles, so it’s a small sample size.

    5. Eldiran says:

      Same here, specifically in the vehicle sections. Ironically they recreated the experience of being in a vehicle TOO well…

    6. Robyrt says:

      Same here – playing a Scout in Team Fortress 2 is even worse. For me, it’s specifically the high walk speed that does it. Any game that brings you out into third person mode when you sprint is fine, no matter how fast you’re sprinting, and Portal is usually so disorienting my brain doesn’t believe it enough to get sick, but Half-Life has that unsettling combination of blinding vehicle speeds with on-foot verisimilitude.

    7. rabs says:

      HL2 made me uncomfortable as well. Especially going in/out of the car, with the automatic rotation of the view. I also remember driving felt globally uneasy, but not why.

      Something similar happened in Saint Rows 4, when going in/out of the VR machine (automatic movement with rotation of the camera). I’d have liked a more static transition or a real cut before a cut-scene.
      In SR4, another sickening situation was when I repeatedly speed/glide and bump/run on building and stuff I didn’t always expect. Would be a killer in VR.

      I’m globally upset by many console games ports that take control of the camera during gameplay, while I expect to keep freely mouselooking around.
      I guess they try to help the camera-lazy players when turning around a corner, passing near a wall, or whatever.
      Closing the camera because I walk back to a wall is fine for me, but not rotation.

      I generally don’t like head bobbling and continuous camera shakes (even in movies).

      In the end I’m not really sick, but feel uneasy or a bit dizzy. Sometimes I stop playing because of that, but that’s it.

      I played descent a long time ago, and don’t remember being sick, but lost.

    8. Rob says:

      Same here. It’s two things for me:
      1) The same complaint with the vehicle sections as everyone else around here.
      2) Whenever a loading screen comes up. It suddenly stops whatever momentum you had and I feel like hurling. I’m playing through again with my son now and I instinctively look away when I know a loading screen is coming…

  4. Jeff Truelsen says:

    I get vertigo playing games on a regular monitor. The cliffs in Half-Life and Half-Life 2 make me queasy.

  5. Nidokoenig says:

    I used to get motion sickness before I got my current glasses, apparently my prescription had changed, and the old ones had some damage to the frames that just made it worse. I’d get sick from just a minute of Descent and similar games, but with my current specs I can watch speedruns with no issue. Anything Half Life, the Alien mode in AvP classic and any other FoV shenanigans would also induce nausea and headaches quite quickly, but it always got too bad a feeling to continue playing before I’d actually throw up. Slow, stealthy games, or games that allowed the option, were generally fine.

  6. Rodyle says:

    I used to get a little motion sick the first few times playing the multiplayer of Republic Commando, actually. I can’t remember if it went away or that I just didn’t really notice it anymore later on.

  7. Stephen says:

    At some point I started getting motion sick playing first person games with a narrow Field of View. It was something that changed between playing Portal 1 and 2 (I don’t recall getting sick playing Portal 1, had a splitting headache and nausea after a few hours of 2, and then had the same thing when I tried 1 again), so sometime in my late 20s is where it kicked in.

    If I change/hack the config files to set FoV to 90, the problem instantly disappears.

    1. ET says:

      In your 20s, you start getting sick. Then you start getting sleepy in your 30s. It’s a downward slope to eating nothing but mushed peas in your old age, because everything tastes too spicy! :P

    2. Nidokoenig says:

      I’d suggest going for an eye test, see if there’s anything off, or work out the viewing angles for your setup, you should ideally be sitting so that your eyes are level the top of your screen and the FoV matches up properly with what you’d see if it was a window instead of a monitor. That and try to take a ten minute break every hour, I started getting terrible eyestrain and headaches from too much screen time a couple of years ago, so I installed Workrave to make me get up, have a walk and get a drink every so often, and installed f.lux and told it we burned the sky, and now I’m fine. Well except for the fact that I feel like I’m old and creeky for having to actually pay attention to health warnings and be sensible now.

    3. Volfram says:

      I prefer a wide field of view(typically 90, but wider can be really fun), myself.

      Interestingly, a wide FOV is one of the tweaks that was used in Mirror’s Edge to help reduce motion sickness.

  8. ET says:

    When you fall off of a 50-story building in Mirror’s Edge. That only made me mildly queasy, but it was annoying enough to warrant shutting my eyes instinctively whenever I screwed up. Other than that, nothing really makes me sick. I actually used to have an iron stomach (so-to-speak) when I was younger, but now that I’m in my 30s*, fast elevators and carnival rides make me sick too. I should try training for this stuff. :)

    * I actually started noticing this in my mid-20s. :C

  9. Rflrob says:

    I’m personally curious to see what VR sickness would be like in a 4D game, like Miegakure, at least if you could do that game as first person instead of third person. Would having access to 3 dimensions (as opposed to 4D sliced and projected down to a 2D screen) make it easier or harder to pick up that game? Would the total alien-ness of the fourth dimension make the VR sickness worse or better?

    1. Volfram says:

      Is that game STILL in development?

