Here’s the thing. Our eyes are muscles, and confusing, but they’re neat. We’ll keep it simple.
To start, a helpful reference to keep us on the same page:
There are two things about screens that really mess our eyes up: viewing distance and the blue light screens emit. Viewing distance is easy to understand, even if we don’t think about it much: there are muscles that control your eyes. When you hold your phone in front of your face, or lean in close to your computer screen, your lenses and the muscles that control them are working pretty hard, constantly making micro adjustments to keep the world in focus. When you look away from your screen to look at something across the room, your lens also has to work hard making the major adjustments needed to refocus.
If your gaming setup doesn’t include some sort of backdrop, your not setting yourself up for success. When anything moves in the background and distracts you enough to look off the screen at it, your eyes are working. If it continues, they’re overworking. If you’re looking away often, you strain your eyes. If you look at a screen for a long, long time and then try to look away, you also strain your eyes. That eye strain causes stress in your temples almost identical to the tension you feel when under emotional or psychological stress, so if you get headaches while gaming, it could be the light and your eyes to blame.
Without complicating this too much by throwing physics and science words at you, blue light, specifically, is a compounded problem because our lenses aren’t very good at filtering out its shorter wavelengths. Virtually all blue light bypasses our eyes’ defenses to assault our precious retina, which are very, very sensitive and in need of protection. When the retina encounters so much unwanted blue light, it can deteriorate and lead to premature macular degeneration.
The largest source if blue light is actually the sun, but you’ll get additional blue light exposure from things like most fluorescent light bulbs, LED lights, and the screen of your favorite monitor, television, smart phone, or tablet. In truth, the exposure you receive from these devices compared to the sun is relatively low, but, then again, there’s a reason why people say, “Don’t stare into the sun, numnuts.”
The modern concern comes from the length of time that we are, as a culture, spending looking at our screens, and the proximity of our precious eyeballs to those screens. Like most times concern leads to investigations, some benefits were unveiled that help better understand the reactions our bodies have. Things like how blue light boosts alertness and memory or elevates our mood and cognitive function are probably why screens keep us up late at night and get us firing so hot. Knowing that blue light exposure is critical to maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm makes sense, and as all things, when you step from the bounds of moderation into indulgence, that over exposure will disturb your circadian cycle.
This is why screen time is a delicate balance. There’s nothing wrong with moderated screen time or gaming sessions - in fact, it might even be beneficial - but if you go outside the bounds, you’re in for a restless, damaging disruption to your health.
The most alarming problem that over exposure can cause is premature macular degeneration. This isn’t so much from the digital eye strain we talked about earlier, or the unmentioned fatigue, dry eyes, or dehydration that came come with it, but more from the lack of biological protection evolution gave to our retinas.
Our macula is at the back part of our eye and is the central part of our retina. Macular degeneration is the, well, degeneration of our macula. It causes vision loss and can make fine sight tasks like reading, cooking, and even driving difficult. I’ve heard that you don’t so much go blind as you go blurry.
What can I do?
First off, try and face your computer towards a wall or something so you’re less tempted to look off into the distance and strain your eyes. It can still be helpful to look away from the screen every once and awhile to rest them, but that’s more about the blue light than it is the muscle movements. Also, don’t put your nose up to your screen, that makes it a lot worse.
Secondly, hydrate - especially if you’re getting headaches. This might seem unrelated, but the truth is that you can never really be hydrated enough, and screens have a tendency to dry out our eyes, which exacerbates the damaging effects.
Thirdly, screen time. I’m hesitant to tell you to decrease it, because we’re gamers, but reducing your screen time is going to be the best way for you to reduce the risk of damaging your eyes. A helpful exercise is to set clear goals for your gaming sessions, whether it’s something like Only four matches or Three wins or Six dungeons, giving yourself some parameters to reach in order to stop can keep your sessions concise and efficient.
Barring a reduction in screen time, it is worth it to invest in some screen filters that reduce the amount of blue light coming off your screen, specifically at night. A lot of Apple products are programmed to do this, and a quick Google can pull up some decent software for us Windows folk.
There’s some hype about computer glasses - those weird yellow-tinted monstrosities - and, in my experience, they only help to a small extent. I often feel like my muscles are working harder with the lens than with them off, but then you’re objectively looking at more blue light. This is something for you to decide. They certainly are getting more stylish though, so the time to invest is coming up.
That’s all for today, I hope you gleaned some nice facts to share with your buds when you educate them on this. Remember that your retina is precious, and that we are not biologically prepared for our rapid advance in technology. Hopefully they can get us gamers some cyborg eyes sooner rather than later, because I for one don’t want my world getting any more blurred.