Sustained Argument Paper
Is Virtual Reality Healthier Than Other Forms of Gaming?
Gaming is an activity that has only been around in the last few decades. It is a new concept for the older generations, as less children go out and play sports, less children run around in parks playing frisbee or tag, less children stepping out on their lawn only to be yelled at by the older generations. My earlier posts discussed how virtual reality has made an impact on the world in many different genres, such as the medical field, the artistic field, even the movement to stop global warming (or at least lessen it). However, as stated before in my latest post, virtual reality was intended to be a platform for gaming, before it branched out to all these other new topics of interest.
Okay So What?
Well the reason I have been discussing these things, is to prove that virtual reality is indeed a benefit to modern day technology. Today, I will be discussing whether or not virtual reality is a benefit to modern day gaming, as it was intended to at first.
There are many different issues to talk about when it comes to gaming, and virtual reality may actually alleviate some of those. I will be focusing on whether or not virtual reality will provide a health benefit to gamers that typical console platforms do not provide.
The Unseen Toll of Gaming
Some gamers may play for hours and hours without rest, which like any other task, will cause fatigue and problems in the future. Most people have experienced this fatigue from gaming at least once, an example of this would be eye strain from looking at your phone screen.
According to the article, “You Asked: What’s the Best Way to Stare at Screens All Day?”, by Markham Heid, “Rosenfield [a graduate research faculty member of the State University of New York’s College of Optometry], who authored a recent study on digital eye strain, recommends positioning your screen no closer than 16 inches from your face.” I do not think that anyone holds their phone 16 inches away from their face, as most people would be unable to read the words on the screen from that distance. This applies to gamers as well, most gamers do not position themselves 16 inches away from the screen as this would impose on their ability to use the mouse to move their character around (PC), they would be unable see their character on the screen (Xbox, Playstation, Wii, etc.), and overall just impair their ability to play games. Virtual reality is a bit different though, as the user has to wear a headset in order to play the game. The headset has two screens (one for each eye) that allows the user to experience an immersive environment. This means that Rosenfield’s advice is inapplicable to people that use virtual reality. However, in the same article, “… Dr. Joshua Dunaief, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. ‘There is no evidence that eye strain leads to chronic issues or harm’… However, he says that it is theoretically possible we could find out years from now that too much screen-time messes with our eyes or vision. But for now, short-term symptoms-like headaches, eye pressure and dry eyes-are your biggest worries.” So even with eye strain being a short term problem for most people, there is no evidence established yet that leads researchers to think there are chronic issues or harm involved with eye strain.
Sit Up Straight
All gamers have heard someone tell them this, as staring a screen for hours at a time would lead anyone to go from their Emily Post proud posture to a slouched one. However, all those times that those parental figures told you to sit up straight was for good reason. An article from Time Magazine states that, “‘The human body is not designed to stay in one position for a prolonged period,’ says Dr. Benjamin Domb, an orthopedic surgeon and founder of the American Hip Institute. If you’re spending a big chunk of your day in front of a computer, even small misconfigurations will take a toll…”, which of course applies to just about all gamers using any widely used console (besides virtual reality). Unsuitable postures for long periods of time can lead to many different painful injuries including carpal tunnel (a variety of symptoms ranging from tingling, numbness, and pain felt on the thumb, index, and middle fingers) and nerve pain (nerve cells are damaged or send incorrect signals up to the brain which lead to to pain being felt). However, with virtual reality, the console tends to make users stand up and move around in an open space. In doing so, people will not have to worry about posture because the users will be up and moving around. This is also to enable a user to be more immersed into the game itself. A video by Valve shows how people would play games using virtual reality in a living room, or a large open space.
Dying for Who?
While saying that all gamers are obese may be a stereotype of sorts, it’s not without some basis. Gamers will typically sit in one place for hours and hours at a time, moving only to use the bathroom, and get junk food/caffeine to fuel themselves for the next gaming session. An article written by NYTimes called “Gamer’s Death Pushes Risks of Live Streaming Into View” illustrates this, “Ben Bowman, 30, a professional Twitch streamer with more than 579,000 followers, published an article on the video game website Polygon in January about the pressure to stream constantly… lead to exhaustion, high cholesterol and heart problems… he had developed a herniated disk from sitting for hours each day.” Because Ben Bowman lives off the money from Twitch, he has to stream daily to keep up his viewer count. The more people that view his stream, the more money he receives. The result of him having to sit on a chair for hours and hours each day, the cause of many health problems. Another Twitch streamer named Joe Marino had a similar experience, although it was a tad bit more extreme. He posted his experience on Medium, where he discussed his near death from streaming. He starts it off with a mention of how his career as a Twitch streamer got started and some background information on his streaming schedule:
6:00 wake up
6:15 prep for stream
7:00 Go live
3:00 Go offline
4:00–6:00 Social Media, Sponsorship requirements, Chat with viewers,
7:00 Make dinner
8:00 Spend couple minutes with kids
10:00 Go to bed
He did this 7 days a week to maintain his viewers and attract more. Naturally, he did not move very much, as most of this could be done in his house where he streamed everyday. Shortly after hearing that another Twitch streamer had died during a live stream, Marino went for a heart checkup where, “They prepped me for a heart workup. I was given a few tests, I failed. Within 2 days I was in the hospital getting an angiogram. I had 100% blockage in an anterior artery surrounding my heart. I also had 75% blockage at the major 3 way junction affectionately called ‘The Widowmaker’.” Fortunately now, Marino now lives a healthier lifestyle, focused more on photography and family than Twitch streams. However this highlights the health threat that obesity from typical gaming poses. Virtual reality however does not have this threat, as mentioned before, people will be up and moving without the need to sit still for extended periods of time.
What’s This All Mean?
Modern day technology is changing, and I believe that virtual reality is a part of this. Gaming has it’s own risks, most of which are not chronic, but can be if done in an excessive amount. Virtual reality tends to alleviate all these problems by fixing one of the main sources (a lack of movement from the player in the real world, which leads to a variety of health problems). I think the community should embrace virtual reality as a new platform that will lead the world to see a decrease in the amount of people that die from streaming/gaming.
Heid, Markham. “Computer Eye Strain: How to Stare at Screens All Day.” Time, Time, 24 May 2017, time.com/4789208/screens-computer-eye-strain/.
“American Hip Institute | Hip Arthroscopy Chicago | Sports Medicine IL.” American Hip Institute | Hip Arthroscopy Chicago | Sports Medicine IL, www.americanhipinstitute.org/.
Valve. “Virtual Reality — SteamVR Featuring the HTC Vive.” YouTube, YouTube, 5 Apr. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYfNzhLXYGc.
Heid, Markham. “You Asked: How Do I Improve My Posture?” Time, Time, 6 Mar. 2016, time.com/4251425/improve-posture-text-neck/.
Slotnik, Daniel E. “Gamer’s Death Pushes Risks of Live Streaming Into View.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 15 Mar. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/03/15/technology/personaltech/live-streaming-gaming-death.html.
Marino, Joe. “Dying to Stream. — Cube — Medium.” Medium, Cube, 22 Feb. 2017, medium.com/the-cube/dying-to-stream-ff0ed2e3dfbb.