      I want to play some wacky mind-bending 4th dimensional hijinx!

  10. Zak McKracken says:

    Decent never made me sick, nor did any of the MS flight simulators (played 4.0 to 98). But Jedi Knight eventually started to. Some time the second replay, after a few hours played at night, I was feeling slightly not quite well. A little more so after the next time. I eventually determined it was the large viewing angle and quit the game.
    A few years later, I played Counterstrike a lot. No problem. Still three or four years later: Hmm… not very comfortable. These days, when (and if) I watch Spoiler warning, I don’t maximize the window and sit back a bit. That makes it bearable. I haven’t played first person shooters in a long while.
    My theory? I thought it might have to do with viewing angle, but it can’t be just that. It might also be the size of monitors these days. In RL, travelling by coach feels a but uneasy these days and I’m getting proper sick whenever I try to do spins on ice skates (although I could kind of do them just three years ago… ). Oh, and I’ve got tinnitus, that’s those funny beeping noises in your ears sometimes, and when I cycle at 12°C, my ears start freezing, so … I think it might have to do with the working order of my (inner) ear.

    1. Zerotime says:

      Have you tried earplugs for the freezing ears thing? I used to get it a lot while out on my motorbike in sub-zero temperatures (because I have brain problems, apparently) but it disappeared as soon as started wearing earplugs.

      1. Zak McKracken says:

        I’ve always got a pair of ear warmers in my pocket.
        There have been days when I was cycling, wearing a T-shirt but still needed them. Looks a bit silly but what can you do.

        I do wear ear plugs whenever I go to concerts (because obviously my ears hate loud noise but of course the rest of me likes it…) or on planes/the Tube but while cycling or such, they make it hard to hear the traffic over my own breath, also they only warm the inner ear, not the outsides. I sometimes wear (noise-cancelling) ear buds and listen to music. That helps with most aspects of the problem (and is more comfortable than plugs), though of course it’s a bad idea in traffic.

  11. Spectralist says:

    A handful of games make me nauseous, Half Lifes one and two, Left 4 Dead 2(but not the first one), The first Turok game, and to a lesser extent Fable III.

    Of those the Half Life games are the only really bad ones. Just a few minutes of gameplay and I start to feel a bit off. After an hour or two and I’m so sick I can hardly sit upright for some reason. Watching other people play them also causes it but it takes much longer.

    No other games have made me feel sick despite playing many of them for much much longer sessions. I even had a 3D monitor for a while before it burnt out and played a lot of Fallout 3 and Dragon Age on it without feeling ill in the slightest.

    If there was any game that seemed like it should have made me feel sick it’d be Portal but I felt fine with that one as well.

    1. Rick says:

      Okay, Half-Life, L4D2, and Turok sure. They’re all first person shooters, makes sense. But how do you get nausea from Fable III? I’m legitimately curious.

      I mean, I can think of plenty reasons for Fable III making someone feel sick, but I don’t think that’s what were talking about.

      1. Spectralist says:

        I really wish I know. The only thing I can think of is the really aggressive smoothing applied to the camera movement.

  12. Ilseroth says:

    Personally I am really looking forward to the commercial release of Oculus…

    Personally, my initial response was “this will be really cool for spaceship/racing/anything first person and seated games.” Do I think a full VR setup will work? sure, but that is a long time from now.

    What I could see this being used for is sort of the “augmented reality” kind of place. Make a facility (like a Lazertag arena) but with the Oculus it could be anything. This way you could ignore the awkward interaction of not *actually* moving forward with your body and moving forward in the game.

    Of course that would actually involve people moving around, and that is a dangerous prospect.

  13. Dead Space did my stomach in, before I even finished that first elevator puzzle in the opening level. The over-the-shoulder 3rd person view is something I don’t like at all, and the bouncing around of the camera gave me full motion sickness, complete with headache.

    I hear there’s a mod that’ll give me the proper experience of a first-person view, but I haven’t been inspired to go try it.

  14. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “What’s the worst thing that can happen to your physical body from playing a videogame?”

    Getting shot.

    1. Felblood says:


      That’s way better than my answer.

      Back when I was into Soul Caliber (SC2 on PS2 is still the best Soul Caliber) I gave myself some mild carpal tunnel.

  15. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Oddly enough,some of the old fps games made me sick a few times.Mainly,deus ex and original half life.But thats not really odd on its own,the odd part is that neither made me sick when I was playing them before.Ever.

    So,I think I have one thing you can add up to your list as important to vr sickness:Getting old.

    1. Primogenitor says:

      Me too. I went back to Duke Nukem recently and was feeling a little off-colour after an hour or so. But 20 years ago, nothing! Hard to tell if its age, or different technologies (higher FPS, better resolution, bigger screen) – but probably a sign of getting old.

      (it also felt like watching on fast-forward, and that the environments make no logical sense)

    2. Zak McKracken says:

      My impression, too.
      I think long-term lack of sleep may contribute, as do problems with the inner ear (Tinnitus and such). Hearing does not get better with age, so it’d make sense that the vestibular systems also suffers (though mine seems to suffer much than Shamus’ for example).

