One thing I learned in the early days of VR development was the fact that I was susceptible to various forms of VR induced motion sickness. Now, this isn’t just an unpleasant feeling or a bout of nausea. It can be very debilitating and at times force a person to stop what they are doing, not just VR, and lay down, perhaps even sleep for a while before feeling better.
For me, it induces a sense of uneasy nausea but not all the time, in fact, it’s rare in a shooter or other VR games unless I’m forced to use smooth movement instead of teleporting. For a lot of us, that means games like Boneworks are out of the question as it requires smooth movement to interact with the physics engine.
It was due to this tendency to pseudo-puke (it never made me go over the edge yet) that I stayed busy in those early years as a VR Sickness test dummy. I say dummy because only a dummy would do such a thing. I learned a lot, just not in driving or racing sims as none of my employers were developing those game types.
I can jump in a flying sim, airplane, helicopter, or jet and dogfight, fly or perform aerobatics without a hint of VR Sickness so it was with real surprise that I found out the hard way this doesn’t always translate to driving sims. When I first started with Assetto Corsa Competizione there was not a hint of the trouble that was coming. I was having a great time until I started getting up to a decent speed and slamming on the brakes to whip around a hairpin turn.
That was when the first tinge of VR Sickness hit. I slowed down a bit, blew it off, got back up to speed, and got sick again. This time it lingered after taking off the HMD and killing the VR session. It lingered on the fringes of consciousness, an uneasy queasiness, till I went to bed shortly thereafter. I awoke in the morning in fine shape.
This wasn’t by any means my worst bout of VR Sickness but that was because I finally pulled my head of my HMD (actually ASS) in time to stop that from happening. It did however ruin the rest of the evening.
So what does one do? Give up? Say racing sims aren’t for me? Hell no… not this guy. There had to be away to get around VR Sickness. What I discovered along the way has helped me but I can’t say it will help everyone.
- Get to know the Track in old school 2D mode driving with the monitor, not the HMD. This way you know what’s coming and it will give you time to get smoother with fewer stops and starts or sudden deceleration.
- Avoid that sudden deceleration if at all possible. It might keep you from being competitive at first or at all but at least you can drive and enjoy the simulation.
- Avoid short twisty tracks until you have some time under your belt. I switched to Dirt Rally 1 & 2 and have finished rally’s in VR. I’ve yet to finish a race in Assetto without problems but it’s getting better. I can run the rallies as long I’m mindful of tight turns that require sudden deceleration.
- Fellow author Paul Ekert gave me a tip of running a fan breeze on my face/head area and that did seem to help. The idea from what I’ve read is it gives the mind a sense of movement. Even if it’s all in my head… I’ll take it. I get sick all in my head… so why not???
- Another Facebook friend Joel Lovell sent me a link to a video by Sim Racing Source that has some great tips so I won’t go back over it all here but be sure to check it out if VR Sickness is your unwanted co-driver.
- It’s worth repeating… get time under your belt. Practice at slower speeds on less complicated tracks or sections of rally racing that have few sharp curves. Get your body used to input it is receiving.
More than anything and this is covered in the video reference above, do NOT let VR Sickness keep you from enjoying sim racing. Don’t jump into the thing with expensive equipment either. Get a budget wheel and stand then start putting miles/kilometers under your belt giving your body a chance to adjust and giving your mind the dose of outrageous speed it’s always needed.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.