You finally brought home your new VR headset, and you rushed to your computer (or PS4) like a kid on Christmas morning to set it up. Naturally, you jumped into a game and started playing. But 10-30 minutes into your first VR session, it was already too late; motion sickness had arrived to ruin your fun!
Motion sickness is a common thing for people who aren’t accustomed to mixed signals acting on their inner ear while receiving information from multiple sources of motion. Simply put: If you’re experiencing motion sickness, it’s because your inner ear can’t tell whether you’re moving or not moving. Luckily, there are some things you can do to alleviate the symptoms of motion sickness or even delay it from occurring in the first place.
1. Run or Walk In Place
Running or walking in place is a way to tell your inner ear that you’re moving the same way that the rest of your virtual “body” is moving. It’s a simple gesture that also helps you burn loads of calories while you play. And it makes artificial movement in games such as Rec Royale feel more natural.
Be warned though: This trick works best when you’re simulating smooth motion in an open gameplay space. A prime example here would be a game like Skyrim VR, OrbusVR, Rec Room, or Pavlov VR. This is why I always plug Natural Locomotion whenever possible. It’s a piece of software which you can find on Steam that lets you activate artificial motion in VR games by pumping your arms; a tactic for fighting motion sickness that goes well with running in place. It absolutely deserves a shout-out here.
Tip: If you run or walk in place while your avatar is standing still, you’ll obviously get more exercise—but it may not alleviate any motion sickness you’re experiencing. If you’re dealing with motion sickness in a stationary game, you’re probably dealing with game performance issues. Read below for more info.
2. Err in Favor of Stationary Games, Snap Turns and Teleportation
VR has plenty of excellent games that are built around small areas embodied by the exact size of your playspace. SUPERHOT, BOXVR, Beat Saber and The Thrill of the Fight are perfect examples of stationary games that generally won’t induce motion sickness, because there’s no artificial motion to speak of.
But stationary games also have one major thing in common: a fixed point of reference.
Additionally, many free-movement games have locomotion settings that allow you to teleport around the game world. Generally speaking, games that offer teleportation and narrowed vision settings tend to be easier on your stomach if you’re prone to motion sickness.
Even if you’re playing a free-motion game that doesn’t offer teleportation, such as Onward, Echo Arena or Pavlov, you can still use snap-turning. While not as helpful for fending off motion sickness, snap-turning should make the experience of turning artificially in VR less jarring for you.
3. Play Games With Smooth Motion for Small Periods Each Day
Start small. Run around inside of your game of choice with smooth motion turned on. If you’re feeling extra bold, turn on smooth-turning and use the full range of artificial motion available to you.
Note that you don’t want to let yourself hit the point of no return (by reaching a state of motion sickness) each time. Instead, enable smooth controls for whatever limited amount of time that you’re able to withstand playing around in VR without reaching a point where you’re getting sick. Again, once you’re sick, then there’s no going back. But if you train yourself to get used to artificial motion in VR, you’ll increase your tolerance until VR play is second nature.
4. Take Supplements That Fight Motion Sickness
There are a few food items and supplements you can ingest to fight motion sickness. Here are some recommendations:
If you’ve flown on planes often, then you might know that people who experience motion sickness during the landing procedure are traditionally told to chew mint-flavored chewing gum.
You can use the same logic when approaching motion sickness in VR. A mint-flavored candy or stick of chewing gum should help you feel better when you’ve induced motion sickness. You can also use mint as a preventative measure to ward off motion sickness before it strikes.
2. Ginger Root
Like mint, ginger root is a world-famous digestive aid that helps with motion sickness. You can take it in the form of candy or ginger ale, but make sure that you’re getting real ginger. Ginger “flavoring” won’t cut it for aiding against motion sickness.
Tip: You can also get a healthy dosage of ginger from tablets that contain ginger root.
This antihistamine is best used for fighting nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. All of which are symptoms of motion sickness. Here’s a list of side-effects and general precautions to look out for when you’re eyeing up the Dramamine bottles at the local pharmacy.
5. If You’re on PC VR: Optimize Your PC Performance
Sometimes, your experience in a VR game is determined by the horsepower of the system you’re using to run it. This means that, at least on PC VR, you’ll need to tweak your graphics settings in each game to keep things running smoothly. This can be partially explained by the fact that each of your VR games is rendering at 2k across multiple displays.
As a rule of thumb, overloading your system with overly high graphics settings that it can’t actually handle at a 2k resolution on two simultaneous ‘eyes’ will cause your game to run at a framerate below the “minimum” 60 frames per second required for a smooth experience. When in doubt, turn off Supersampling (SSAA) and decrease the graphical settings in your game, where available, until it stops being jittery.
6. Hunt Down an Omnidirectional Treadmill
We’ve always dreamed of playing VR games with one of the fancy new omnidirectional treadmills that are trickling into the market. Generally, they don’t come cheap—but if you have the cash (and the patience), they offer the most immersion possible. Be prepared, however, to do more homework than hopping over to a digital shopping cart and clicking ‘buy’.
Most omnidirectional treadmills are still in the early phase of their consumer rollouts. You might have to send some emails to relevant PR people just to get your hands on one of these in a backroom product demo. However, the tradeoffs between thumbsticks and a fully realized omnidirectional treadmill should be apparent here. Since an omnidirectional treadmill is activated by your legs and feet, in-game motion won’t feel nearly as artificial as if you were using a thumbstick to move around.
Motion sickness affects almost 80% of people who try VR. Beyond hurting your own experience, there’s no doubt that motion sickness is hurting the accessibility of VR for many other people who hope to join you. That said, it may be useful to pay attention to some of the resources I’ve listed above.
How do you fight VR-induced motion sickness? Please let us know in the comments.