  16. When I was a kid playing Dark Forces for a few hours made me a bit sick. That was one of the first shooters I really got into, and no sickness since then. I think this will be a lot of the same thing, it just takes getting used to.

    Especially because you getting sick when your inputs don’t line up like this is actually a feature of your body. It thinks you’ve been poisoned, and makes you sick so you’ll throw up whatever you ate that may have been causing it.

  17. Knut says:

    Amnesia: The Dark Descent made me feel queasy, not directly sick, but definitely uneasy in the stomach. Not from motion sickness though, as I imagine the Occulus Rift would do to some people.

    I have also tried the Rift (devkit one), and while some of my colleages said it made them have motion sickness, I didn’t experience this. They tried a rollercoaster demo, while I only tried a survival horror one, and the one where you are beheaded. That last one was kind of freaky, but it ended so quickly I didn’t really have time to feel it in my stomach.

  18. Chris says:

    A lot of flying games but for some reason I played in darkened room illuminated by a monitor spinning through the air. Only sick after long gap from playing a similar game initially. Once I settled in with some time no problems. Descent was the one that came to mind initially but others that you could spin in air in a nausea inducing spin did it for me as well.

    1. Chris says:

      I guess Wolfenstein 3d did it to me initially as well but I think that was due to not having experienced anything like that game before. Definitely no FPS since then.

  19. I guess this falls under the category of “some other people”, but I personally know someone who gets physically ill from any FPS, and for that matter any POV movie. Cloverfield, Blair Witch Project, anything by Michael Bay, she gets instantly nauseous. (In the last of those cases, the visual effects actually make her sick faster than the content, if you can believe that.)

  20. Tim Keating says:

    I play a lot of 3D games with no problems, but for some reason Borderlands 1 made me pretty nauseous. I recently started re-playing it (yay, no more GameSpy), and bumping up the resolution to modern levels & adjusting the FOV slightly seems to have alleviated the worst of it.

    Weirdly, I had no such problem with Borderlands 2, which uses the exact same FOV setting.

  21. Ben says:

    I have two friends who do a lot of gaming, but can’t play FPS games due to motion sickness. One is Taiwanese, the other Vietnamese, so I was not surprised to see wikipedia has “being Asian” as a risk factor.

    The two of them have independently claimed that a wider field-of-view helps with it? Not sure if that’s something that can be translated to VR or if it’s too weird to mess with FOV.

    1. Zak McKracken says:

      The weird thing for me is that the first occurrences of motion sickness happened with very wide field-of-view games (late 90’s, and today the biggest relief is using a window instead of the full screen and sitting back a little.

      It might have to do with the size of monitors: My 17″ CRT in 1998 only filled a small part of my vision, thus games should also use a smaller viewing angle than on today’s 24″ screens. Also, the more of my field-of-view is taken by a moving thing, the more power it has over my well-being (thus the all-encompassing VR has the largest power).

  22. Andrew says:

    Overly narrow FoV can make me sick. I’m not certain, but I think Antichamber did that to me. Also, I just could never get my head around that game, so it may have been frustration and sickness together. I understand trying to interpret weird rules, but my issue with Antichamber was that I felt there were no solid rules that I could predict off of.

  23. Daniel says:

    Heretic and Quake (on PC), Half-Life (on PS2), among other FPS made my stomach uneasy and made my head feel funny when playing them.

    If I played for a couple of days in a row, I would stop having the issue, but if I came back weeks later, it would return.

    Not sure what is different about the old FPS games versus the new ones, but I don’t have any issues with current ones.

    1. Zak McKracken says:

      Could never play Half life for more than 15 minutes, either.

  24. Parkhorse says:

    Only Mirror’s Edge and one of the Fight Night games on the XBox have given me motion sickness. In both cases it was quick, and rough. Mirror’s Edge is obvious enough. For Fight Night, I think it was down to how the screen moved when you got hit? It’s been awhile.

  25. Akri says:

    “Which Ones?” Try “most of them”. It’s gotten better over the last year or so, but basically anything that doesn’t have a fixed camera is going to set me off at some point. First-person games used to be completely unplayable for me (they’re still largely unplayable, but I’m starting to find exceptions), and third-person games with a close camera were problematic as well. Even games with a camera that stayed pretty far out would instantly make me sick if the camera had to suddenly zoom or switch to show a different perspective of the scene.

    Heck, reading Shamus describe his experience with getting sick started making me feel slightly ill. I got phantom-VR sickness. Because my brain is a jerk.

