Simulator Sickness vs Motion Sickness

Motion Sickness versus Simulator Sickness

Motion sickness and simulator sickness are both caused when your sensory inputs do not match.
When you experience motion sickness, you feel like you’re moving, but the visual cues tell you that you’re still; this happens when trying to read in a car, or when you’re in the belly of a boat, or when you’re in an airplane and not looking out the window.
When you experience simulator sickness, you feel like you’re still, but your visual inputs tell you that you’re moving. The term ‘simulator sickness’ came into being in the context of pilots doing flight simulations prior to flying and getting sick from the simulation.
Comparisons Motion Sickness Simulator Sickness
Cause
  • Visuals are still yet
  • Movement is felt.
  • Visuals are moving yet
  • One feels still.
Most Common Symptoms
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Uneasiness and cold sweat
  • Vomiting
  • Eyestrain
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
Other Symptoms
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Saliva Production
  • Pallor
  • Headache
  • Disorientation
  • Difficulty Focusing
Cure
  • Look out the window
  • Eat ginger
  • Get fresh air
  • Lay down in a dark room
  • Eat ginger (maybe)
  • Get fresh air
  • Sleep

My Simulator Sickness Experience

I primarily experience headaches, but when my simulator sickness is severe I can also experience disorientation, dizziness, fatigue, and a little nausea. Also, if I’m feeling simulator sickness and I get into a car, I will experience motion sickness during the drive even if I look out the window, breathe slowly, and open the window for fresh air.
I experience motion sickness with any new first-person video game that I try which includes most massive multiplayer online games (MMOs), first-person shooters (FPS), and many adventure games. In games where the motion is very controlled and slow – as if watching a well-produced movie – the negative symptoms are minimal or nonexistent.
The good news is that you can cure yourself of your simulator sickness. Unfortunately, you need to rest thoroughly as soon as you start getting sick, usually not playing again until the next day. For some the adjustment period is very short (just a few days), but for me it can take weeks.

Virtual Reality (VR) Simulator Sickness

I find virtual reality somewhat less simulator sickness inducing than watching a monitor, and I certainly can’t watch the monitor while someone else is playing a virtual reality game. That said, I did still have to go through an adjustment period with BeatSaber but it was far less than what I had to go through when I was playing MMOs such as WildStar (I wish that game hadn’t been cancelled – it was a great game and I spent over a month training my brain to not get sick while playing it).
With BeatSaber I started out the first day with two songs. The songs average about three minutes, so that’s about six minutes of play time. The second day I went up to three songs and felt mild sickness, so I stuck with three songs for about four days until there was no longer mild sickness due to playing three songs; I also pushed the limits some by throwing in some longer songs (four or five minute songs) leading my total play time to increase slightly on my fifth and sixth days playing.
By the second week I was playing four songs a day and that increased to five or six songs by the end of two weeks. At that point I was able to play until I became tired or bored and simulator sickness has no longer been what stopped me from playing longer. (Usually I give out now from fatigue or my knees hurting from me bouncing in place to the music so much.)
Some people, however, experience simulator sickness for the first time when they try virtual reality. To me, this is baffling, since virtual reality visually matches your movements similar to real life. That said, having the still reality in your peripheral vision is something that helps many people with simulator sickness when playing a game on a regular monitor. While I was training myself on Wild Star I made a light-colored frame for my monitor out of paper and photographs to make the “real world” more visually obvious, which helped.
The better your virtual reality system synchronizes exactly with your movement, the less simulator sickness you are likely to experience. For this reason, I went directly for the highest end system available at my time of purchase (Steam’s system). I did seem to feel better using this system than I did using my friend’s lower-end system which I had tried BeatSaber on. After my second time visiting my friend and playing BeatSaber I was very sick and the car ride home was quite painful.
This page isn’t finished. What follows is a bit less polished and the above is not yet edited. Still, if you suffer from simulator sickness, I believe you will find this page helpful because there is so little about this issue on the web.

