We spend more time staring at screens than ever before. From HD televisions to smartphones, we are seemingly glued to devices. For gamers, staring at a monitor or laptop screen is a vital part of the hobby, and they can spend many hours being immersed in an online or offline narrative. In a screen-centric world, the question of whether video games are harming your eyes is well worth considering, and there are some clear issues to take into account. Now that it’s possible to play some of the most realistic and immersive games at home or on the go, you need to ask yourself if video games are affecting your vision, and if so, what you can do to reduce the risks.
Video Games and Vision
When people play video games, they will be staring at an illuminated screen for a set period. Some games can be finished very quickly, but the most popular titles can involve many gameplay hours. Staring at a video game screen means that you will be affected by the same concerns people used to have when watching television for too long. The most common issues which staring at a screen can cause are:
- Blurred vision
- Computer Vision Syndrome
What is Computer Vision Syndrome?
This is often referred to as digital eye strain, and it can be caused by merely staring for too long at a bright screen. That means that it’s not just gamers that need to be concerned about their eye care. If you stare at a computer, a TV, or even your phone for too long without a break, then you can develop Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). There are some common CVS symptoms, and you should be aware of them if you want to look after your eyes. Those symptoms are:
- Dry eyes
- Blurred vision
Usually, people with CVS also have issues with their neck and shoulders, primarily due to their posture when playing games or watching online content.
Protecting against CVS
The most obvious solution for reducing your exposure to CVS is remembering to take regular breaks from your gaming. This is by far the most practical option, but if you’re immersed in the latest AAA title, then you might find it very difficult to tear yourself away from the action. If taking breaks isn’t something that you’re likely to remember, you should also consider:
- Glare: Reduce screen glare (lower or turn off other light sources in the room, or angle your screen so that glare is diminished)
- Consider the 20/20/20 rule: This is where you step away from your game every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- Eye protection: You could get a glare-reducing cover for your screens or invest in some sunglasses or eye-protecting glasses with an anti-reflective coating. Speak to your optometrist or where you have your regular eye exams. They will be able to advise you on the best options for eye protection and may be able to point you in the direction of special eyewear, such as contact lenses or customized eyeglasses that block blue light.
- Position improvements: If you are playing games on a laptop, you need to ensure that the screen is at eye level. If you are more likely to be playing a console game, you should aim to sit between six and ten feet from the television. Put simply, you should never have to tilt your head or lean forward to play.
While little real research on VR and eye damage has been carried out, there are obvious concerns. That’s because VR means having screens very close to the eyes and deceiving them about fundamental realities like depth perception and dimensional awareness. However, with regular breaks, there is little to suggest that VR is any more dangerous for your eyes than any other form of gaming. There are even suggestions that because some people experience headaches and eyestrain when playing VR games, it can identify those with existing eye problems. If you play VR games and regularly experience these issues, you should book some eye exams. In this way, VR could be a new tool for identifying those at risk from certain eye conditions.
Can Gaming Be Good For Your Eyes?
Of course, if you play in moderation and remember to take regular breaks, then you might even find that your eyes can benefit. Some studies have even suggested that playing action-oriented video games can lead to better vision. The results of this study indicate that playing games can improve your ability to read or drive at night, as well as improve spatial awareness. Some eye care professionals are even using gaming and incorporating video games into their therapy sessions to better treat amblyopia conditions. However, this shouldn’t be an excuse to start playing more games for longer periods. The fact remains: regular breaks and protecting your eyes from glare either via reducing your light exposure or wearing specialist sunglasses is the best way to get gaming benefits without your eyes’ risk.
It’s a well-known fact that playing video games can help you with your hand-eye coordination and improve visual stimuli processing capability. While there are certainly risks for your vision, if you play computer games excessively, that’s not to say that they can’t be beneficial. Younger players will need to be more careful, but even older gamers should know the risks and benefits. Older generations may find that occasional game playing can help them reduce eyesight degeneration, so if you have contrast sensitivity function, you may alleviate your symptoms with some occasional video game action.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your eyes will be fine no matter how long you game for. Even if you don’t experience any of the symptoms of CVS or eye strain, you could still be causing damage to your vision that might affect your eyesight in the long term. If you’re worried about your gaming, then talk to an optometrist eye care professional and book yourself in for some eye exams.