Help for seasick gamers?

There's hope for those who are prone to Doom Sickness

I'm not a frequent gamer. Sure, I love to take a turn at Rock Band or Dance Dance Revolution every now and then, but many typical video games -- especially first-person shooters -- leave me cold.

Or, rather, they leave me nauseated.

They used to call it Doom Sickness, back in the mid-'90s when that PC game had its heydey. I never played Doom, but I did attempt to play its successor, Quake, once and only once. After about 20 minutes of running through a bewildering array of corridors trying to splatter my opponents (and more often getting splattered myself), I suddenly realized I had to STOP RIGHT NOW and put my head between my knees before I created splatter of a different sort.

Doom Sickness is sort of the flipside to regular old mal de mer. On a boat, your eyes are telling your brain that you're fairly stable, but your inner ear is telling your brain that you're moving up and down. With many video games (and some movies shot with handheld cameras), it's just the opposite: Your eyes are telling you that you're jerking around erratically, while your inner ear says that your body is quite still. Either way, your brain is getting conflicting signals, and the result is that awful queasy feeling.

(This only happens to certain people at certain times, of course. Most gamers can play any video game for hours on end with nary a gut twinge.)

But there's hope for those of us who are prone to Doom Sickness. The other day I was playing Katamari Damacy, a bizarre but utterly addictive Japanese game in which you roll a sticky ball around the world and pick things up with it, starting with small stuff like thumbtacks and working your way up to people, cars and whole buildings. I'd played it several times before with no trouble, but this time I had that "I've got to stop right now" moment.

My husband walked in shortly afterward, found me lying green-gilled on the couch, and had a flash of inspiration. He rummaged through our catchall drawer and resurfaced with some acupressure wristbands he'd bought years ago to help with motion sickness on planes. They have a hard plastic bead sewn into them -- it presses into a pressure point on your wrist, which in turn theoretically interrupts the conflicting signals to your brain that are causing your nausea.

Not at all convinced they would work, I figured it wouldn't hurt to at least give the bands a try. I put them on, and five minutes later I was completely back to normal. (Usually it takes half an hour or more before I recover from any kind of motion sickness.) I was astounded.

Since then I've done a little research on the motion sickness bands. There are many first-person testimonials to their effectiveness online, and some studies cited by Psychology Today indicate that there's something to the use of accupressure to treat nausea. But there are also plenty of folks who consider these wristbands to be modern-day snake oil. If people are feeling better after putting wristbands on, they say, that's just the placebo effect at work.

I'd be interested to hear if anybody else has tried these wristbands for gaming and how well they worked for you. If you'd like to try them, you can find them for around $8 to $10 in most drugstores, in the motion sickness section. When you use them, be sure to put the plastic bead in the correct spot on your wrist -- in the little hollow area right in the center, an inch or so up the arm from the heel of your hand.

Big fat disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and I can make no claim as to the effectiveness of these bands. All I know is that they worked amazingly well for me the one time I tried them. If that was just the placebo effect at work, I say let's hear it for the placebo effect!

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Valerie Potter

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