Danny Bittman is a twenty-five-year-old Creative Director and Artist who works almost exclusively in VR, and he recently took to Twitter to evaluate his eyesight problems.
Since childhood, Bittman’s had a previously-undiagnosed condition called exophoria, a type of heterophoria. It causes his eyes to unfocus and drift apart, making it somewhat difficult to read or focus on visual stimuli without getting sore eyes or headaches. The condition is normally static at Bittman’s age, however, he says the severity “has multiplied by 10 since 2016.” His optometrist, a VR user, believes this was caused by VR overuse.
According to Bittman, he played up to six hours of VR a day, though he also took breaks every 30 minutes. Sheer playing time, however, is not the only problem here. Bittman also refers to gaming at low frame rates in VR, and the fact that devs are willing to deal with this as part of the cost of getting a game up and running. He’s concerned that his own willingness to tolerate low frame rates and janky, stuttering playback contributed directly to his eyesight problems today.
I would echo Bittman’s tone about taking your eye health very seriously, regardless of whether you use VR or not. Rates of myopia (nearsightedness) in children have skyrocketed over the past few decades. Your eye health can change as you get older, and “older,” in this case, doesn’t have to mean “old.” Taking screen breaks and making certain to focus your eyes on targets closer than 2-3 feet away is important. A lot of adults get this kind of practice daily from commuting, but there’s a fair number of people now working from home. If you’ve noticed your eye strain ticking up, it might be a good idea to step out the front door and look down the road for a few minutes each day.
Bittman intends to continue working in VR, which he loves, but plans to be far more mindful of his environment and the frame rates he tests when developing a title. His case may be unusual, but the idea of taking frequent VR breaks and exercising one’s eyes is solid advice regardless.