Welcome to Counterpoint, a series in which we challenge commonly held ideas about well-known products. This time: ‘gaming’ chairs.
The quickest way to tell if a person is a gamer isn’t their rig or the presence of LED light strips in their room; it is, and has been for more than a decade, the chair. With all due respect, that is just stupid.
You know the ones — the fire engine red accents, the embroidered logos, the polyurethane leather, the deepest of reclines. Holdovers from a time when gaming was only for the young, these features are not the primary target of my ire. Not when nearly every gaming chair is still, in the year 2020, emulating those found in race cars — complete with bucket seats, winged backrests and lifted seat edges.
Bested only by working and sleeping, there isn’t a more stationary activity than gaming. Whether you’re getting in a quick game of Warzone before bed or it’s 3 a.m. and you’re still playing the same game of Civilization VI, your body needs support. The vast majority of racer-style chairs do not provide support, or at least not support of the right kind.
The winged back and bucket seat were introduced to keep drivers firmly planted during high-speed turns. Playing Dota 2 shouldn’t dislodge you from your seat. The elevated front lip of a racing seat serves to lift a driver’s legs so they can more comfortably reach pedals. This serves no purpose in a CS:GO match. These more obvious problems are foundational, but the ubiquity of the aesthetic presents other issues. Take the faux leather used to upholster the chairs; this material does not breathe well, which makes the tired cliché of the sweaty gamer a reality.
The solution is as boring as it is obvious: the same desk chairs that are good for working are good for gaming. These ergonomics-focused chairs prioritize support, circulation and body health over looks. Instead of winged backs, the shapes mimic the body and allow for freer movement. In place of sweaty pleather, good desk chairs utilize airy mesh and more breathable foam. Instead of seats that lift your legs up and cause circulation breaks, most employ waterfall edge seats that cut back on the pressure that builds up in your thighs. Hours of stationary gaming demands an ergonomics focus, not an aesthetics one.
The gaming community hasn’t always been aligned with car seats — previous to the colorful seats of today, people played games in anything from plastic lawn chairs to Marcel Breuer’s famed Cesca chairs, as chronicled by the website ChairsFX. By most accounts, the racer-style gaming chair movement was born in 2006, when a racing seat company called DXRacer shifted its focus to gaming chairs and, after a series of major sponsorships with eSports events, erupted in popularity.
There are signs the tyranny of the videogame race car chair’s is coming to an end. The task chair masters at Herman Miller recently announced a partnership with the gaming wing at Logitech that promises to “create the world’s most advanced gaming chair.” For all the destruction it’s wrought, the coronavirus has forced millions to reevaluate the chairs they spend the most time in.
Consider buying a chair not because your favorite streamer on Twitch was paid to sit in it, but for the love of your joints.