Quenching Queasy Gamers: 6 Games for Those with Motion Sickness

Growing up, I was always a romantic at heart. One day I would meet the woman of my dreams and we’d move to a nice little cottage in New Zealand with all the money I won in a Pokemon tournament. We would have two adorable babies named Zelda and Donkey Kong and each night before we go to bed, we’d all slip into our Star Fox jammies (the baby would be Slippy) and snuggle in a mushroom-shaped bed as we played the night away in a rousing game of Super Smash Bros. Then my children would grow up and find the Tri-Force because it was real all along!

Well, I just got married to the love of my life in the real world and my dreams have been dashed to pieces. This is because my wonderful wife, in a twist of fate crueler than that of pitiful Oedipus, suffers from simulation sickness.

At least I have my dreams.

Admittedly, I thought the nauseated look of my then fiance was all just an elaborate ruse to get out of watching me play the Playstation 1 Spyro trilogy for 12 hours. Well, it didn’t work! So as she was bedridden for a 9 days due to extreme nausea, I began to wonder if all her bellyaching was actually legitimate. After a little bit of research, I came to the tragic realization that it was. The general consensus is something like “though very little scientific research has been conducted on simulation sickness, the Guardian wrote an article on it once.” And that they did. But to summarize, motion sickness affects an estimated 10-50% of gamers and, though little is known beyond some pretty good theories, we do know that it exists.

For those of you unfamiliar with this cruel monster who deprives girlfriends of Minecraft, simulation sickness is a term that describes motion sickness that is specifically related to video games. The cause of it, though not necessarily proven, is theorized as a discrepancy between your eyes and your inner ears: when a game immerses you in the world, sometimes your eyes will tell your brain that you are moving but your inner ear (not so easily fooled) argues that no, you are in fact, sitting on your couch. As a result, your thoroughly confused brain pushes the “PROBABLY POISONED” lever and your stomach has a compelling urge to throw your cookies at the wall (Merck Manual 39). A similar phenomenon happens in car sickness when the ears insist that you’re moving (because you are) and your eyes insist that you’re still. In other words, your eyes are typically at fault, so if you pluck them out, you should never have this problem again.

But most people can’t afford to lose their peepers so what are we to do? I watched an informative video that suggested reducing the brightness on your TV, taking breaks every 15 minutes, and not eating right before you play can reduce nausea. But what is gaming if not 8-hour binge marathons in the land of Skyrim while eating reheated Whoppers 5 times a day? Enough with the compromises! Rather, in this article, I will suggest 6 different video game genres that our valued queasy brethren and… sistren(?) can play without incident.

But before we continue, I must admit a limitation of my recommendations: most of data comes from me putting my wife through one long, nausea-filled case study. I’ve had her sit down and play a number of games and I’ve found these traits to be fundamental causes of nausea:

  1. First-person perspective
  2. Shaky camera
  3. Long interludes of action without cuts
  4. Fast-paced camera movement
  5. Low quality graphics

So if you’re reading wondering what secret first-person shooter or first-person adventure game I will share with you, move along, little doggy, because you got nothing here! Now the problem is that people think that games like Bioshock, Call of Duty, and Battlefield are pretty much all that’s out there in the world of gaming, but they are sorely mistaken. So most of my suggestions will either be in 2D or have large portions of the game in 2D, but don’t let that stop you! On this list are some of my favorite games, so bunker down, take heart, and let’s get started!

1) Strategy Games: For the Calculating Queasy Gamer

Currently, my wife’s favorite game is Civilization Revolution. Partially because she can nuke Genghis Khan as Ghandi but also because she can play it for 5 hours straight and not get a single grumble from her stomach. But there are many games that fit into this category. There are RTS (real-time strategy) military games such as Starcraft, Command and Conquer, and Age of Empires that are great for PC gamers as well as turned based games such as Civilization 5 for PC users and Civilization Revolution for console fans. There are even games like Advanced Wars for 3DS users and plenty to choose from in regards to mobile games. However, I cannot in good conscience recommend Game of War or Clash of Clans due to the $579 their ads have robbed me in opportunity cost.

Wait, what? Wh-NO! No, no, NO! Get the hell out of my article, Upton! I’ve had it!

