Xbox 360 Healthy Gaming Guide

Overview

Playing video games should be relaxing and fun. Repetitive movements, poor posture, and overindulgence, though, can sometimes cause numbness, tingling, and other issues that might escalate into serious health problems. Review the health warnings below and follow the suggestions in this guide to develop healthy gaming practices.

Health warnings

Musculoskeletal disorders

As with many activities, you may experience occasional discomfort in your hands, arms, shoulders, neck, or other parts of your body when playing video games. However, if you experience persistent or recurring discomfort, pain, throbbing, aching, tingling, numbness, burning sensation, or stiffness, DO NOT IGNORE THESE WARNING SIGNS. PROMPTLY SEE A QUALIFIED HEALTH PROFESSIONAL, even if symptoms occur when you are not playing a video game.

Symptoms such as these can be associated with painful and sometimes permanently disabling injuries or disorders of the nerves, muscles, tendons, blood vessels, and other parts of the body. These musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, tenosynovitis, vibration syndromes, and other conditions.

While researchers are not yet able to answer many questions about MSDs, there is general agreement that many factors may be linked to their occurrence. These include: medical and physical conditions, stress and how one copes with it, overall health, and how a person positions and uses his or her body during work and other activities (including playing a video game).

Because there are a variety of factors that may contribute to MSDs, this guide cannot provide everything you need to know to prevent an MSD. For some people, following the suggestions may reduce their risk of sustaining an MSD. For others, it may not. However, many people are likely to experience greater comfort when following these suggestions.

Keep in mind that this guide is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. If you have questions about how your own lifestyle, activities, or medical or physical condition may be related to MSDs, see a qualified health professional.

Photosensitive seizures

A small percentage of people may experience a seizure when exposed to certain visual images, including flashing lights or patterns that may appear in video games. Even people with no history of seizures or epilepsy may have an undiagnosed condition that can cause these photosensitive epileptic seizures while watching video games.

These seizures may have a myriad of symptoms, including lightheadedness, altered vision, eye or face twitching, jerking or shaking of arms or legs, disorientation, confusion, or momentary loss of awareness. Seizures may also cause loss of consciousness or convulsions that can lead to injury from falling down or striking nearby objects. Immediately stop playing and consult a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms. Children and teenagers are more likely than adults to experience these seizures. Parents should watch for or ask their children about the above symptoms. The risk of photosensitive epileptic seizures may be reduced by taking the following precautions:

  • Sit farther from the screen
  • Use a smaller screen
  • Play in a well-lit room
  • Do not play when you are drowsy or fatigued.

If you or any of your relatives have a history of seizures or epilepsy, consult a doctor before playing.

Healthy gaming practices

Position

Using your body in comfortable postures is important, whether you're working or playing. Not only can this affect your overall performance, but it can also influence how comfortable you are while playing video games and may help you avoid MSDs. Changing your posture during extended gaming sessions may also help you avoid discomfort and fatigue.

When playing video games, adapt your surroundings and arrange your equipment to promote a comfortable and relaxed body posture. Because everyone has a unique body size and because many factors affect your comfort, we cannot tell you exactly how to set up your area to avoid discomfort. However, the following suggestions may help to provide you with a more comfortable environment:

  • To support your back, choose a chair or seat that provides support for your lower back and allows you to assume a comfortable and natural body posture.

  • To promote comfortable leg postures, clear away items from your legs to allow comfortable leg positions and movement.

  • To promote comfortable shoulder and arm postures, allow your upper arms to fall relaxed at your sides.

  • To promote proper wrist and finger postures, keep your wrists straight while holding and using controllers. Avoid bending your wrists up, down, or to the sides.

  • To minimize neck bending and twisting, position yourself and/or the television so that you do not have to tilt your head up or down or side-to-side for extended periods.

  • To minimize eyestrain, avoid glare by placing your television away from light sources that produce glare, or use window blinds to control light levels. Also, consider adjusting your television's brightness and contrast to levels that are comfortable for you.

Physical forces

Physical forces continuously interact with our bodies. We may only think of high-impact forces, such as car crashes, as injuring our bodies. However, low forces may also result in injuries, discomfort, and fatigue if they are repeated or experienced over long periods of time.

Consider the following types of low forces:

  • Dynamic force, or a force that you exert through movement. For example, pressing buttons on a gaming controller or the keys of a computer keyboard.

  • Static force, or a force that you maintain for a period of time. For example, holding your gaming controller or cradling the phone.

  • Contact force, or pressure that occurs when you rest on an edge or hard surface. For example, resting your wrists on the edge of your desk, table, or other hard surface.

Consider the following suggestions to reduce the effects of low forces on your body:

  • Press gaming controller buttons with a light touch, keeping your hands and fingers relaxed; it takes little effort to activate these buttons. Also, apply a light touch when using control sticks or pads on a gaming controller.

  • Avoid resting your palms or wrists on any type of surface while using game controllers.

  • Relax your arms and hands when you're not actually using game controllers. See the "Take Breaks" section below for additional information.

  • Hold the game controller with a relaxed hand. Do not grip the game controller more tightly than is necessary.

Duration

Taking breaks can go a long way to helping your body recover from any activity and may help you avoid MSDs. The length and frequency of breaks you may need depend on the type of activity you are doing. Stopping the activity and relaxing is one way to take a break, but there are other ways too. These include:

  • Changing tasks, which can help some muscles relax while others remain productive. For example, you might sit while playing video games but stand when not playing.

  • Using different methods to accomplish the same task. For example, using the controller pad instead of the control stick.

  • Relaxing your arms and hands while watching others play or during cut scenes, replays, or other pauses within a game.

  • Learning about software and hardware features by reading the information that came with your game discs and hardware products.

Healthy living

A healthy lifestyle can help you perform and enjoy your everyday activities, including the time spent playing video games. For overall good health, consider the following:

  • Eat a balanced diet and get adequate rest.

  • Exercise for overall fitness to give strength and flexibility to your body. Keep in mind that you should consult a qualified health professional to help you choose the stretches and exercises that are right for you.

  • Learn to manage stress.

  • See a qualified health professional if you have questions about how your medical and physical conditions may be related to MSDs. While researchers are not yet able to answer many questions about MSDs, there is general agreement that certain factors may be linked to their occurrence, including previous injuries, diabetes, hormonal changes (such as pregnancy), and rheumatoid arthritis.

Adult supervision

Xbox 360 Parental Controls

We encourage parents to take an active role in their children's gaming. Use the Xbox 360 parental controls to customize and manage your family's access to games, movies, and television content. The Xbox 360 parental controls can be used to control the console and access to Xbox Live, including:

  • Which games can be played.
  • Which movies and TV shows can be watched.
  • How long each family member can use the console on a daily or weekly basis.
  • Whether or not someone can access Xbox Live.

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