  26. Thomas says:

    A game’s never made me feel sick, but of all the games I’ve played, it’s actually Line Runner on my phone that’s come the closest. After playing it for a bit my mind loses the illusion that it’s the character running and instead I see the background moving whilst the character moves in place. If I keep going after the illusions broken then I begin to not even really see completely fluid motion and instead the obstacles kind of appear a bit. (I think this is because after the illusion breaks my brain is now very focused on one spot and isn’t able to judge the behaviour of the obstacles in the peripheral)

    If I continue to play then I can leave feeling disoriented for a couple of seconds

    1. Thomas says:

      This is Line Runner by the way (it’s _not_ related to Line Rider)

      I think the problem is some bad FPS with a bland fairly featurless background that doesn’t really move correctly

  27. ehlijen says:

    Not motion sickness sick. Long falls sometimes give me the almost zero gravity feeling, not sure how that works since I’m not physically doing anything like falling. When I first got a joystick, I’d lean into any tight turns I made in sim or racing games, sometimes so far that I’d fall of the chair, but not because of motion sickness.
    The closest thing to actually feeling sick was that pointless AvP2 mini level where you’re the chestburster chewing your way out.

    1. Tom says:

      I always lean dramatically with handheld controls in flight or driving games, especially gamepads (I am also reliably informed that my facial expression becomes one of almost deranged determination). It gets even worse with motion-controls. It got so bad that once I played a split-screen flight sim and my friends stopped watching the game altogether and started watching me instead, with considerable amusement.

  28. Talby says:

    I had a weird experience playing the old space trading sim Freelancer. One particular star system has a really strange nebula that gives the impression of being in a massive room instead of just in space. For some reason it gave me a feeling of agoraphobia, which is normally not a problem for me, but I had to avoid going to that particular system.

  29. Ravens_Cry says:

    You got to hand it to early adapters like you, Shamus. You peoples have to live with the terrible games and practically prototype kludges. Without the infusion of capital from you living with this crap, they’d never be improved enough for it to be usable for the rest of us. For this, Mister Young, I salute you.
    As for VR sickness, I predict I’d do OK. My eyes can actually hack my vestibular system quite well. When I watched an iMAX movie about roller coasters, I really felt like things were dipping and swooping, and it didn’t make me nauseous, but, rather, exhilarated. I wish I had a computer and the funds to try this out, as it sounds awesome.

  30. Scourge says:

    “What’s the worst thing that can happen to your physical body from playing a videogame? A thumb blister? Bashed in the face with a Wiimote? I suppose you could hurt yourself taking a bad step in Dance Dance Revolution. Still, gaming is usually recognized as a really safe activity.”

    Me and a friend of my father must’ve been doing it wrong then.

    I managed to have a temporary carpal tunnel syndrome (by playing to many games at the same time) and a friend of my father injured his eye while playing Diablo 2 (He was playing Diablo 2, lost control of his mouse which flew out of his grip and shattered a glass of water he had sitting besides him. From there a shard of glass flew into his eye.)

    1. Yes, but if your father’s friend had been wearing an Oculus Rift, he would have been spared his injury.

  31. Cat Skyfire says:

    I can, and do, get the urge to vomit from some games. I first really understood discovered this when playing one of the Might and Magic games. I’m ‘walking’ along, trying to figure out where I needed to go, and I had to lie down. I tried a few days later (maybe it was something else, right?) and nearly threw up.

    I can’t do most first person shooters because of this. My brother called it the Barfogenic Zone, which fits pretty well. Some games I can play for awhile, like Skyrim, but sometimes, I have to step away from them.

  32. Warstrike says:

    Wolfenstein and doom (original vintage). Almost exactly the same as my motion sickness from cars, and took about the same time to wear off. I may not have thrown up, but I got to the very edge a couple times trying to push through and keep playing.

  33. Greg says:

    The only one that’s actually made me feel sick was Gothic 3, and not the normal gameplay. It’s how the game changed the FOV on the fly when you opened a chest – after I’d done that a couple of times in quick succession I began to feel unwell and had to stop playing.

  34. Daemian Lucifer says:

    All this talk about sickness in vr has me thinking:Has anyone tried mirrors edge with oculus?Because that sounds like a recipe for disaster.

    1. Akri says:

      That just sound evil.

      1. dp says:

        Portal with Oculus

    2. BeardedDork says:

      When I was playing Mirrors Edge (This wasn’t much more than a year or so ago) the news page on Steam kept talking up Occulus support for Mirrors edge. I read the news story and immediately thought to myself this doesn’t sound like a good idea.

    3. MichaelG says:

      The developers have to modify the code to work with Oculus — you can’t just play any game with it.

  35. Spammy says:

    I felt maybe a little uncomfortable during the rapid zooming when Josh was stomping bugs in Marlow Briggs, but I’ve never really felt motion sick in any video game. Doom, Half-Lives, Mirror’s Edge; none of them have really made me motion sick. I’ve also played a lot of 3DS games at full depth (although I back off to about half now) so maybe I just have a more iron stomach and eyes.

  36. swenson says:

    I have kind of the reverse–I have never once felt sick from a videogame, even though I get motion sick in real life.

    Long falls can “get” my stomach, just like when you’re going down big hills in real life… that’s a distinctly odd sensation. Portal has done this a few times to me… Planetside 2 when dropping in from the air… a few others too.

    I don’t get vertigo in games, but that’s not surprising, as I don’t get it in real life.

  37. Trevel says:

    First person shooters do it to me, which is why I never played many first person shooters. I tried Half Life 2, but the nausea erased most of the good, so I never really made it past the first canal level.

