Ask LH: How Can I Stop Video Games From Ruining My Eyes?

Hey Lifehacker, I have been an avid gamer for many years and unfortunately my eyes have deteriorated because of this. I was wondering if you had any recommendations for software or hardware to encourage me to take breaks for my eyes? Thanks, Blurred Lines

Photo: Shutterstock

Dear BL,

First off, do you actually have any proof that video games are the cause of your eyesight problems? Or is this just a self-diagnosis?

If you haven't been to an optometrist already, we strongly suggest you visit one as soon as possible. Some visual impairments are highly degenerative without treatment, or may be related to an even worse problem such as cancer. An eyesight professional will be able pinpoint the root of the problem and potentially halt the deterioration or even reverse it.

In the meantime, you can also assess the extent of the damage yourself via OPSM Eye Check. This is a free application for iOS and Android that performs basic eye tests to assess your vision. It covers near distance, distance (tablet required), constrast sensitivity, astigmatism and colour vision.

Naturally, you shouldn't treat this as a substitute for a proper eye test, but at least you'll have a better idea of the situation. You can download the Android and iOS versions here and here, respectively.

If you find that your eyes regularly feel tired or sore while gaming, the issue could be related to the brightness in the room: try not to game in the dark and tone down your screen's illumination so it's not glaringly bright. Investing in a higher-resolution display may help too.

When it comes to taking measured breaks, one possible solution is to adopt the "Pomodoro Technique". This is a cyclical system designed to meet deadlines that involves limiting your productivity to 25-minute bursts.

Francesco Cirillo crafted the Pomodoro Technique in 1992, as a personal system to get more studying done. However, the same concept can be adopted by fatigued gamers. Here's how the system would work in a gaming context:

  1. Choose the game your want to play
  2. Set the Pomodoro (i.e. — the timer) to 25 minutes
  3. Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings then pause your game
  4. Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
  5. Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break

In addition to stopping you from becoming an unproductive couch zombie, this will give your eyes a break at regular intervals. For a dedicated timer, download Focus Booster App: this is a free Pomodoro-centered app available for Windows, Mac and most online browsers.

If any readers have additional tips or suggestions, let BL know in the comments section below.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    As the article says, definitely see the optometrist. All adults should start doing that anyway, no matter whether things are a bit fuzzy. In my family there's a history of type II diabetes and glaucoma; both are damned fine reasons for me to get my eyes inspected every two years.

    You think nothing of regular dentist visits right? Don't mess with your eyes... they're pretty important.

    (As an aside, my optometrist also has a deal where my eyeballs get popped out for a quick scrub, dings get a bit of panel-beating, then back in they go.)

    It could also be in part that higher-intensity gaming (i.e. online competitive FPS etc) tend to give the user a tendency to blink less during their sessions, which can cause eyes to become tired and sore.

    Not a doctor, just a gamer :P.

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