So you’ve probably seen all the hype around gaming chairs and are wondering whether or not you should get one.
Your old chair might be breaking apart, or it might just not be comfortable enough and causes you pain in certain areas of the body (usually lumbar area, tailbone, upper back).
You may or may not be a gamer. Especially now in 2021 lots of people are working from home so you might be looking for a chair that is good both for work and gaming for longer periods of time (10-12 hours per day).
You might have seen online videos and images teaching you the correct and healthy position to sit in a chair.
What those tutorials fail to take into account is just how essential a good chair is for you sit and maintain a healthy posture. Bad chairs make it impossible to sit correctly through a combination of poor design, materials and insufficient adjustment options.
Can a gaming chair fulfill this role? If you have an office chair, is it worth moving to a gaming chair?
Are gaming chairs comfortable? Do they cause pain?
First, what is the definition of a comfortable chair?
For the rest of this article, a comfortable chair is one in which you have zero (or near zero) pain or discomfort after 10-12 hours of continuous use.
The definition above is the one used by high end chair manufacturers to rate the quality of their chairs. The best of the best chairs are rated as 24/7 hours of constant use, and are commonly used by dispatchers, air traffic controllers etc.
Achieving a comfortable 10-12 hours of sitting is different from person to person since everyone has their own, slightly different, naturally comfortable sitting position.
Adjustments features in gaming chairs
The naturally comfortable sitting position for most people is firstly correlated with size and weight, so if you want to buy a chair (gaming or not) be sure to check its maximum recommended weight, plus maximum and minimum suggested height.
The second consideration is sitting preference: does a person prefer having stronger support for their lower back or upper back? Do they need adjustable armrests to place their elbows on? Should the chair stand more upright or have a slight lean back?
Because of this, 2 different people can use the same gaming chair in two very different ways.
This adjustment problem is important because a good chair (gaming or not) should give you as many adjustment options as possible so you can find your naturally comfortable sitting position.
If you sit in a chair that isn’t the right fit , or isn’t adjustable enough, you’ll be stuck in positions that cause pain and discomfort over a long sitting session.
A good, comfortable chair (one that gives you minimal or zero pain and discomfort after 12 hours of use) isn’t usually a “one and done” kind of thing.
When using a comfortable chair with lots of adjustments you’ll form a habit of adjusting the chair whenever you feel the slightest pain or discomfort.
Bodies can be weird, and a position that works for 2-3 hours may not feel comfortable enough after that time frame.
For instance, sometimes you may want a more upright sitting position, other times a slightly more lean back one.
Perhaps you may want the lumbar support to be tighter and push against your back more. Other times you want the lumbar support to be so loose it feels non-existent.
Sometimes the difference between adjustments are incredibly small.
But the freedom to do these tiny, tiny adjustments can make the difference between a comfortable position or a painful one.
For instance, being able to raise / lower the armrests by 0.5 inches, making the backrest feel 5% more tense, making the actual seat of the chair longer or shorter etc.
Gaming chairs only have basic adjustment features, and usually lack some of the more advanced adjustments present in office/task chairs at the same price range.
As an example, below is a comparison between a best selling $500 gaming chair, the Secretlab Titan XL, and a task chair of the same price, the ErgoChair PRO.
|Secretlab Titan XL adjustments||ErgoChair PRO adjustments|
|Seat height.||Seat height.|
|Backrest recline.||Backrest recline.|
|4D armrests (up, down, side to side, forwards and backwards)||4D armrests.|
|Seat tilt.||Seat tilt.|
|Lumbar support pillow (can only attach or remove).||Lumbar support up or down.|
|Lumbar and back support tension.|
|Move seat forward or backwards.|
Chair design and how it helps posture and back pain
Besides adjustment features, the next big thing that matters for the comfort of a (gaming) chair is overall design.
The distinctive look of gaming chairs comes directly from their origin as racing car seats.