    I get a bit with Portal 1 and 2, but they were too good to not play.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      Same problem here. There are many FPSs that I’ve never been able to play due to motion sickness. I didn’t make it past the first 15 minutes of Unreal. I had to quite Half-Life 2 after about 10 minutes and the Metro games give me nausea almost instantly.

      There are too many factors that contribute to this: the games’ engines, the resolution, the FOV, the ligthing in the room, having a full stomach, even the weather can be a factor.

      It’s mostly a problem with FPSs, but I remember some Third Person games having the same effect, like Heretic II. Of course, any game will continue the effect after I’ve played a game that gives me motion sickness. That is, if I play Half-Life 2, get nausea, quit it and start playing Batman: Arkham Asylum the problem will continue. I have to quit playing altogether for the effect to stop, or resort to games with little movement, like puzzle games.

  38. Soylent Dave says:

    I once foolishly tried to play Hotline Miami when I had a migraine brewing. That didn’t end well.

    There have been a few other games that have exacerbated a migraine, but then anything with rapid movement, too much or flashing light, too much noise etc. would do that, so it’s not really ‘games making me sick’ inasmuch as it’s ‘a pre-existing condition making me sick, which is made worse by gaming’.

  39. Thomas says:

    My dad finally tried to play an FPS because he was getting into the Halo novel series and I gave him my old PC version of the game. He says he gets it, I haven’t witnessed it firsthand. He quit before he got off the ship and hasn’t touched it since.

  40. Michael says:

    Off topic, but do you choose the headlines for your articles? The headline over at the Escapist, “Can Virtual Reality Actually Hurt You?”, strikes me as kind of un-Shamus-like.

    1. Trainzack says:

      He has stated previously that the titles are written by the people at escapist.

    2. Shamus says:

      Trainzack is correct. Sometimes (like this week) you can see my boring original title in the URL.

      I told them they were free to change my titles as needed.

    3. Matt Downie says:

      Still, it’s good to know that VR is basically safe.
      (Rule of thumb: whenever the headline is a yes or no question, the answer is no.)

  41. MintSkittle says:

    WH40K: Fire Warrior, Prey, and the airboat section of Halflife 2 all make me queasy. Didn’t play Mirrors Edge for fear of the sickness. Also disable headbobbing if it’s there. Surprisingly didn’t have a problem with either Portal game. Don’t remember if I ever got it playing Descent.

    Sometime in the mid nineties, there was some sort of proto-internet cafe thing in the mall that had the big clunky VR headsets, playing one of the Duke Nukem games, not sure which one. That made me very sick real fast.

    Also, I can’t watch other people play FPS games. Sometimes I get it from watching other people play TPS games, but not often. For Spoiler Warning, I leave the player in small screen and don’t look directly at the picture.

    EDIT: somewhat off topic, but related, I also get seasick.

    1. Benjamin Hilton says:

      I have’t actually thought about Fire Warrior since I played it, but now that you mention it I also remember it making me queasy.

      What’s interesting is that I don’t think it was a motion thing with that game. I’ve never had motion sickness in or out of games.

      From what I remember it was the actual color scheme. It’s hard to describe unless you’ve played it but in going for the Dark grittiness the colors they used combined with the lighting were just subtly off-putting, maybe not to full queasiness, but certainly to the edge of it.


  42. coblen says:

    I thought I was gonna be all original saying half life 2. What a fool I was. I don’t know what it is about the game. I dont think its just the movement. The colors make me feel sick. The sounds make me feel sick.

    Non of my friends feel this way. So I always thought it was just me.

    1. Zak McKracken says:

      couldn’t even watch the Spoiler warning episodes on more than a quarter of the screen. Only watched two. Which is a shame, but that’s life.

      … though less bunny-hopping would definitely help *winkwink*

  43. evileeyore says:

    Yes. Several games made me want to track down the developers and deliberately vomit on them.

    Oh wait, that’s not what you meant was it…

  44. Rick says:

    The original Half Life made me severely motion sick so bad I couldn’t get past the first couple of levels. It was fixed in a later patch but I’d lost interest by that point.

    The mouse didn’t line up properly with the movements and it really threw me.

  45. DaMage says:

    Its weird, but I actually get motion sick if I play top down games (like RTS games, or diablo 2) for too long…..which normally manifests as a massive headache. But as long as the field of view on first person games is reasonable I dont have a problem (I can even deal with the 60 fov of a console).

    I suffer from a type of deafness in my right ear that also means I cannot balance properly using my the liquid in my ears, only on my other senses. So as far as I’m concerned, tech like the oculus will never be possible for me to use.

  46. Chris says:

    Tower of Guns makes me ill after a while, something to do with low camera position, high movement speed and a lack of depth cues.
    The more general class of sick-making games for me is first-person shooters with low FOV angles. Skyrim on consoles falls into this category as well.

  47. Geir Anders Berge says:

    I’ve gotten motion sickness from many games. Playing them with Track-IR on my underpowered laptop with low FPS makes it worse. But the worst game of all time for me was Soldier of Fortune.

