The Fifth Column: War Wounds
Playing video games is not generally considered to be particularly strenuous. After all you spend most of your time sitting down. This is particularly true for PC gamers where your only controller is the keyboard and mouse. In the console arena, with the advent of motion controllers the risk of physical injury has increased significantly.
My first brush with a motion controller was with the Nintendo Wii. The main problem was caused by the lack of space in our playing area. The flailing controllers presented a considerable risk to the players as well as to the TV. Fortunately the hand straps on the controllers were quite strong, so aside from the occasional bruise, no serious injuries were suffered and the TV was not subjected to any accidental impact testing. My one tip is that you should not play against small children. Given their height or lack thereof there is a good chance that a mis-timed swing could hit you where it hurts most.
The Kinect is also a prime suspect for video game related injuries. Aside from accidental collisions between players, there is also the possibility of being attacked by low hanging light fittings, ceiling fans or a poorly positioned ottoman. It may not be possible to re-align your lounge Feng Shui in the interests of safer gaming but you should consider whether your Kinect game is suited to your playing environment. After all you don’t really want your Fruit Ninja session to include a round of Ceiling and Light Bulb Ninja as well.
Aside from the motion controllers, the conventional game controllers also pose their fair share of risks. I find that the PlayStation controllers are more prone to causing hand and wrist strain because the analog sticks are not offset. The Xbox 360 controller feels far more ergonomic with its offset analogs and bulkier hand grips but even these added ergonomic features don’t insulate you from injury.
But regardless of the controllers that you use or the precautions that you take when using them, extended gaming sessions are the primary cause of strains and other injuries. It can lead to carpel tunnel syndrome, repetitive strain injuries as well as eye strain. I know from experience that after an extended session, I tend to develop eye strain but only in my right eye for some reason. I have recently also picked up a size-able callous on my left thumb which actually starts to hurt after an intense gaming session. I have learnt that all of this can be fairly easily mitigated by reducing the length of my game time. So instead of playing a single five hour stretch on the weekend, I play for a maximum of two hours at a time during the week and have multiple sessions over the entire weekend rather than a single marathon session.
I have also found that using sunglasses with a light tint helps with eye strain. There are dedicated gamer glasses in the market but I have not had a chance to test drive them. Gunnar Optics has a range of eye-wear which has been well reviewed but they seem a bit overpriced for the purpose. I really cannot spend in excess of R1000.00 for glasses that I can only use for gaming or when working in front of my PC. I have a pair of Omnico D’Arcs which have interchangeable lenses, I will test out the yellow lenses and see if they help at all with eye strain. It would be great if I could use them as low budget gaming glasses, I will add an update as soon as I give them a test drive.
The bottom line is that in order to insure that you are able to enjoy your gaming hobby for years to come it will help to take care of your health. Aching joints and burning eyes are not going to enhance the enjoyment of your favourite video games. I have been gaming for more than 25 years now and if I want to continue for many more years to come, I had better make sure that I am in good shape. With all the motion sensing, video game technology on the market you may not be able to be competitive in many games if you don’t have some level of physical fitness. With that in mind, excuse me while I go and practice my Fruit Ninja dancing.