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Games Causing Motion Sickness: Should developers take note?

Recently one of this generations most anticipated RPGS, CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077 boldly announced it would be entirely first person. What followed was a surge of backlash from fans across the world but why?

RPG’s are often thought of as being made in third person perspective for example Dragon Age Inquisition, Mass Effect and another of CD Projekt Red’s titles – Witcher 3.

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Dragon Age Inquisition

Some even have a choice of perspective like Skyrim and Fallout 4.

Many of these games feature main campaigns over 40 hours long and full completion can take over 100 hours.

So, when people became enraged at the thought of Cyberpunk 2077 being first person the general consensus was that the reason consumers were annoyed was down to personal taste.

On further inspection however, many people seemed concerned due to one key factor – motion sickness.

So, what is motion sickness?

Whilst motion sickness is most commonly thought of as being triggered by being in a car or a boat many people also feel it playing video games.

According to Dr Mary Lowth motion sickness is caused by: “repeated unusual movements, which send strong, sometimes confusing signals to the balance and position sensors in the brain.”

In the case of a game these repeated unusual movements would be what you see on screen for example the bobbing up and down of a character as they walk or movement of a gun.

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Metro 2033

A low field of view can also contribute alongside motion blur all of which were introduced to make games more immersive but for some people they have made games unplayable.

As it can be any sort of repeated movement motion sickness doesn’t just effect players of first person games – it can even effect third person.

Players often feel sick and experience nausea, sweating, headaches and can even feel weak.

What’s worse is these symptoms can persist for hours or even a day or two after being severely affected.

How does it affect people?

One popular YouTuber who is often affected by motion sickness in games is MadqueenShow.

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MadqueenShow

When asked about what she experiences she said: “I feel really dizzy and need to lay down.

“On occasions of stubbornness, when I really wanted to finish a game, I almost fainted and threw up.

“This not only happens with shooters, also with slow paced games like survival horror.”

For her and many others it’s incredibly frustrating not being able to play games you’d love to play.

One game that was especially hard on her was Alien Isolation: “I’m a huge fan of Alien. Sometimes I go back to the games I couldn’t finish a while after, to try to finish them slowly, this totally breaks immersion. I like to focus on one game until I finish it, but at least I can learn how the story ends.”

MadqueenShow also explained how games recently are often made with two different paces: “moments of crazy action and moments of rest in between with cut scenes or loading screens, like the DOOM and Wolfenstein remakes which gives moments of rest.”

However, in other, more RPG oriented games where levels are longer like Dishonoured she said: “It’s very frustrating as I need to stop in the middle of the level and it totally breaks immersion.

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Dishonoured 2

“Sometimes I have no other choice but to lower the difficulty of a game to make levels shorter in duration and avoid pauses which means the game is not challenging enough and becomes too easy.

“I end up having to choose between challenge and immersion.”

Many people have issues with specific parts of a game for her this could be: “The very specific lighting of some scenes. Often, I need to ask for help from someone else to finish it so I can move forward.

“It happened to me recently, in Wolfenstein II, in the non-actions scenes inside the submarine that are simple to complete, but just walking around this location made me sick.”

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Wolfenstein: The New Order

It can be upsetting for many players when they voice concerns over first person perspectives and often they aren’t seen as ‘hard-core’ or ‘real’ gamers as a result.

Speaking about this issue MadqueenShow said: “I guess it’s so hard to understand because of people’s lack of empathy and because people are very used to avoiding things that make them feel uncomfortable so it’s difficult to understand why someone would do things in spite of having difficulties.”

Discussing the issues surrounding Cyberpunk she said: “When Cyberpunk 2077 was announced, the co-founder of CD Projekt, Marcin Iwiński said the game would allow players to choose between first and third person.

“Later on, we learned the project grew and players were expecting to have more options, not less. Besides, RPGs are the safe haven for people with motion sickness, the biggest AAA RPGs allow you to choose the perspective and players are used to that.

“In my opinion, the core mechanic of an RPG is your ability to choose things, dialogues, approaches… so players feel restrained if you can’t choose the most basic gameplay feature of a game in a genre based on choosing.

“A lot of players are afraid that the first person shooting part of Cyberpunk 2077 will be more prominent than the RPG part, and were expecting a strong and robust RPG.

“Some lost their interest in the game because they automatically associate first person with action shooters.

“It’s very hard to fight against these prejudgements but at the same time, the best way to fight against them is to show that what’s possible.”

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CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077

MadqueenShow knows many other fellow gamers who also suffer from motion sickness and stated it’s different in every person.

She had many writing to her after watching gameplay of Cyberpunk 2077 who were already feeling dizzy – even those who generally weren’t often affected.

Many sufferers develop their own way of playing like moving the camera slowly and so watching someone else play a game can often make people feel nauseous.

Some people know to steer clear from these games altogether.

Looking to the future and if developers should take more notice MadqueenShow said: “They have specific QA testing to avoid epileptic reactions and I think it would be a great if they took into account motion sickness.

“The main difficulty in the case of motion sickness when developing a game is that all cases are different, it’s very hard to find a set of things to avoid that works for everybody.

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CD Projekt Red’s Witcher 3

“It would help a lot if this issue was deeply investigated. ”

CD Projekt RED is actively asking the community in their official Cyberpunk 2077 forums to work on solutions for motion sickness in Cyberpunk 2077.

However in some cases it can also be beneficial to speak to or hire and expert on this MadqueenShow said: “I guess for the meantime devs are busy enough trying to deliver great games to hire an expert that could give them extra work.

“Games are works of art and artistic vision is on the top of the development pyramid.

“But as much as they’re art, they’re also interactive and they need a set of things to make this interaction comfortable for players but I’m not sure how willing devs would be to make sacrifices to their artistic vision.”

So how can people limit the effects?

Taking short breaks and sips of water have proved effective for some, whilst others recommend sitting up properly and being further away from the screen in a well-lit room.

Many games now offer customisable settings to turn off things like motion blur and head bobbing as seen in Grand Theft Auto 5.

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Grand Theft Auto 5

It’s also advisable that if games have the option to toggle crosshairs on and off to keep them on to help you focus better.

Chewing gum has even been known to help some players and elevate the head bob seen on screen as they chew.

There are also various options on the market and a good one to try would be travel sickness bands.

Of course, there are various medications available too but players should use these and any type of medication with caution as some can cause some nasty side effects.

For more information of motion sickness you can visit the NHS website.

You can find MadqueenShow on YouTube here.

To check out the latest on Cyberpunk 2077 you can view the official website.

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