This design is called “bucket seat” and works very well in cars because they hold the driver in place when doing tight turns at high speeds.
Even though gaming chairs have wheels, they are unlikely to ever achieve these sort of speeds and high G’s. As such, those distinctive wings on the edge of the seat and the backrest don’t have any practical purpose.
On the contrary, the design of gaming chairs makes them uncomfortable for many people because they form pressure points.
Pressure points form in locations where a chair pushes against your body, cutting blood circulation going through important blood vessels.
This is why some chairs make you feel numb or tingly, because they restrict blood flow to various body parts.
Besides feeing numb or tingly, pressure points can cause pain since the displaced tissue will pinch or irritate nerves, typically in the lower back area.
The most common pressure points on gaming chairs happen at the:
- Shoulders, caused by wings on the side of the backrest.
- Side of the legs, because of the seat wings.
- Underneath your thighs, because most gaming chairs come with a pronounced upper lip.
If you’re a broad shouldered person, the lateral wings on the backrest of gaming chairs won’t let you have a straight back. Instead, they will push your shoulders inwards causing discomfort in the collarbone / clavicle area.
Users that sit with their legs more spread apart will find the lateral wings on gaming chair seats restrictive and uncomfortable, since you can’t fully spread out the legs without hitting the lateral wings.
Another common pressure point is in the thighs, since many gaming chairs come with a slightly pronounced upper lip that dig into the underside of your legs and are the single biggest reason why many users complain of numb legs.
After adjustments features and design, construction materials are the next most important element when deciding on a chair.
Gaming chairs very often come in leather. Unfortunately, both PU and genuine leather is a bad material for chairs since it gets hot very easily, captures smells, dirt and is generally hard to clean.
The only two viable materials for chairs are fabric and mesh.
All higher quality gaming chairs come in fabric. It’s a good material that allows air circulation and releases heat so you can stay cool and not sweat.
Fabric always comes paired with foam cushions as a filler. If you’ve never sat on anything but foam filled chairs, you’ll probably know what to expect.
Gaming chairs win over a lot of people when they first sit in one because they have thick foam cushions that feel very comfortable and pleasant on first contact.
Appearances can be deceiving though.
The problem with foam is that most gaming chairs use thick, low quality memory foam that feels great for the first 1-2 hours of use, but fails to provide good ergonomic support for your butt and back for more than a few hours, leading to pain and discomfort.
Then there’s also the long term durability of foam.
In memory foam, the cells collapse at a slow rate and the foam appears to ‘remember’ the imprinted shape. Over time, with a sustained amount of pressure, memory foam will take on a compressive set and will not recover its original shape like most urethane foams.
If you do decide to purchase a gaming chair, then it’s best to stay away from memory foam, and instead find a chair that contains cold cured foam or high density foam (usually expressed in either kg/m3 or lb/ft3 – the higher the better).
Mesh is a material you rarely see in gaming chairs, and when you do it’s usually only in the backrest or with office chairs rebranded as gaming chairs.
At first glance mesh looks like a flimsy material for a chair, however the mesh used in chairs is very sturdy and lasts considerably longer than fabric and foam chairs.
As proof of this, the Staples Hyken, a ~$200 all mesh chair has a 7 year warranty, compared to a $599 Secretlab Titan XL gaming chair.
The advantages of mesh are breathability, followed by a very comfortable, hammock like feeling as if you’re floating on air.
Unfortunately, there are no dedicated mesh gaming chairs, so if you want this kind of feeling it’s best to look at mesh task chairs such as:
- Staples Hyken: $150-250
- Ergohuman Premium Fit IOO: ~$500
- Herman Miller Aeron: $750-1100
Another aspect worth considering is the materials used on the armrests. If you’re the type of person who uses armrests then choose a chair that covers them in a softer material instead of simple hard plastic.
It’s a small thing, but it can truly help in preventing pain in the elbow area.
