Updated on  May 3, 2024
6 min read

Video Games and Vision Problems: What to Know About Eye Strain

11 sources cited
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Research shows the average American spends about 7 hours on screens daily.1 This is over three times the expert-recommended screen time of 2 hours outside of work. The global average screen time per day is 6 hours and 58 minutes. 

One activity that dominates most people’s screen time is video gaming. Today, children and adults can play various games, including Angry Birds, Minecraft, and Call of Duty, among many others.

Although these video gaming sessions have benefits, it’s important to understand the risks involved. 

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • Whether video games are bad for your eyes
  • The role of video games in eye strain
  • The benefits of video games for eyesight
  • How gamers can avoid eyestrain and other vision issues

Can Video Games Damage Your Eyesight?

Video games can benefit your eyes if played in moderation. However, when you play video games for extended periods, your eye lenses and muscles don’t have time to relax.

Extensive video gaming causes digital eye strain (DES) or computer vision syndrome (CVS). Your risk of CVS is higher if you already have existing refractive errors such as: 

Research indicates repeated eye strain can cause myopia (nearsightedness) in healthy eyes.2 Someone with myopia can see close-by objects, but distant ones appear blurry. Although myopia typically does not get worse as you age, repeated eyestrain due to extended screen time can worsen it.  

Extended hours of video gaming can also cause dry eye syndrome. The eyes dry out due to inadequate blink reflexes when focusing on the screen.3 Blinking is important for lubricating the eye. 

Symptoms of Eye Strain from Video Games?

Gamers tend to experience the following eye strain symptoms:

  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision (diplopia)
  • Dry eyes (itching, redness, gritty and burning sensation)
  • Headaches
  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • Frequent squinting
  • Eye irritation
  • Difficulty concentrating

If these symptoms are severe or you notice any changes in your vision, consult your eye doctor for eye health advice and treatment.

How to Prevent Eye Strain from Video Games

Preventing eye strain from gaming can significantly benefit your eye health. Below are some effective measures:5

  • Adhere to the 20-20-20 rule. For every 20 minutes of screen time, look away and focus on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds
  • Adjust screen brightness. Choose a comfortable level; high brightness eventually leads to light sensitivity (photophobia)
  • Stay hydrated. Dehydration may cause eye strain, dry eyes, impaired tracking ability, slow reaction times, and poor concentration
  • Take long breaks. Don’t spend hours playing video games. Take frequent breaks and indulge in physical activities; stop screen activity at least one hour before bedtime
  • Have your dry eye medication handy. If you frequently have dry eyes, keep artificial tears or lubricating eye drops close if needed
  • Play in a well-lit room. Ensure your screen lighting matches your room’s lighting
  • Good sitting posture. Place the screen at least 18-24 inches from your face and the height at eye level; good posture prevents neck, shoulder, and eye strain
  • Blinking. Stimulates tear production and encourages lubrication; automated gameplay pause on your game settings can remind you to blink
  • Wear eye protection. Gaming glasses can block harmful blue light, which affects sleep;6 some can magnify the screen, reducing eye strain

What is Gamer’s Eye?

Gamer’s eye, or computer vision syndrome, is an eye strain associated with gamers who spend long hours on screen. Extended playtime tires the eye muscles due to the limited focus area within the monitor’s frame and the rapid eye movement required when tracking your game.

Other related causes of gamer’s eye include:

  • Poor lighting
  • Poor sitting posture
  • Screen glare
  • Low screen contrast
  • Sitting too close to the screen

How Do Gamers Protect Their Eyes?

To protect your eyes from eye strain and other visual problems, you can follow these screen time guidelines:

  • Adults. No more than 2 hours per day playing video games and other non-work activities
  • Children. No more than 1 hour on school days and 2 hours on non-school days4 
  • Children under 6. About 30 minutes daily

If you enjoy playing video games, you can protect your eyes in the following ways:

  • Invest in quality gaming glasses with an anti-reflective coating
  • Use screen covers that reduce glare and block blue light
  • Position your screen at eye level and arm’s length (18-24 inches)
  • Take frequent breaks to rest your eyes

Video Game Benefits for Eyesight

Video games aren’t inherently bad for children’s eyes, especially if played in moderation. Playing video games has benefits like improving players’ moods, promoting relaxation, and enhancing visual skills.