    Two things that made SoF bad: Lousy resolution, and gameplay that focused on “ducking” behind walls in a manner that put your face right up against it. (Huge poor-texture-pixels across the monitor.) And playing it with a friend. I can’t watch other people play FPS games. Cockpit-view simulators are fine, same with MMOBAs, MMORPG, strategy games, etc, but never FPS.

  48. Joshua says:

    I don’t recall getting sick ever from Half-Life 2, but Fear made me nauseous, which is why I didn’t get far in it. I played Descent back in the 90’s, but honestly don’t recall any such feelings for it. Of course, I seldom flew very fast.

  49. Dragmire says:

    So, no game/film has made me sick from camera movement but I seem to be very resistant to that with a very good sense of balance and the ability to mess with it.

    An interesting exercise I’ve found is to lie on your bed and imagine yourself on a ship rocking back and forth. Eventually, provided you’re in a quiet dark environment, you’ll begin to feel the motion and induce vertigo(I’ve experienced no nausea though). Pushed farther, I could mimic the feeling of being on those rocking ship rides to the point where my body felt like it needed to flip due to gravity. It’s really an interesting feeling all together.

    I really want to try the Oculus Rift and see what it can do to me… which is a very odd reason to want one.

    1. Shamus says:

      “An interesting exercise I've found is to lie on your bed and imagine yourself on a ship rocking back and forth. Eventually, provided you're in a quiet dark environment, you'll begin to feel the motion and induce vertigo(I've experienced no nausea though). Pushed farther, I could mimic the feeling of being on those rocking ship rides to the point where my body felt like it needed to flip due to gravity. It's really an interesting feeling all together.”

      I thought I was the only one. I’ve done the same thing: Imagining rocking boats and swings. I do that often. I actually enjoy it most just as I’m falling asleep.

      If I’ve got a fan blowing on me, I imagine I’m on some kind of slowly spinning ride.

      1. Dragmire says:

        I do it as I fall asleep as well, love dreaming of superman style flying as a result. Too bad though, I thought it may help people who experience discomfort from things like motion sickness.


        As an experienced skier, I wonder at how I would react to a skiing game with the Oculus. The headset itself reminds me of skiing goggles, with the ability to head track for camera control, it could be a very neat experience. I normally avoid all types of sports games but maybe this would be different.

        Another interesting meditation exercise is to sit down and hold your hands in front of you(elbows bent approx 90 degrees), palms facing each other. Now, close your eyes and imagine a ball or balloon in the empty space between your hands. Now imagine that object expanding and try to softly bring your hands closer to each other.
        If this exercise worked then you should feel a resistance from this non object. Opening your eyes or rotating your hands so they don’t face each other also dissipates the illusion. I’m not sure why this works but it can be fun or at least interesting to try.

      2. Patrick the Donut Bane says:

        I actually was on a ship that rocked back and forth. It gets old. And the stench of 200 sweaty sailors negates any benefit of the relaxing rocking motion.

  50. Zerotime says:

    While playing Burial At Sea ep. 2 I almost whited out and fainted during the icepick lobotomy scene right at the end, but I think that was a combination of standing very still in a warm room with no air circulation for too long rather than something with the actual game.

  51. Chris Davies says:

    Stacking. Stacking on the PC made me physically sick.

    It’s designed for consoles, and the 10-ish hertz screen flashing they use to simulate old low speed projectors is horrible when it’s right in your face.

    Basically made the game unplayable for me.

  52. WWWebb says:

    The only game that’s made my physically nauseous is Wolfenstein 3D. I don’t know if it was the weird animation of turning in pseudo-3D or all the walls covered with swastikas.

  53. Kalil says:

    I get carpal tunnel flareups from extremely clicky games, like Diablo II and SMAC.
    Sadly, those are also some of my very favorite games, so… I suffer through it.

  54. Doug Sundseth says:

    I’ve had occasional problems with almost any FPS, and worse problems watching other people play FPSs. The trigger seems mostly to be a large monitor, so that most of my FoV is the game. This seems to provide enough cognitive dissonance that I start to get motion sick.

    One trick that I sometimes use is to hang a string near the center of the monitor, so that the game starts to look more to my brain like an abstract rather than an experience.

  55. Chris says:

    Interesting that you bring up this topic. Yesterday I finally played “The Stanley Parable” for the first time on my PC. Loved the game but couldn’t handle more than an hour before I absolutely had to stop. Its actually the worst a game has made me motion sick.
    Since I played both Portal and Portal 2 on the PS2 with only minor issues not too long ago, either I’ve gotten waaay more sensitive or the monitor really impacted how badly the game affected me. Mind you I get a headache if I spend five minutes watching the 3D Televisions at Best Buy..

    ..at this point I don’t think you could pay me enough to try the Occulus Rift.

  56. Sean Mattox says:

    The only game to ever do this to me was STALKER, due I think to an extremely exaggerated sideways wobble as you walked (IIRC it felt like you were ping ponging back and forth over a 60 degree arc). I lasted about all of fifteen minutes of the nauseating experience, and that only because it was a new sensation and I didn’t understand what was happening. It was disappointing, as I’d heard so many good things about the game.