Are gaming chairs good for back health and posture?
Gaming chairs aren’t good for back health since they encourage an incorrect sitting posture that doesn’t follow the natural curvature of the spine. Because of this, gaming chairs don’t properly distribute your body weight and compress the lower back area causing pain.
Gaming chairs encourage a forward slouch
You can notice this major flaw in gaming chair design when you compare them side by side to regular task chairs of any price range.
The first thing to notice is how task chairs, especially higher end ones, have a groove right where the seat “connects” with the backrest.
This groove is possible because both the seat and the backrest taper off at the end and have a gentle downward slope.
When sitting on such a chair, your bottom naturally falls into this groove. As a bonus, since the bottom of a typical office chair is slopped down, gravity will make sure your butt will always stay fixed and not slide away.
By comparison, the seats and backrests of gaming chairs are always straight as a plank. Because of this, when you sit in a gaming chair your natural tendency will be to lean with the upper body on the backrest, which “pushes” your lower body downward and outward.
The end result is the forward body lurch where your pelvis basically slides away into oblivion.
This incorrect position is called kyphosis and is terrible for posture and overall back health, since it heavily compresses the lumbar area and the part of your back that connects with the chair.
Office / task chairs prevent this with the groove that locks you in place, but gaming chairs don’t have this so there’s nothing there to stop you from floating away.
Gaming chairs have poor back support
Another problem gaming chairs have when it comes to posture is poor lower back (lumbar) support.
Gaming chairs only offer one kind of lumbar support: a pillow.
The problem is you can’t do any adjustments to this pillow system other than adding or removing it. You can’t move it up or down, or make it softer or harder.
For a lucky few, the lumbar support pillow is all they need for good lower back support.
By contrast, a good chair that is rated for 24/7 hour use has a lot of adjustments option for the lumbar support including: adding or removing it, moving it up or down, adjusting tension (how hard or soft it is).
The backrest is also problematic in gaming chairs
Gaming chair backrests are stiff and inflexible so they don’t take the shape of your body.
Because of this, it’s mostly the upper back area around the shoulder blades that connects with the chair. This creates a pressure point at that area which leads to pain and discomfort with long sitting use.
Comfortable chairs counteract this with backrests made of mesh or clever support systems that bend and move around your entire back, capturing all of the weight and distributing it uniformly to prevent pressure point formation.
Are gaming chairs good for gaming and work?
A gaming chair isn’t good for productive office work, since it causes pain and discomfort after 2-3 hours of sitting which prevents you from entering flow states where you can concentrate on a task and do a good job at it.
Gaming chairs don’t do anything to improve gaming performance. The body position they encourage doesn’t improve concentration, reaction times or aiming ability, and a gaming chair most certainly doesn’t increase FPS.
That being said, if you’re currently sitting on a stool, then yes, a gaming chair will absolutely be an upgrade in terms of comfort and likely also performance simply because you’re more comfortable when doing stuff.
Gaming chairs vs office chairs
In general, office chairs have more and better adjustments features than gaming chairs at the same price, are more comfortable to sit in, offer longer warranties, more diverse construction materials and different types of design.
A Staples Hyken for example is a very budget friendly, $150-250 office chair with adjustment features you won’t see even in top of the line $600 gaming chairs:
- Headrest tilt forward & backward, height up or down.
- Lower back support, up or down.
- Flexible backrest tilt with a locking mechanism.
Other pluses include a mesh build which many users find very comfortable and swear by since it gives them a “hammock” like feeling of floating on air.
Gaming chairs always come in fabric/leather + foam filling. The only exception is when a company rebrands an office chair as a gaming chair.
These extra adjustments, diversity of materials and overall design help make office chairs overall more comfortable than gaming chairs in the same price bracket, are much easier on your back and help you have a better posture.
Next you have warranties.
The Staples Hyken, a ~$200 chair, has a 7 year warranty (!!!).
