How to avoid motion sickness or nausea in games?

Recently I revived my interest in X-Plane, a 64-bit flight simulator for Windows. I’m having great fun with it, but it’s making me feel a tad … light-headed. It doesn’t rise to the level of nausea; I have no trouble eating or anything. But often I do feel a wee bit lightheaded (not sure it rises to the level of “dizzy”) after simming. It’s not a huge thing. I feel it more in my head than in my stomach, and it’s not really disabling or anything, so I’m not sure if it’s motion sickness or what. Do you guys have suggestions on how to mitigate this? Here are some ideas I’ve read:

  1. Decrease the field of view. Does this help? This theory maintains that it’s better to have a narrow field of view. I’m using two payware planes (Carenado’s Cessna Caravan and Beechcraft Bonanza F33A) that have relatively wide fields of view. But darn it, it’s so much easier to see with a wide field.

  2. Use TrackIR. Or don’t. Interestingly, the last time I was obsessed with flight-sims (2 years ago), I did use TrackIR, and I don’t remember any lightheadedness issues. This time I have NOT been using TrackIR, and I am getting a bit of lightheadedness. So today I may actually resume with TrackIR to see if somehow that improves things. I very much doubt it, but I suppose it’s worth a try. (And no, I don’t own an Oculus.)

  3. Increase or decrease frame rate. One line of thinking says a slideshow is actually easier on the brain, as it doesn’t simulate fluid motion as well. Another line of thinking says no, hitches are what mess you up. My framerate is usually quite good (40 FPS or more), as I have a nice video card (GTX 980), though my CPU is old and definitely limits framerates.

  4. Lock the frame rate, or cap it. Or not. X-Plane advises not do to this, for performance reasons, so I have not locked the frame rate. Maybe I should?

  5. Do something with monitor refresh rate. I’m not sure how to do this.

  6. Use a bigger monitor. Or a smaller one. I use a 30-inch monitor. Too big?

  7. Turn off “cinema verite’”, the incidental motion of the cockpit in air. Or leave it on. I mostly have it off, but turning it on is more realistic and doesn’t seem to make things worse.

  8. Make joystick inputs more sensitive. Or less. Bigger dead zone. Or smaller. I dunno!

  9. Stop flight simming and get back to the dozens of games in my backlog, not to mention terrific games like Offworld Trading Company. Yeah, yeah, this is the smart thing to do. But periodically I get obsessed with flight-simming, and I have to quench the thirst before I move on.

Any thoughts on all this?

I am the worst sufferer of this phenomenon on this board, I’d bet. I can’t play Half Life I or II at all. I get it from extended time with Skyrim, I get it even from playing MMOs sometimes. It sucks, because I don’t get motion sick at sea, and can ride any rollercoaster and not feel anything but exhilaration and not nausea. Weird.

A couple of things to cope.

  1. Never play in a dark room. It helps to be able to not lock in on the screen so much.

  2. Frame rates and FOV (field of view) are both big helps. The standard FOV in Borderlands is so bad that I can maybe manage 10 minutes at a time before I feel ill. FOV certainly helps. If you’re consistently above 30 FPS, you should be fine on framerates.

  3. Get your eyes checked. Seriously, this was a huge help for me. If your eyesight has slipped a little (in my case, developing some mild far-sightedness to go with my astigmatism) getting new glasses makes a big difference. You don’t realize how much you’re squinting in and locking in on the monitor because of eyesight compensation until you don’t need to do it anymore, and it makes your head hurt a lot less.

  4. For gosh sakes, get rid of stuff they put in games for cinema verite. Head bob? You gotta be kidding me. Whomever invented that can go straight to hell.

I’ve only ever been motion sick from one series of games: Dead Island and Dying Light (on PC). The first time I played Dead Island I wasn’t even aware of what was going on, so I continued to play as I got more and more sick. Finally I realized what was happening and at that point it took two hours for the nausea to go away. Not fun.

For me, what seems to trigger my motion sickness is:

  1. FOV set too low. Increasing FOV has helped me stave off motion sickness a bit in Dying Light.

  2. Swaying camera movement that I’m not in control of. When I started feeling queasy again playing Dying Light, I started trying to pay attention to determine what was triggering it, since I’ve played FPS games since Wolfenstein and have always been fine. Turns out, even when I’m just standing still and holding a weapon, the camera has this constant sway/tilt going left and right. Constantly. Combine that all the ridiculous camera movement and lurching every time you open a container or smack a zombie, and that resulted in my wanting to blow chunks after an hour or so.

So, for me, increasing the FOV is a big help. Other than that, anything I can do to eliminate or reduce camera sway / head bob. The cockpit sway you mention sounds like something similar to what triggers it in me.

I’m not expert on the subject, but that’s just my personal anecdotal experience of dealing with the issue recently.

I get this as well, nausea and headache from time to time. Games like Mount & Blade with its wide FOV and quick shifts of view can make my entire day become horrible from headaches. Weirdly, its not always, and I suspect light level, sugar levels and so on has an impact on this. For me, the trick is if I start to get this, I stop immediately and wait some time before playing that particular game again. Sucks, but thats the only option that works for me.

For some reason I tend to get a bit of “motion sickness” from the palette/art-style in the some games.