Simulator Sickness Statistics

In nineteen out of twenty cases, people eventually adapt to an environment that causes motion sickness, whether it is simulator created or motion created. The twentieth person seems to be doomed to symptoms forever unless otherwise addressed. How quickly adaptation takes place varies.
Adaptation is highly environment specific. Pilots who adapted to one simulator became sick again when they began using a new simulator. This implies that adapting to a new video game may require a new adaptation period.
To adapt people to a new simulator, the Navy recommended brief tours in the simulator (less than one hour), followed by 24 hours of rest. The Navy also recommended putting the most intense experiences at the end of a session.
It takes six to ten sessions to adapt to a new simulator.
Active movement in the environment may make you sicker initially, but also may make you adapt more quickly than being passive.
Performance is not affected by motion/simulator sickness. Researchers tested users who were motion sick and users who were not on a wide range of tasks (600 yard dash, throwing darts, shooting rifles, drawing lines in a mirror, and walking in a straight line). The performance of queasy people matched that of those who felt perfectly healthy. What changes is your motivation to perform – when you feel motion/simulator sickness, you don’t feel like doing much of anything, even if you do perform well when you do it.
The longer the duration, the more likely it is for people to become sick.

How common is simulator sickness?

Across multiple studies:
  • Eyestrain: 29% to 37%
  • Fatigue: 27% to 35%
  • Sweating: 30%
  • Disorientation: 24%
  • Difficulty focusing: 24%
  • Headache: 17%
In one study, 61% of those sick had their symptoms persist between fifteen minutes and six hours. Symptoms very rarely persisted the morning after a simulator session. In my own case, if I continue playing a game for more than a minute after I’ve become sick, symptoms persist for the rest of the day, usually until I sleep.
Women are generally more prone to simulator sickness than men, though the difference is not large.
Children between two and twelve are the most prone to sickness. This effect decreases rapidly between twelve and twenty-one, then more slowly to age fifty or so.
Alcohol and drugs affect your inner ear, which affects your ability to balance and tell up from down. Not surprisingly, this means that you are more likely to get sick while under the influence.
People with illnesses such as hangover, flu, head cold, ear infection, or upset stomach all were more likely to get sick. The Navy generally would not let pilots fly if they were not at full health. Lytenian and I have noticed that we both get more severe air sickness from being in an airplane if we have stuffed sinuses at the time.
People who reported that they had previously gotten sick in cars or amusement park rides were more likely to become sick in a simulator. Interestingly, my father gets sick on amusement park rides that go in circles but I generally do not, but I’m the one with the simulator sickness.
Animals also get motion sickness.
Motion sickness is generally more correlated with gastrointestinal distress – symptoms like burping, nausea, and vomiting. Simulator sickness is more correlated with visual distress – eye strain, difficulty focusing, disorientation, and headache. For me I only finally made the connection between the two conditions because the headache was actually the same. Furthermore, I realized that I get the same headache from reading.

Lack of Control Increases Simulator Sickness

Changing a user’s camera angle without warning will lead to sickness. In fact, I’m way more likely to get simulator sickness from watching someone else’s monitor while they are playing a game.
Moving forward/backward in time, or flying backwards (a motion not controlled by the user) causes sickness.
Pilots report less discomfort than passengers. This is likely because pilots are controlling the motion of the plane and can anticipate turns and flips. When designing content, camera motion is best controlled by the user.
Head movement increases susceptibility.
In one study, 67% of pilots closed their eyes to avoid getting sick at points where the simulation moved rapidly. I do this frequently while watching youtube videos shot by amature videographers that move their cameras around too quickly.
Drugs like dramamine were effective at helping with simulator sickness. Ginger has been found helpful as well. In my case, ginger cures my motion sickness entirely and does nothing at all for my simulator sickness. The only cure I’ve found is sleep; even laying down in a dark room and getting close to sleep can help.
Susceptibility increased the closer the simulator was flying to the ground; the further away the ground, the less sick the pilots got.

Unrecognized forms of Simulator Sickness

  • Reading
  • Web-page scrolling (particularly online shopping)

Emotional and Psychological Cause of Motion Sickness

When you have a fragment caught in a state of shock, it is entirely still. There is a powerful contrast between that stillness and the external movement. Vehicles allow us to be in motion even when our bodies are not aligned with that motion.
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