The Secretlab Titan XL, a flagship best selling gaming chair has a base 3 year warranty, or a 5 a year extended warranty with an extra $50.
Higher end office chair manufacturers like Steelcase or Herman Miller give you 12 year warranties, or even lifetime ones.
Gaming chair sellers don’t give better warranties because they know the products have poor build quality and sub-par construction materials, and are outsourced from overseas manufacturers at the lowest possible cost.
There are even sites where you can buy gaming chairs in bulk directly from manufacturers.
High profile streamers don’t use gaming chairs
Many professional streamers and content creators have moved away from gaming chairs and chosen task or office chairs instead for the simple reason that they’re more comfortable and better for the long term health of their back.
What chair does Shroud use?
Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek is perhaps the worlds most successful streamer, and often streams for 8+ hours per day. His chair of choice is a Herman Miller Aeron.
Here’s what he has to say on the subject of “what chair should I use?”
Quote lasts 1 minute, from 11:24 to 12:24
The actual quote:
They [Herman Miller chairs] are like office chairs that are used for people who sit 8 to 10 hours a day, you know? That’s like, what their main market is really. So, if you’re a gamer, and you game that much, you should get it. Like anybody who sits on their a** for 8 to 10 hours a day needs a good chair, whether that’s Herman Miller or some sort of Herman Miller clone or some [expletive]. I really think everybody needs it. And if you don’t think you need it, just wait a couple years, just wait a couple more years. You’ll need it.Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek
What chair does Pokimane use?
Pokimane is a famous YouTuber and Twitch streamer and uses a Herman Miller Embody as her chair of choice.
It is admittedly an expensive chair, but she only recommends it for people who spend most of their time at the office, either working or playing.
Quote lasts 40 seconds, from 6:28 to 7:10
I really like the chair, but it’s expensive. It’s really worth it if being on the computer 24/7 is your full time job because it’s very adjustable […] to be able to be seated properly because I’m really on the PC all the time. Back problems are a real thing. […] You definitely don’t need one this expensive but if it’s, you know, your job and you’re worried about the negative side effects of sitting too much I think this is an awesome pick.Pokimane
What chair does DrDisrespect use?
Another example is Dr. Disrespect, who showed off his new ergonomic chair, a SIDIZ T80 (he didn’t name the chair, but that’s the model) in a non-sponsored video:
DrDisrespect didn’t really have any quotable pieces, but you can watch his whole shenanigans with the chair at this link.
Gaming chair FAQ
What do gaming chairs do?
Gaming chairs don’t do anything special to improve gameplay special or sitting comfort, when compared to other types of chairs. Their most distinctive feature is the design, which makes them interesting to look but not always comfortable to sit in.
Are gaming chairs necessary? Are they needed for gaming?
Gaming chairs are not required for gaming, since they do not improve your gameplay in any way. In fact, it’s possible you might play worse since some gaming chars are uncomfortable for longer periods and prevent concentration.
What are the best brands for gaming chairs?
The biggest brands of gaming chairs are DXRacer, the ones who actually invented them, followed by Secretlab and Logitech.
Why do gaming chairs look like race car seats, and why are they used for gaming?
Gaming chairs look like racing car seats because DXRacer, the company that invented them, had a surplus of car seats it couldn’t sell to auto manufacturers so they strapped wheels to the seats and marketed them as gaming chairs.
Do gaming chairs get hot?
Gaming chairs get hot depending on what material they are built from. Leather and PU leather capture heat so they got hot very quicky, while fabric is generally cool and encourages air flow.
Are gaming chairs actually comfortable?
Gaming chairs are not comfortable to sit on for long hours because of pressure points that cause pain and discomfort, insufficient lower back support and wings that force users in uncomfortable sitting positions.
Do gaming chairs help or improve your posture?
Gaming chairs are not very good for posture, and some encourage bad posture, because gaming chairs are built to look cool and ignore healthy ergonomic principles. Their backrests are hard, and the lumbar support isn’t adjustable enough for most users to find a correct sitting position.