These visual skills include:

  • Visual acuity. The ability to see things clearly from a given distance
  • Contrast sensitivity. The ability to perceive sharp and clear outlines of objects and identify differences in shades and patterns between objects and their background
  • Hand-eye coordination. The ability of the brain to direct hand action based on visual information from the eye

A study concluded that video games can train eyes to acquire or perfect visual skills. There is also a relationship between player rank and visual skills.7

According to the research, high-ranked players perform better than low-ranked players in visual acuity and contrast sensitivity. However, the low-ranked players do improve over time with repeated play. 

Further studies associate video games with improved contrast sensitivity and hand-eye coordination.8 Experts say video gaming can be as effective as eyeglasses, contact lenses, or eye surgery.

Do Games Improve Eyesight?

Yes. Video games can improve your eyesight for essential tasks such as night driving, watching television, and reading. Action-based video games improve several aspects of your vision:

  • Visual attention. The ability to maintain awareness throughout a visual interaction
  • Visual reaction time. Fast-paced moving and focusing trains eye muscles and improves reaction time to various action points 
  • Visual acuity. Action-based video games such as Call of Duty can improve visual acuity (sharpness of vision) due to the constant focus on different points on screen9
  • Peripheral vision. Perceiving real-world surroundings while playing improves the eye’s peripheral vision
  • Night vision. Good night vision helps with activities such as driving, reading, etc.
  • Amblyopia (lazy eyes). Vision therapists recommend video games such as Tetris, AmblyoPlay, or Lazyeyefix to treat amblyopia10

Can Other Digital Devices Cause Eye Strain?

Eye strain isn’t limited to gaming screens only. Other digital devices can also strain your eyes.

These devices include:

  • Mobile phones
  • Work computers
  • Tablet/iPads
  • E-readers
  • Televisions
  • Projectors

The extent of eye strain will depend on the screen brightness, font or picture size, distance from your eyes, duration of stare, sitting posture, etc.


  • Research shows that action-based video games can benefit your eyes by improving contrast sensitivity, peripheral vision, visual acuity, night vision, and hand-eye coordination.
  • When you spend hours focusing on the screen, your eye lens and muscles don’t have time to relax. This causes eye fatigue or eye strain (asthenopia).  
  • Myopia or nearsightedness is a common condition caused by excessive screen time and repeated eye strain.
  • Gamers can protect their eyes by blinking often, wearing gaming glasses, ensuring proper lighting, sitting in a proper posture, positioning the screen 20 inches (51 cm) away from the eyes, etc.
  • Look for symptoms of digital eye strain like itching, redness, gritty sensation, blurred vision, headaches, and sensitivity to light. If they are severe, consult your eye doctor.
Updated on  May 3, 2024
11 sources cited
Updated on  May 3, 2024
  1. 18 Average Screen Time Statistics [2023]: How Much Screen Time Is Too Much?” Zippia, 2023. 
  2. Kaur et al. “Digital Eye Strain- A Comprehensive Review.” National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 2014. 
  3. Dry eye.” American Optometric Association (AOA).
  4. Strasburger et al. “Children, Adolescents, and the Media.”  American Academy of Pediatrics, 2013.
  5. Is Too Much Screen Time Harming Children’s Vision?” American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), 2018.
  6. The Color of the Light Affects the Circadian Rhythms.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2020.
  7. Cretenoud et al. “How do visual skills relate to action video game performance?” Journal of Vision (JOV), 2021.
  8. Latham et al. “The virtual brain: 30 years of video-game play and cognitive abilities.” National Library of Medicine, 2013.
  9. Caplovitz, G.P., and Kastner, S. “Carrot sticks or joysticks: video games improve vision,” National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 2009.
  10. Gambacorta et al. “An action video game for the treatment of amblyopia in children: A feasibility study.” National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 2018.
  11. Is All This Screen Time Making Children’s Eyes Worse?” National Institute for Children’s Health Quality (NICHQ), 2021.
The information provided on VisionCenter.org should not be used in place of actual information provided by a doctor or a specialist.