Especially bad are games with “cartoon” style graphics, such as XIII and Borderlands. Haven’t done enough ‘testing’ to track it down to what in particular causes it though.

I remember having no problems playing Wolfenstein / Doom back in the days with the old CRT-screens flickering away at 60Hz or w.e… and then Quake, but when I tried to play Wolfenstein again in the Quake ‘era’ I would feel light headed very quickly.

Mount and Blade is easily one of the worst. Instant0, I don’t think it’s the cel-shaded palette in Borderlands. It’s that crazy tunnel-vision FOV. That game is another big offender.

My wife gets this really badly with games. She takes ginger root and Tylenol about a half hour or so before starting. For the first couple days, she can only play for an hour or so. If she sticks with one title, within a week she can play for long stretches, even without the ginger root. I assume her brain acclimatizes.

What’s worked for me in the past is to increase the distance between me and my monitor. I’ve got a 24" monitor that I normally sit about 25" or so from. Backing up gives me (or my inner ear?) a much larger visual reference that I’m not really moving, and makes it less likely I’ll get motion sick from playing. I was having big issues with the “new” Tomb Raider game, and I ended up switching to our family room TV (55" TV roughly 7 feet from couch) and I didn’t have any problems after that.

I have also noticed that I build up a tolerance to the effect similar to nijimeijer’s wife. I found that I couldn’t play Half Life for longer than 30-60 minutes when I first began, but after a week or two I could play for something like 90-120 minutes.

I’ve learned to check whether games allow FOV adjustment before I buy them. With a wide FOV and head-bob toggled off, I am fine. Without those adjustments, any number of games become unplayable for me.

Thanks for the replies. I sit quite far from my 30-inch monitor – five feet away, typically. But I do think I should try increasing the FOV on my simulator.

Still wondering whether TrackIR might actually help. As I mentioned, I used it a couple years ago, and I don’t recall having motion-sickness trouble at all. But aging can contribute to vulnerability to motion sickness, or so I read…

One simple thing you can do is to put some sort of dot overlay on the game, like crosshairs in fps games for example. It helps some people to have some point on their screen that their eyes can focus on.

I get this REALLY badly as well. FOV widening and no-bobbing help a bit, but some games remain nearly unplayable regardless. The Metro series seemed particularly bad when I tried to play this summer, for example,

It sucks because I haven’t been able to enjoy some very well rated games. It’s gotten to the point where I’m reluctant to try some FPS at all because I associate nausea with the genre :-(


I get this really bad sometimes too. There’s no real silver bullet. Some games are just unplayable. Games with lots of close walls and fast movement seem to be worse. Minecraft kills me. I had to lie down for an hour after playing Half Life 1 (or 2 even). Dead Space was pretty bad. I can’t even see videos Spyro The Dragon without wanting to hurl (admittedly there may be a mental component there…I had my worst bout of motion sickness ever after a long Spyro spree).

Some games have been so bad I’m ill for the rest of the evening. I played EDF2025 no problems in single player, and then when i tried split screen MP when a friend was round last and about 10 seconds of play set something off and I had to call the night quits and lay down.

Very low framerate is the worst offender, especially with lagged mouse view. Followed by viewbob and his cousin viewroll. FOV helps too of course.

Games like minecraft can be played in a window. I dont recall getting motion sickness from playing in a window (say 1/3 of screen), although thats not really a solution to FPS/cinematic/immersive games.

I managed to play Halo 3 and 3d games on my small TV in my bedroom when convalecsing without encountering the issues I have in front of my monitor or big TV. (console FPS are usually bad)

Brightness helps too, I generally play a few notches above recommended.

I generally don’t even bother to try first-person view games, as I get motion-sickness so bad from almost every one I’ve tried over the years. Although I was able to play Halo 1 & 2 without much problem. Others like Borderlands, Dead Island, Just Cause all made me deathly sick, but I can play Skyrim OK. Weird. I am starting to get up there in years, though, so that might be a contributing factor as well.

A lot of that is due to the speed of the character and the FOV. Halo 1 & 2 and Skyrim have really low movement speeds for the character, and also characteristically have low camera turn speeds as well. The head bob in Dead Island (and motion of the camera during the melee) and the gymnastics in Just Cause are likely just a bit too much for you. While my wife can play most FPS titles now with her ginger root treatment, some (like those you listed) are still too much for her. She has to be somewhat picky.

Far Cry 3 made me feel sick. I had to quit. I’ve been meaning to make another attempt. Anyone else have trouble with this one and figure out a way to fix it?

If you’re playing on the pc you can edit the config files to increase the fov but the game will still override it with its default setting for contextual actions like flipping switches on the radio towers, all driving sequences, etc. Gotta preserve that cinematic™ experience I guess.

Yes as in sick, no as in way to get through it.

Wow, a lot of us have this issue, it seems.

For what it’s worth, TrackIR does seem to be helping me in X-Plane. I’ve coupled it with a plugin called X-Cameras, which lets me choose static views (of instruments and such) so that I don’t have to try to click a jiggling switch. It may be that TrackIR’s visual feedback is better for my motion sickness, since it corresponds to head movements. Too early to tell for sure, though.