But not all strategy games are about capturing cities, killing your enemy, and buying the knowledge of irrigation from Montezuma for 60g. Some strategy games are all about crushing candy. That’s right. Your grandma is a master at strategy gaming. Puzzle games are an addicting, fun alternative to sometimes military strategy, whether they be Candy Crush, Bejeweled, or Tetris (all available on iOS!) So if you like a challenge and you consider yourself a patient gamer, then strategy games may be right for you!

2) Turn-Based RPG’s: For the Adventurous Queasy Gamer

Like the previous category, most turn-based RPG’s include some element of strategy, but the primary difference is that these games typically involve some kind of character customization and some element of exploration. Some of my favorite games of all time are turn-based RPG’s and, fortunately, a few of these are popular to talk about with your friends! But, y’know, only your cool friends. The biggest, brightest, and most popular member of the turn-based RPG family is Pokemon, and I don’t mean yer daggum Pokemon Go shenanigans–although Pokemon Go probably would be more likely to give you sore legs than a sore stomach. I mean REAL Pokemon! There is a reason why portly 28 year olds are scaling skyscrapers in the middle of the night at the speed of sound to “catch” a Dratini; it’s because Pokemon is cool. So get yourself a Gameboy SP, DS, or 3DS and pick up a Pokemon game (my personal favorite is HeartGold and SoulSilver, but you will have an easier time picking up X and Y or Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire at any local retailer). You won’t be disappointed.

Trespassing in private gardens is for amateurs. This is REAL Pokemon!

But the second most well known entry in this family is a slight deviation from our initial rule of 2D gaming. The Final Fantasy series, though everything including and after 10 is in 3D, is for the most part in 2.5D more so than 2D in that has an overhead camera of a 3D environment for the exploration component. Although, whatever queasiness might be ushered in by the 3D image may be quelled by the battle component in which the camera essentially stops tracking the movement of characters in a space and focuses on a string of cut scenes. Although Subject #001 (aka Mrs. Cupp) has never played Final Fantasy she expressed that cutscenes and battle components that broke the nauseating movement help quite a bit. Now if you try Final Fantasy (I’d recommend VII-X) and it isn’t your cup of Phoenix Down, then I’d suggest something in the same vein such as Golden Sun, Earthbound, and Fire Emblem which can all be found on Nintendo’s virtual console; Chrono Cross and Chrono Trigger which you can download on the Playstation Network; Xenogears, Phantasy Star Online, and, my personal favorite, Skies of Arcadia. So if you want some really great stories, some of the absolute best music in video game history, and challenging strategy components, Final Fantasy and the turn-based RPG genre may be right for you!

3) Fighting Games: For the Competitive Queasy Gamer

Invented quantum physics. Still couldn’t master an aerial hyper combo cancel.

Now at this point some of you may be thinking, “Strategy? What am I, an engineer?! I wanna play some games, not do homework! Show us a real genre!” So now I address the equivalent of metalheads in the gamer family: fighting game junkies. Because why spend an hour making diplomacy with Napoleon when you can stab Sub-Zero in the face with his own ribcage? Okay, so maybe this particular example is counterintuitive in regards to our whole “avoiding nausea” goal, but whether you’re a gore-loving adrenaline junky, a comic book fan, or just a person who wants to see Pikachu barbeque the annoying dog from Duck Hunt, there are great fighting games on every console. If you are a Nintendo fan, look no further than Super Smash Brothers for the Wii U.If you have a Playstation or Xbox look into Street Fighter, Soul Calibur, Tekken, King of Fighters, Marvel vs. Capcom, or Mortal Kombat (if you have the stomach for it, and considering that you’re reading this article, you probably don’t). But fighting games offer not only the satisfaction of rage ventilation achieved through button mashing your thumbs to the bone but contain some of the most complex controls I have ever seen. Watching someone pull off a 30-second long combo in Marvel vs Capcom or Street Fighter probably takes about 5 more years of study than a getting acquiring a doctorate’s degree in neurology. So whether you’re looking to indiscriminately unleash violence on every opponent in your path or you want to convince your friends that you’re a xiaolin monk of gaming through your finesse and expertise, fighting games have all you need.

