There is a pretty good chance that you spend too much time in front of a screen these days. In this modern age of technology everything from work to study to leisure revolves around looking at one screen or another. How much damage does it really do to your eyes? A lot, apparently. According to those silly optometrists, but peeshay! What do eye doctors know about eyes? Joking aside, for those who experience dry eyes and headaches while sitting in front of a computer know all too well the damage they are doing to those little doors to the soul. No one is more familiar with this than gamers. Hours and hours of intense gaming are putting a hearty strain on their eyes more than most people experience. Gaming glasses like Gunnar Optiks claim they alleviate the stress on the eyes after staring at a screen and can even improve gaming performance. However, it sounds a bit too good to be true. Do gaming glasses really work and are they worth the exuberant cost?
I've been skeptical about gaming glasses since I first saw them, mostly because I smelled a bit of snake oil in their advertising. However, little did I know that they would one day invade my home. My boyfriend bought a pair and after my laughter quieted from seeing him wearing those hilarious yellow tinted specs, I saw an opportunity to find out for myself if they were indeed a $100 dollar bottle of snake oil or if they really worked. I spend nearly every waking hour in front of a computer. My work revolves around it and I am an avid gamer and television watcher in my free time. I am, without my glasses or contacts; just slightly less blind than Velma from Scooby Doo (i.e. I can still find my glasses). So who knows maybe my years upon years of eye strain from gaming and other screen looking is responsible for my degrading eye sight opposed to what I just thought was genetics. Though I can't speak to if it would slow the decline in my eye sight, I can now after using these gamer glasses give some insight if they work or not in other ways.
Aside from the generally silly look of the glasses, the number one thing that put me off of gamer glasses was the marketing statement. I'm not the most science-y sort of person, so some of the words were beyond me. Probably beyond most people, unless they happened to be eye doctors. That aside, the marketing department for Gunnar in particular obviously decided to cram in as many complicated words as possibly, completely throwing KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) out the window then maybe dropping a piano by it by throwing in some really strangely capitalized words.
From the Gunnar Gaming Glasses website:
"Designed using advanced computer algorithms, fRACTYL lens geometry mimics nature by focusing light. The highly wrapped configuration creates an ocular microclimate trapping in humidity and blocking out evaporative air currents. i-Fi multi-stage lens coatings filter transmitted light and protect the lens. The anti-reflective portion cuts glare and distracting extraneous light. A hydrophobic component keeps water spots to a minimum while an oleophobic coating protects from smudging and fingerprints."
All of which accompanied by some pictures of very morose looking gamers. That had me baffled as well; why not make them seem, you know, happier when wearing their product.
Amazon Price: $79.00 $61.43 Buy Now
(price as of May 29, 2014)
What Do Gaming Glasses Do?
If you can sift through all the buzzwords in the marketing, what do gamer glasses do exactly? As any glasses wearer knows, tints are pretty standard these days. Gamer glasses are essentially tints, an amber tint, more specifically. This amber tint increases contrast when looking at computer and television screens. However, unlike regular tints, these glasses come with an anti-reflective coating that keeps the glare down. This tint along with the coating give wearers 8-10% of the 12% of usable light we lose to glare when in front of a light emitting source.
The 'hydrophobic and oleophobic' coatings protect from water and smudging, something that gaming glasses really shouldn't feel special about. It is standard on almost all glasses. But it sounds cool and that is all that counts these days.
So there are the claims, but do they actually work?
Amazon Price: $69.00 $51.70 Buy Now
(price as of May 29, 2014)
Do Gaming Glasses Work? My Experience
So I nipped my boyfriend's gaming glasses. I looked silly wearing them, but after looking on the website, there were worse frames he could have picked. Way worse. Like thick purple frames that market only to, I imagine, hipsters. Though they do have the option to come in prescriptions, which is nice, but even more expensive.
Anyway, I decided to try them for their intended purpose first--gaming. I wanted to try an experiment so I played a visually intense game for me that has a long record for messing up my eyes in the shortest amount of time (Crysis 3). After my eyes dried, started to ache and a massive headache had built up, I wanted to see if the glasses would alleviate the symptoms of strain. It wasn't instantaneous, but after an hour or so more of play I felt better. My eyes were still a bit dry, but the eye ache and headache had subsided.
The glasses themselves really quite increased the contrast and it wasn't a bad thing. The colors on the screen really popped, save for the white and blues that didn't seem as vibrant. Of course, with an amber tint, that was pretty much guaranteed to happen. The frames themselves were pretty light so it didn't really feel like wearing glasses; they also didn't slide down my nose as normal glasses do, also a nice perk. However, like normal glasses, those 'hydrophobic and oleophobic' coatings seemed for naught as they still got water spots and smudges. But hey, not too shabby for the eye strain reduction they do.
I did some more testing with them, during some longer gaming sessions in Final Fantasy XIV: Realm Reborn and later Dark Souls II. I binged and my eyes didn't appear to suffer from 6 to 9 hour gaming sessions like they usually would.
So, I guess, even with my thinly veiled strong dislike, that gaming glasses really do work. At least the Gunnar brand does. But really, they had better work for the $70+ minimum price tag. They reduced the eye strain, though I didn't notice a marked increase in my gaming performance, but I can see how it would help in certain games like shooters.
Amazon Price: $24.99 $8.95 Buy Now
(price as of May 29, 2014)
How to Protect Your Eyes?
Not sold on gaming glasses even though they do work? i don't blame you, I still ardently hate their marketing, think they look rather silly and am put off by the price. However, there are plenty of ways to take care of one's eyes without special glasses. Of course, the obvious one is not spend quite so much time on the computer, but we all can't be millionaires and just get an island off the grid, right?
A lot of what people can do all boils down to common sense. Sure, Tylenol and eye drops can work wonders, but it is really more about listening to what your eyes are telling you. If you feel the strain, move your eyes to a more relaxed or distant focal point. Eye strain is caused because a screen forces the eyes to focus on one point and they need a bit of variety and movement. If that is not helping, be sure to get a regular eye exam to determine the focusing status of your visual system as well as look for disorders on the eye that are causing discomfort.