Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Queasy About the Future
As my parents could tell you, my childhood was full of queasy car rides. I suppose that makes me a typical case, as Web MD claims that kids between 5 and 12 are especially prone to motion sickness. As I've grown older, I have conquered the epic challenges of reading on a plane and sitting backwards on BART. However, every so often, I'll lose my sea legs, usually because of a video game.
Unlike my travel-induced motion sickness, my gaming-induced motion sickness has actually grown worse over the years. While the Wikipedia page has a suspicious lack of citations, the general consensus is that motion sickness is caused when your sense of motion and your sense of sight contradict each other. With the rise of first-person and 3D environments, an increasing number of games are showing me images that befuddle my sense of balance. In the old days of blocky, flat characters I didn't have to worry about camera speed or head bob. Now, even the most innocuous game can send me on an unwanted ride.
The most irritating thing about motion sickness is that I have no idea what games will trigger it. Stacking, a game I love, is one of the most recent games to get the best of me. Something about the speed at which the dolls scamper and the perspective shifts when entering new dolls makes me sweat. Conversely, I'm solid as a rock when playing Super Mario Galaxy 2, a game specifically devoted to dizzying challenges.
First person games are traditionally rough for those with motion sickness. Much to my dismay, I start to feel that familiar twinge in my stomach when playing Valve games. Maybe it's something about the Source engine or maybe it's just a leftover psychosomatic association from one bad experience, but everything from Left 4 Dead to Portal gives me a headache if I play for too long. Again, it's hard to find any rhyme or reason regarding which games will affect me: I've never had a problem with the frenetic Call of Duty or Halo games. Unlike many folks, I sprinted through Mirror's Edge quite comfortably.
Modern display technology also presents new and innovative ways of inducing vertigo. At its E3 press conference, Sony heavily promoted its 3D displays and made a point of highlighting all the games that utilized them. The Nintendo 3DS' premier feature turns the handheld into a mobile headache machine for many players. We just didn't have to worry about this stuff in the days of game cartridges and 19 inch CRT TVs.
It doesn't look like the foreseeable future will be getting any less turbulent. Technological advances and innovative game design will inevitably lead to dizzying new titles. I'm looking forward to such experiences, I just have to remember to stock up on gum and crack a window before I dive into Portal 2.
Give me an excuse to stare at stationary screen for few more minutes: What games give you spins and what do you do to combat them?