What Game Developers Do To Reduce Cybersickness

The biggest drawback to Virtual Reality is Cybersickness. I have felt sick when playing FPS games even without VR! So you can imagine how much harder it is for me to play an FPS in VR.

Causes of Cybersickness

Feeling dizzy while playing a game is normal, it happens because what our eyes see is not reflecting what our body is doing.

As a kid i remember playing Goldeneye on my N64 and feeling sick. It happened because my brain would see running and landscapes moving but feel no movement whatsoever.

In short our brain’s sense of balance goes haywire!

Virtual Reality is particularly likely to cause Cybersickness because it is easier to have your VR hardware or software fail on you. And i don’t mean a game crash but simply be too slow to keep up with your movement.

Reducing Cybersickness Through Subtle Game Screen Reductions

There have been plenty of studies regarding Motion Sickness in the past, and while VR can’t cause Motion Sickness per se, Cybersickness is caused by the same factors.

The easiest way to deal with Motion Sickness is reducing the view of the person who is feeling sick. Basically blocking your peripheral vision.

If you ever felt sick during a road trip then you probably remember your parents telling you to look at something distant. This makes you forget about your peripheral vision for a while and focus on slow moving objects.

Researchers at the Columbia University believe they have found a solution to Cybersickness. They have been experimenting with subtle reductions on the field of view while players move.

In their demos, as players move around the map the edges of the screen get blacked ever so slightly. The idea is that the removing the player’s peripheral vision will eliminate the dizziness and doing it slowly will make the player unaware of it.

Making it subtle is important because if it’s too obvious it would ruin the experience. Take the Fake Nose for instance, in that experiment there was a fake nose added to the screen.

The idea was that our brains would have the nose as a reference and reduce Cybersickness. While it sounds silly it actually reported possitive results, the problem however was the fact that it was so evident and silly people can’t enjoy the experience.

Imagine playing Resident Evil in VR with a silly fake nose in the middle of your screes…

However the research on Screen Reduction seems very promising, and it might just be the missing link into fixing VR’s biggest downfall… I look forward to dizzy less VR experiences in the future.

Image Credit Benjamin Linh Vu


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