OPINION PIECE

How switching from VR to flat gaming affected my health

How switching from VR to flat gaming affected my health

I played for a month almost exclusively sitting down. And paid dearly for it because of a pre-existing health condition.

I am fascinated by the question of how virtual reality fits into people's everyday lives and affects their lives. If you use the medium a lot, as I do, sometimes you don't even notice this influence. In such cases, it helps to take a break from the activity.

My one-month abstinence was not intentional. Rather, I had rediscovered my fascination with an old monitor game that had developed into an addiction many years ago. After one to two days, I was hooked again and let myself go.

A ticking time bomb

Over the next few weeks, I played for hours after work, sitting in front of a monitor while my VR headsets gathered dust.

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I knew it was not good for my health. Since a sports injury a few years ago, I've had back pain here and there, depending on how I go about my daily life. The less I sit and the more I move, the less problems I have. The last six months have been virtually pain free with lots of movement and exercise. I thought I was invincible, cured.

In reality, I had just built up a buffer that I was gradually using up by sitting for hours after work. The discomfort came back in the form of morning stiffness and affected me more and more. Sitting became uncomfortable. I ignored the symptoms and carried on.

On a long weekend hike, my back finally gave in. The next morning, getting up was an ordeal and sitting was out of the question.

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Almost three weeks later, the effects are still being felt, and it will probably be a while before I'm back to the form I enjoyed before my brief foray into flat gaming.

Two different gaming lifestyles?

I'd spent the last few years playing almost exclusively with VR headsets, which meant I moved around a lot in my spare time. Not because I thought it was healthier, but because I simply enjoyed the medium more. Of course, you can play virtual reality while sitting down, but the technology really comes into its own when you're physically active.

I'm aware that I'm an individual health case that can't be easily extrapolated to the general public, and that I went overboard for a short period of time. Extremes are never good.

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It's not a cliché: VR gaming promotes physical activity. | Image: Meta

A passion for flat gaming and health can go hand in hand if you enjoy your hobby in moderation. Taken too far, even virtual reality can cause injury. I speak from personal experience.

But I still wonder if the two gaming lifestyles don't diverge here, and if virtual reality is a healthier form of gaming overall because it motivates you to move rather than just sit. For my part, I've learned my lesson and turned my back on flat gaming. Literally.