  57. Rack says:

    Assault Rigs was my poison, I couldn’t even be in the same room as it. I think it’s because it was the first game I’d played that updated at 60 fps and the smoothness felt really really wrong to me.

  58. Entwisle says:

    In Portal, the first time I saw the back of Chell’s head I almost threw up, I’m not sure if it was the perspective or the weird angle I’d put the portal on. But I got over it pretty quickly (under a minute).

    Moderate periods (around 15 minutes) of playing playing early 3D games also made me queasy and gave me a pounding headache if I continued. Wolfenstein and Birthright:The Gorgon’s Alliance both had 1st person graphics that looked like the walls were sliding whenever you turned. I’m pretty sure that playing either of them on a VR setup would get me to hurl pretty much immediately.

  59. Zalzabar says:

    Mirror’s Edge. Normally it wouldn’t have been an issue, but I decided to marathon it on release day (and get the achievement for not shooting anyone the whole game so there was a whole bunch of death). And too this day I can’t look that that color scheme without getting queasy.

  60. Zaxares says:

    Half-Life 2 made me sick for some reason. I couldn’t play the game in stretches for more than an hour without feeling quite ill. I’m guessing it had something to do with the FOV, although I completed the game before then so I never looked more into it.

  61. Disc says:

    The only physical reaction I’ve ever gotten and get from 3D games is the very occasional and brief stomach tinge when falling unexpectedly from a great distance and with relatively fast speed. Used to get it more often when I was younger, but these days it only really happens if the falling happens by surprise. It happens mostly in first-person games, but third person games can pull it off sometimes too.

  62. lurkey says:

    Amnesia: Dark Descent towards its end gave me a faint dull ache somewhere in the chest region for 3 or 4 days. Could be psychosomatic, though, because that game.

  63. Avatar says:

    I had a buddy, name of Pocky, who just could not handle first-person shooters. Even stuff like Halo would be too much for him. Just the perception of spinning gave him trouble. There were a couple games I beat for him so he could see the ending… (oh, he couldn’t play them, but he still bought them!)

  64. Mephane says:

    Just a bit of personal curiosity here, but have any games ever made you sick?

    Warframe on my 6 year old computer, in the Orokin Derelict levels, with bloom effects activated. The combination of low framerates, bright colorful glowing things everywhere and the generally extremely fast pace of the game made me feel motion sick, until I turned bloom off and I was fine.

    Now on a brand new computer, at a constant 60 fps, the issue is entirely gone. It was not the first time I experienced this, I believe I am a bit sensitive to rapid motion at low framerates (e.g. <30).

  65. X2Eliah says:


    Half-Life 2 (and by extension, the Portal games) have a tendency to make me a bit dizzy and quite queasy after about an hour of playing, sometimes even less. It’s just something about the way HL2’s engine displays perspective, or maybe about how it handles movement, that makes me really ill.

    Beyond that, hmm. Can’t really think of any other game I’ve had motion-sickness (simulation-sickness?) from..
    Oh, wait. Gone Home was also a bit strange, but it didn’t have a long game-time or rapid movement, so I could manage it. But it did stir Motion Sickness up a bit.

  66. Torsten says:

    I have noticed that Minecraft of all games causes me a little bit of motion sickness. I’m guessing it is the fairly fast movement and narrow field of view, even changing the FOV to maximum does not prevent it.

  67. OriBiggie says:

    Once upon a time, when it first came out, HalfLife 2 and the damn hovercraft made me feel awful. I’d never experienced anything like it before. It sucked, I was so hyped for that game! The rest of the game was fine.

    Now though, absolutely any FPS played with a mouse. I attribute it to having got used to the movement when using a controller over the times when I didn’t have a PC to play FPSs.

    I can’t watch other people play FPS either (which means often, no spoiler warning for me). Same effect.

  68. Peter H. Coffin says:

    Never ever had a problem with a video game inducing illness due to motion. But that doesn’t seem a thing I’m prone to, in general. Cruise ship in 10 m seas, and 1/3 of the crew turning green and hiding in their bunks? No problem. Jet liners running through thunderstorms? Fun. But I’ve also get two decades of stereography as a hobby, and 3D movies I watch that way for preference even though most directors couldn’t z-space their way out of an open paper bag. The only time I’ve ever gotten close to motion sick is at a public park that had a mostly-enclosed spinning rocketship thing that I spent most of an hour going around and around in without paying much attention to the outside world at all. But I was about ten at the time and it could have been just a greasy hamburger for lunch.

  69. SteveDJ says:

    You already mentioned that, at least for you, VR sickness was not like motion sickness (seasickness), which was going to be my theory.

    But, I still have to wonder — would taking Dramamine (or other motion sickness medication) prevent the problem?

  70. 4th Dimension says:

    The only game that made me quezzy was Need For Speed: Underground and primarily in drag racing mode I think. I think it was a combination of flashing lights, small FOV and lot’s and lot’s motion blur.

