E3 2015 – Face on with VR for those with simulator sickness

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By now, many of you know that I suffered from simulator sickness. While I’ve subsequently trained my brain to survive most FPS games, I still know that I’m prone to this problem, which is why we didn’t book any VR appointment for me at E3. However, during the expo, the opportunity came up for me to try out a variety of headsets and demos, and the results varied widely for me.

First up, if you haven’t already read Alessandro’s detailed preview of Morpheus, you should do so. Having already tried out the Hololens (and loved it) I was feeling confident about having screens next to my eyeballs, so when the opportunity came up for me to try out some VR on the Morpheus, I gave it a whirl (despite fears of hurling).

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I started with the London Heist demo, which was absolutely fantastic. The use of move controllers added so much to the immersion; while on some level I knew that I was holding controllers, once I was in the game they really started to feel like a gun and ammo as needed. I was particularly active in this demo – during the car chase bits I was going so far as to turn around in my seat and shoot behind me. It was so much fun, so immersive and I loved every moment of it. Best of all, even when the headset shifted slightly and went blurry, I never felt even the slightest motion sickness, nausea or headache.

Next up, I did the Kitchen demo, a static horror experience. Despite sitting stationary, I ended up feeling slightly queasy afterwards. It was a fun experience, but I think there must have been a slight delay between movement and visuals, or maybe the frame rate was just a bit lower. Either way, it was an immersive experience, although I didn’t feel perfect afterwards like I did after London Heist.

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Lulled with a false sense of security, I went face on with Oculus for some Ubisoft VR. I know it wasn’t the retail version of the headset, but wow what a difference it made. The picture quality wasn’t nearly as nice, and as much as I enjoyed flying as an eagle over Paris, I started to feel pretty sick after only a few minutes. Next up was a short experience based on Vaas from Far Cry 3, but as soon as the movement element began, I had to take the headset off I felt so incredibly ill. In fact, just thinking about it after the fact makes my stomach drop and my head spin a bit.

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I am amazed at just how different the experiences were for someone like me – why would a more active one feel fine while the more static experiences made me so ill? I’m inclined to think it’s due to slower frame rates or minute lag; whatever the reason, VR still might not be a great idea for those who suffer from simulator sickness. It’s better with more recent headsets, but even they can cause some (or lots of) discomfort depending on the simulation. If you occasionally feel ill after playing first person games, I can’t recommend VR for you without reservation. Unless you can get your hands on London Heist – then you totally need to do it.

Last Updated: June 19, 2015

Zoe Hawkins

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. You can read more of my words over at www.borngeek.co.za, or just follow me on all the social networks to get the true range of my sarcasm and wit.

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