One of the main complaints I see from people new to VR is motion sickness. Below I’ll explain why this is common and go over my tips to avoid getting sick when playing VR.
Why Motion Sickness Happens in VR
Motion sickness happens in VR for most of the same reasons it happens in real life. When your eyes signal to your brain that it’s moving and and your other organs (ears, muscles, joints, etc.) signals to your brain that it’s not, that causes motion sickness for many people.
How do you prevent this from happening? Here are some tips.
1) Play Less Intense Games
I’ve only had a few apps in VR that I’ve had to stop playing because I got motion sick.
- Dash Dash World: It’s a first-person Mario Kart clone. And when I started doing loops in the track I had to take the headset off and stop playing.
- WarPlanes: WWI Fighters: It’s a flight simulation game using WWI style aircraft. Enough to make you feel sick when you start doing flips.
- YouTube VR: Most 360° YouTube videos are pretty great. But, if it’s shot at a low framerate and there’s a lot of camera movement it can be a terrible experience.
Some people don’t have as strong a stomach as I do when it comes to VR. There are games with a lot of motion like Echo VR that I personally do fine with (it’s my favorite VR workout game), but that I’ve seen others have problems with. You’ll have to find what amount of motion in VR you can take.
That said, there are plenty of awesome experiences in VR that don’t have a heck of a lot of motion (so you won’t get motion sick playing them). Here are a few of my personal favorites.
- The Wander App: This lets you experience Google Street View in VR (something you should check out).
- Watch Movies in VR: We need the resolution of headsets to get a little better. But, pretty soon VR is going to be the ideal way to watch 2D and 3D movies.
- Work in VR: Again the resolution needs to improve, but VR will be a fantastic monitor replacement in a few years time.
- Walkabout mini golf: This is an epic mini golf experience and I doubt you feel motion sick playing it.
- Moss: I’m not even sure how to explain this game. They basically built a Legend of Zelda type experience in 3d.
There are so many more I didn’t list. Not every VR experience requires a ton of motion. It’s entirely possible to enjoy VR even if you easily become motion sick.
2) Increase The Frame Rate
I have an entire post about the optimal frames per second for virtual reality video (higher is better).
Why does the frame rate impact motion sickness?
Long story short, a lower frame rate means more motion blur. Motion blur will signal to your brain that things are moving fast. Which might add to feeling motion sick.
Where you’ll notice this the most if when you’re watching 180° and 360° YouTube content. If somebody filmed with a non-stationary 360 camera at 24 fps, the resulting video will be hard to watch. Look for 60fps video with a mostly stationary camera and it’ll magically be dramatically easier to consume.
3) Treat it Like Normal Motion Sickness
VR motion sickness is motion sickness. It’s the same thing.
So I’d treat it the same as the CDC recommends for handling motion sickness.
Which is largely to avoid drugs and alcohol. If you feel sick close your eyes (or take your headset off), lie down, get some fresh air / water, etc. There are some more intense remedies out there like specific medications, but maybe just play less intense games if this is a major problem for you?
The thing to remember about VR motion sickness is you can just take the headset off. Lie down. Get some air. It’s not like being stuck on a bus. It’s not something you have to do.
4) Get Your “VR Legs”
The more you play VR the easier more intense VR experiences will get. I don’t know if this is good or bad for you, but your brain gets used to it over time. You will be able to do more extreme things in VR a few months from now than you can today.
My first month playing VR every new game made me feel exhausted and I was sleeping like 10 hours a day. That slowly went away. Now I can play an hour of Echo at night for exercise and I feel fine the next day.
5) Upgrade Headsets / Computers
VR is still in its infancy. Any headset released before 2022 probably used a cheap LCD panel, with cheap fresnel lenses, and a cheap internal processor.
And I’m not saying that buying more expensive gear will solve motion sickness (it won’t, that’s why this is listed last). That said, new and better gear can likely get you a clearer picture and more frames per second. And that actually would help to reduce the motion sickness a little bit.
Remember VR is in its infancy. Prior to 2022 most headsets were maxing out at 60fps, and even if they went higher not all games, internal chips, or external graphics cards could hit those frame rates. This will improve with new hardware over time.