  71. BenD says:

    I just this week started playing (er, trying to play) GTA IV. I found steering the cars to be complete and utter misery in third person (I haven’t ever played any GTA or Saints Row or similar urban-driving-whatever games) so I gave the in-car camera view a try.

    I don’t get motion sick in real cars, but that in-car camera view was a quick ticket to Green Gills, Liberty City. Ugh.

  72. nm says:

    Yes, descent makes me sick. So does Doom. Many FPSs do it, particularly with certain engines. I couldn’t play Fallout 3 for more than 10 minutes at a time.

    I’ve been told it’s got something to do with peripheral vision and view angle. When I say view angle, I don’t mean the angle at which I’m looking at the screen; it’s the angle you can see through the screen. If the camera shows me 90 degrees worth of stuff going on, and things move in a first-person-y way, I’m likely to feel terrible after playing for a little while. Increase that to 110 or 120 degrees, and things are usually just fine.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t get motion sick. I can watch Imax movies just fine, I can read (as a passenger) in the car, and I have yet to meet a roller coaster that was too much for me. (Though when they replaced the cars on Superman at Six Flags NE, they destroyed the ride. Note to roller coaster designers: do not put speakers directly behind your riders’ heads and blare noise at them for the entire ride.)

    I used to think it was low frame rates, but I’ve never had trouble with a game that was not first person. So that’s probably not it.

  73. Malimar says:

    There’s this one level in Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy. The sand worm level. My least favorite level. I almost always skip it. Last time I didn’t have the sense to skip it, last time I tried it, was also among the only times I’ve physically vomited in recent memory.

    In other news, I’ve got friends who play FPSs and Minecraft on huge high-def TVs, and whenever I watch them at that, I get nauseated and have to stop watching. The same types of games are fine on smaller screens.

  74. Patrick the Donut Bane says:

    The real danger of VR would be contracting a virus through a package given to you by a strange, tall, thin Aleutian island native that brings upon a real life catatonic state. An event that begins a cascade of events that nearly begins the 4th world war, the enslavement of all mankind, but is ultimately foiled by a wisecracking delivery girl on a skateboard and a 60 year old gangster.

    So yea….please stay the )&)(@*&# out of VR. I don’t want to wind up living in a storage unit delivering pizza for a living.

  75. Blackbird71 says:

    Last year, EVE Online implemented a new animation that plays when transitioning between regions of space – a sort of twisty tunnel in space clouds with flashing lights. Several players reported getting quite sick because of it (there’s a 90+ page thread in the forums that’s been running over a year discussing it and requesting a change).

    Personally, it only gave me mild nausea, but it did seem to give me a few headaches (though I’m prone to migraines to begin with).

  76. thebob288 says:

    Dead island gave me migraines not in the “oh this game is so bad” way I would play it for more than a couple hours and get serious pain in my eyes and head and thats something I’ve never had from any other video game I had to return it to the store because I literally could not play it anymore. Never had a problem with any game previously or since.

  77. Rosewire says:

    Some (but not all) FPS’s get me motion sick. Its extremely frustrating, ’cause the ones that I really want to play tend to be the ones that get me. And I never know if it’ll hit me or not till I try it.

  78. Iunnrais says:

    Hey Shamus, have you tried what they’re calling “comfort mode” FPS movement yet? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gp0eMNSVtZA#t=29

    I don’t have a rift myself, but people are saying that it pretty much fixes the FPS movement problem.

  79. Neko says:

    After a few hours of Descent I could feel that some part of my brain, presumably the bits that interpret the 3D environment, had just gotten a big workout – but no nausea.

    Bioshock absolutely gave me nausea, until I found hacks to boost the FoV and kill the doubled-up mouse acceleration curves. Likewise, lengthy Borderlands 1 sessions would give me a headache until I found a workaround for the FoV.

    I also can’t really watch my buddy play a lot of console games. Obviously a big part of it is not being in control of the camera, but also I find that the camera lurches around a lot more thanks to the thumbstick controls.

  80. Asimech says:

    Any game that has a lot of zooming in and out. For example I had to stop playing Xcom 2012 because the zooming at the base, and to lesser degree in the missions, was giving me motion sickness. I think that if I intentionally kept it would get to nausea, but it already got so uncomfortable that playing at all felt impossible.

    I also vaguely remember a game that managed to get me straight to nausea, but I can’t remember any details about the game just the sensation and that I played very little of it.

    There’s another type of “feeling ill” that I get from games with flicker of flashing effects, like the one in Thief 2014, that isn’t really motion sickness. Rather it’s a feeling of unease that prevents me from focusing on anything properly. Sort of a mixture of eyes hurting, headache and motion sickness, only distinctly different from all of them.

    I get a mix of “zoom sickness” and “flicker feeling” when a game rapidly does a “transparent object flies away from the camera while becoming opaque” effect. The full-screen change ends up giving a flicker-type effect while the changing size causes the zoom effect.

    Also trying the 3DS at a store for around a minute made my eyes blur for several seconds.

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