This is a collaborative post.
If you’ve been keeping up with my posts lately, you’ll be aware of my exciting new (well, new-ish) interest in video games. For me, the more people who play games and celebrate the culture, the better. We owe it to ourselves to dispel those age-old notions that sitting down to play a video game is somehow wasteful or some kind of affront to productivity (provided it doesn’t take over your life, of course.)
However, it might not seem it, but gamers, even those who are used to sitting in secure and comfortable environments and getting lost in virtual worlds, need self-care too. This is especially true if you play e-sports or game in any competitive capacity, but it’s also true if you simply wish to enjoy the most narrative-focused RPG.
On top of that, gaming with this self-care in mind can actually help you feel more optimistic and interested in performing more effectively while gaming. To me, that sounds like a fantastic combination and the best of both worlds.
So with that in mind, let’s consider what this self-care might look like in reality with some of the following ideas. Hopefully, they’ll be something you can bear in mind on your own gaming adventures.
Ergonomics are important to ensure that your body is looked after while you’re gaming. Ergonomic design is a practice dedicated to ensuring that the tools we use conform to the human body in the healthiest, safest way possible. For example, you will often see offices invest in chairs sometimes worth thousands of pounds for their staff, particularly those that provide perfect lumbar support and a comforting seat.
This is because they know that this will help their staff members over time, and thus reduce the number of health problems they may have long term, or sick pay/time off claims they may have as a result.
Remember, gaming is not some activity designed to divorce you from reality, even though it might sometimes feel like you’re entering a strange new world at times. As the practice of gaming is so immersive, it’s important to consider our own ergonomics, and how they might influence our general time sat playing games and exploring those digital worlds.
If playing on a console, I’d definitely recommend sitting on a sofa or chair rather than lying in bed. Sit up and support yourself with cushions instead of being slouched. Trust me, your back and shoulders will thank you for it.
If you’re PC gaming, the first thing I’d recommend would be a chair with solid back support. If the back of your chair doesn’t quite fit with the particular needs of your body, a lumbar pillow or replacement chair might be needed. Your desk should allow for a 90% angle of your shoulders as you rest your arms on the table.
The top of your monitor should rest at about eye level when you’re sat in a relaxed and normal position. Your feet should comfortably touch the floor, and the lip of the seat of your chair should sit about two to three inches behind the backs of your legs. Obviously, everyone has their own preferences so it might take some fiddling with, but if you can arrange this set up then you’ll be in the prime position.
Keep ergonomics in mind when organising your gaming station or setup. However, it’s also really important to ensure you get out of your seat at least once per hour and walk around, even if that’s just to get a drink or some snacks. But a word on that…
We all like to enjoy gaming in a comfortable and convenient environment. But not all conveniences are universally good. Some are, such as online shopping, or using the increasing number of online doctors services to order your medication and give you more time to game and enjoy the game you’re so immersed in. But if you find yourself always snacking on food, continually drinking incredibly sugary drinks, or even relaxing with some alcohol routinely while gaming, then conveniences can start to become a problem.
A good rule of thumb I try and stick to is to keep your desk spotless, or at least clear of items you are not currently using. This can help you avoid the tendency to snack on an open container of treats throughout the entire morning. It can also help you focus on your playtime more, and in turn, get more out of it. To me, that sounds like a win-win.
There’s no reason why gaming should ever become an activity that makes you feel unhealthy, or that somehow enables other unhealthy indulgences. It’s good to have fun. But make sure your conveniences do not get in the way of your health.
Get Up And Stretch
It’s very important to stretch and to ensure your body is given time to move after a long time seated. Reclining in your chair feels good, I get it. But it’s even more important to ensure your body can adapt to a range of important stretches, so if you’re planning a lot of sedentary time, I’d recommend implementing a strengthening plan of some kind.
First, consider your fingers. It’s not the first area of the body that comes to mind, but controllers and keyboards can be quite hard on the hands, so a worthwhile hand stretching routine can be a great idea. Stretching your legs, your torso and your arms is also really important. Your neck is often a place of tension, so be sure to find time and ways to release that so you don’t end up with stiffness.
You don’t need to go overboard and start hunting for workouts for gamers or anything, but it’s a good idea to keep these things in mind.
Take Care of Your Eyes
Ok, so it’s quite hard to play a video game without looking at some kind of screen. This means that a bulk of your time will be spent interacting with a screen either close up, or a fixed distance away. Firstly, you need to make sure that the screen isn’t too bright for your eyes. Calibrate your monitor and screen as appropriate. You’ll usually find details on how to do this on your TV, monitor or PC if you’re not sure. It’s an important part of setting up your gameplay. Once you’ve sorted all that out, remember it’s important to give your eyes a rest from time to time. The 20/20/20 rule here can be a great help.
Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This can include looking outside of a window. Your eyes can get a good rest from the screen if you do this, and are also looking at things around the room, which is important to help your eyes get the break they might need.
Another way you can help to take care of your eyes as a gamer is to install programs such as Flux. This software provides an orange-tinted glow on your monitor when the sun has set, or before it has risen, which helps you evade the blue light that all monitors show.
This can help you get a deeper and better quality of sleep because the blue light has been known to mess with our circadian rhythms – which is especially troublesome, especially to me, if gaming at night.
Hopefully, some of these tips will have given you some things to think about in regards to your own self-care as a gamer. Is it something you’ve thought about much? Or are you more of a jump in and consider your comfort later kind of person? As always, feel free to let me know your thoughts down in the comments, or you can catch up with me over on Twitter or Facebook.