There have been reports of video games triggering seizures as far back as 1981. Why do video games cause seizures and can you play video games with epilepsy?
Cyberpunk 2077: an example of video games and seizures
In December 2020, the hotly anticipated Cyberpunk 2077 was released and received plenty of praise. However, one reviewer raised concerns about the video game and seizures. Liana Ruppert, a gamer who has epilepsy, reported that Cyberpunk 2077 triggered her seizures.
Ruppert explained that one of the recurring features of the game is a moment where the lead character must put on a helmet which shows rapidly flashing red and white lights. Unfortunately, the helmet in the game is in fact very much like the medical headsets that neurologists use to trigger seizures for diagnostic purposes. For people with photosensitive epilepsy, the game could therefore be risky to play.
Can video games cause seizures?
Yes, there are many examples of video games triggering seizures in people with epilepsy. Here are some of the reasons why video games may trigger seizures:
- Photosensitivity: Between 3% and 5% of people with epilepsy have seizures which are photosensitive. This is when their seizures are caused by flashing lights or high contrasting patterns. Many video games include such elements and could therefore trigger seizures.
- Tiredness: Video games can be a little addictive, and it is easy to spend hours playing them. However if you have epilepsy it is important to avoid becoming too tired as this is a well-known seizure trigger.
- Stress or excitement: Video games that are scary, stressful, frustrating or which over stimulate the player in some other way could cause seizures.
- Loud noises or music: Some people’s seizures are triggered by sounds such as looping music. Many video games include this sort of repetitive soundtrack.
Learn more: What are common seizure triggers?
Can you get epilepsy from playing video games?
No, it is not possible to get epilepsy just from playing video games. Epilepsy is a medical condition which may be caused by genetics, a brain disease or a head injury. To learn more about why people get epilepsy, read our blog.
How can you play video games with epilepsy safely?
If you, or someone you know, has epilepsy and you are worried about video games causing seizures, here are some things that you can do to reduce the risk:
- Talk to your epilepsy doctor about your concerns: Your specialist will know about your epilepsy type and can help you assess your risk
- Get a photosensitive epilepsy test: Epilepsy centers can conduct tests which find out if you have photosensitive epilepsy or not
- Check the video game packaging and reviews: Many (but not all) video games will include a warning on the packaging about flashing lights in the game. Similarly, reviews might tell you if there are lots of flashing lights.
- Wear an eye patch: Some people with photosensitive epilepsy find that they can avoid seizures by wearing an eye patch
- Change the settings: It may be possible to change the settings on your video game so that flashing lights are turned off
- Minimize the amount of time playing video games: Set yourself a time limit for how many hours you will play a game to avoid becoming too tired
Photosensitivity: Read about fireworks, flashes and other photosensitive triggers
Know the risk of video games and seizures
Video games are a fun form of entertainment and for most people with epilepsy it should be perfectly safe to play them. By taking some precautions and being aware of your seizure triggers you can make the best decision for you.