4) 2D Platformers: For the Tenacious Queasy Gamers

No one who ever defeated the Yellow Devil was a casual. No one.

I once had someone tell me that you shouldn’t be allowed to play video games until you beat Super Mario Bros. for the NES. Now it is my personal belief that that individual was a goober but I think there’s something to be said about the importance of platformers as a gaming genre. As indicated by the name, a platformer is a game that involves, well, platforms. You typically control a little character on a simple quest who jumps over or around enemies and obstacles, the most well known of which is our friend Mario. But Donkey Kong, Kirby, Samus Aran, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Megaman all got their feet (or nubs in Kirby’s case) off the ground in platformers as well. Often thought of as an older and more primitive kind of game, people are surprised that developers still come out with brand new 2D (i.e. sidescrolling) platformers today. Some recent noteworthy entries into the platforming canon would include Rayman Legends, Fez, Super Meat Boy, Shovel Knight, and Little Big Planet. Though platforms often incorporate puzzles into their game design, more often than not the genre tests your reflexes and timing, sometimes to a brutal extent in the case of older games. Many will say that those who don’t play FPS’s are not hardcore gamers, but I sincerely believe that Mega Man is way more hard core than any FPS I’ve ever played. So if you want to adopt the title “hardcore gamer” and bear it without shame, pick up a retro platformer like any Mario game, Mega Man, Donkey Kong Country, or the Metroid series–all available on the Nintendo Eshop on 3DS or Wii U! Titles aside, as long as you’re up for the challenge, you won’t regret it.

5) Simulation Games: For the Controlling Queasy Gamer

The Sims: A Game for Creative Types

You ever get home from a rough day of work and finding yourself plopping down on the couch, just wishing that you could marry a rich magician who had a kitchen full of swimming pools? Well, in simulation games, you can! The Sims was the series that really helped this genre of games take off because it let people live out all their unfulfilled dreams such as living in a mansion, becoming a master conductor, or murdering a family of 8 that all look identical to your old boss in a gas fire. While The Sims series offers you complete control of a virtual life, other simulation games appeal even more to the debauched emperor in us all! Construction and management games such as SimCity, Zoo Tycoon, or Rollercoaster Tycoon offer you complete control over entire towns or businesses. But wait! THERE’S MORE! Unbeknownst to me until now there is actually a genre of video games called god games! Not only can you rob people of their free will in games like Godus and From Dust, but even the land must submit to you! Simulation sickness shall not touch you in these games because you are LORD over all you see! Mighty nations are DUST beneath your feet! You have UNLIMITED POOOWWWEER!!

*ahem* …sorry. So yeah, if that, uh… stuff appeals to you, try simulation games.

6) Whatever Else: For the Special Snowflake Queasy Gamer

Because so little is understood about it, it’s theoretically possible that every game provided for you on this list might still somehow make you nauseous. It also possible that specifically Super Mario Bros. 2 will make you feel like you have yellow fever while Call of Duty does not bother you at all. Now I find that these scenarios are especially unlikely, but I believe everyone with simulation sickness falls on a spectrum. As they say, one man’s hyper combo KO is another man’s poison. So I address you queasy gamers once more: try every kind of genre you encounter. Who knows? While Minecraft resulted in my wife being aircared to a GI specialist in Hungary, Batman: Arkham City does not bother her too much. However, if you get sick at the sight of Mirror’s Edge case, I’d recommend you try some stuff on this list. It might do ya good. Just always remember that a game is a game, and whether or not your stomach allows you to noscope n00bz e’eryday does not determine if you are a gamer. So to close us, here is a list of 5 games that worked for my queasy wife:

-Civilization Revolution (PS3)
-Centipede (Atari)
-Limbo (Steam)
-Plague Inc (iOS)
-Freddi Fish: The Case of the Haunted Schoolhouse (Windows ‘98 and Steam)

Hopefully you can find something that works for you, you sick, pitiful thing.

Written by Jesse Cupp

Jesse Cupp is a sophomore at Chapman University, double-majoring in Screenwriting and English. Outside of writing scripts and papers, he spends a great deal of time playing his PS3 and GameCube. He has a long and complicated relationship with Nintendo.

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