Are gaming chairs a scam?
Gaming chairs are not a scam, but their design is inherited from car seats meaning they’re not built to ensure long hours of comfortable office work or gaming.
Why are gaming chairs so expensive and cost so much?
Quality chairs in general are expensive because they can be surprisingly difficult to design and complex to manufacture. On top of this, gaming chairs cost more because of company branding and for carrying the label “gaming”.
How tall are gaming chairs?
Gaming chairs vary in height from 48 to 57 inches (121 to 145 centimeters), with backrests measuring between 30 to 33 inches (76 to 85 centimeters).
How wide are gaming chairs?
Gaming chairs have a backrest width of 20 to 23 inches (51 to 58 centimeters) while the seat width varies from 20 to 21.5 inches (51 to 55 centimeters).
Why do gaming chairs have holes in the back?
Gaming chairs have holes in the lower and upper back areas so you can attach the lumbar support and headrest pillow.
Why are gaming chairs so hard and stiff?
Gaming chairs tend to feel firm because they’re designed to hold your body in a fixed position and restrict movement. On top of that, cheaper gaming chairs use poor materials that need a lot of time to adjust to your body.
How good are gaming chairs?
If you’re currently sitting on a kitchen chair, then buying a gaming chair will absolutely feel like an upgrade. However most office chairs are better than gaming chairs at the same price point.
Are gaming chairs good for productivity such as writing, drawing or studying?
Gaming and office work are similar activities, so gaming chairs are good enough for productive tasks such as studying, writing or drawing.
Are gaming chairs good as office desk chairs?
Gaming chairs are not as good as office chairs in the same price category, since gaming chairs do not have as many adjustments features and are generally more uncomfortable to sit and work in for longer hours.
Why do so many people buy and use gaming chairs?
Gaming chairs are popular because of a good marketing strategy, and also because office chair manufacturers had, until recently, mostly focused on selling to corporate clients instead of regular consumers.
Are all gaming chairs the same or are they different?
Gaming chairs are almost identical to one another, because they all stick to the same race car seat design formula.
What gaming chairs do streamers use and why do they use them?
Small streamers generally use gaming chairs as a way to signal they are gamers, however big streamers such as Shroud or DrDisrespect have transitioned to high quality office chairs, since gaming chairs are not comfortable for long hours.
Are gaming chairs healthy, are they good for tailbone pain or sciatica?
Gaming chairs are not the healthiest chairs to sit because they are built mostly to look cool, and don’t have good sitting ergonomics. That’s why most gaming chairs do not encourage a healthy posture and will not help with tailbone pain or sciatica.
Are gaming chairs durable? How long do gaming chairs last?
Gaming chairs aren’t very well built, and that is why gaming chair sellers usually offer only a 2 year warranty period. By comparison, a very cheap Staples Hyken office chair comes with a 7 year warranty.
Do all gaming chairs have swivels? Can you lock them in place?
All gaming chairs come with a 360 degree rotating swivel, however very few gaming chairs offer the option to lock the swivel in place.
Why do gaming chairs recline?
Nearly every gaming chair can be reclined, and some can even recline the back so it’s almost parallel to the ground. This is great for users who prefer to kick back and relax in their seat every once in a while.
Do gaming chairs come assembled?
Most gaming chairs come unassembled and you have to install the pieces yourself before use.
Are gaming chairs ergonomic?
Gaming chairs do not have an ergonomic design, and even have elements that make them uncomfortable to sit in such as wings on the side of the seat and backrest, or poor lumbar back support.
Are gaming chairs good for your back? Do gaming chairs cause back problems?
Gaming chairs have poor lower back support, which consists of a simple pillow that cannot be moved up or down or adjusted for tension, while the backrest can feel very rigid and the lateral wings heavily restrict body movement.