Is A Gaming Chair Worth It?

In the olden days we all used to game on a regular desk chair or, God forbid, a wooden chair, but nowadays it seems like almost every company that’s (loosely) associated with gaming is coming out with their own gaming chairs. They’re often a topic of heated debate and with the price tag that comes attached with most of these seats it’s not like you can just go out and buy one willy-nilly either. A good, and comfortable chair is an absolutely crucial piece of equipment if you’re spending the majority of your time behind a desk, and today we try shed some light on this relatively new phenomenon of gaming chairs; is a gaming chair worth it? 

Source: hse.gov.uk

Ergonomics

A good desk chair should be able to properly seat you. What works for your 6ft+ friend might not work for you if you’re built differently, so in order to frame this article a bit better we’ll briefly go over what makes a chair a good ergonomic chair. If you already know all this you can skip directly to ‘where gaming chairs come in’.

The seat

The seat of a good desk chair should be adjustable in height. While it’s technically not necessary to have a chair that’s height-adjustable (if you find one that’s just the right height for your body and desk then that’s a-okay in theory) it is a super handy feature to have if you want to seat other people or if you change desks, or if you’re still growing. Most office chairs (even low-end ones) let you adjust the seat height, but whatever the case; you should be able to sit straight against the backrest of the chair while your feet are still flat on the floor. The seat should also be nicely padded out and folded over to prevent hard materials of the chair from digging into your thighs.

If you or the person you’re buying the seat for is still growing or too small for the seat you can always make use of a footrest so that the feet can sit flat on a surface.

Backrest

The backrest should support the natural curvature of your spine, and as such it’s a great idea to get a chair with an adjustable lumbar support (pillow) so that you can always support your lower back. The lumbar support (pillow) should nicely ‘fill out’ the small of your back. An adjustable backrest which can tilt at least twenty degrees is a great way to still have back support in a variety of positions.

Armrest

Source: osha.gov

Armrests should at least be adjustable in height (though fully adjustable armrests are obviously always better) and be made or finished with a soft material with no sharp edges. You should make sure that you’re in a relaxed and natural position whilst using the armrests.

Base

A good desk chair should have at least five legs in order to provide maximum stability. If there are casters (wheels) then they should roll smoothly without having to exert too much force on the chair itself. Also make sure that the casters on the chair don’t damage the surface you’ll be putting it on or vice versa.

Comfort vs proper posture

When I drop myself on the sofa and spend an hour flicking through various Netflix shows I am definitely comfortable, but I probably won’t be sitting correctly. People today spend a lot of their time sitting down so you’ll want to make sure that you’re sitting down correctly. Poor posture or an ill-fitting chair can result in discomfort or back pain, and when done for longer periods of the time it can lead to various health issues and chronic pain. Naturally a good chair should be one of the first investments that you make when putting together a gaming setup. After all it’s quite easy to replace a broken monitor or mouse, but it’s going to be a lot more difficult to replace a painful spine.

Note that proper posture and comfort aren’t mutually exclusive; getting the right chair for your body will ensure that your time spent in said chair is both comfortable and non-detrimental to your overall health.

Where gaming chairs come in

Gaming chairs are mainly just office chairs which are often finished with bolder colors and a racing-style design. As with office chairs there’s gonna be a wide variety between these chairs.

A proper chair vs a marketing attempt

Since every streamer, tournament and pro gamer has one or multiple of these racing style chairs lying around it’s obviously going to be a huge market for companies to try and get a foothold in. It’s important to realize that not every ‘gaming chair’ is equal. Some companies genuinely try their very best to offer a comfortable and durable product which will support your back and body the way a desk chair is supposed to, while others will dress up a plank with a bit of pleather, slap a logo on there, and call it a day.  Always try to do your research: don’t pay a premium for a poorly made, lightly padded chair just because it has a cool logo slapped on the backrest.

What makes a gaming chair

One of the inspirations for the original gaming chair designs

There isn’t an official definition here but most people seem to define a gaming chair as a chair that features the well-known racing seat design (or a more aggressively styled design overall) and/or is being sold by a gaming brand. It’s all just a name though; if a company decides to name a line of chairs ‘gaming chairs’ then it won’t automatically make you a better gamer or anything like that. Think of it more like the difference between a mechanical gaming keyboard and a mechanical board without the ‘gaming’ branding: both are really, really similar in many cases but one of them is being marketed to gamers and the esports world and the other one isn’t.

The days where gaming chairs were automatically loud and gaudy on the design front are over though. You can still find bright colored chairs if that’s your jam, but most companies also produce understated and more neutral colorways these days.

Gaming chairs vs ‘real office chairs’

If you venture out onto internet forums chances are you’ll find people who say ‘why get that overpriced piece of garbage when you can get brand XXX for a fraction of the price at surplus sales’ or something to that effect. Herman Miller, for example, is one of those brands that get mentioned a lot when it comes to comparing gaming chairs with ‘real brands.’ I’m not trying to bash Herman Miller here; they’re fantastic chairs and are really nicely designed, but for a refurbished Aeron (a model that gets mentioned a lot) you’ll often have to pony up over twice the amount of money that you’d spend on a great ‘gaming chair.’ Whether or not something’s expensive/affordable is obviously dependent on your monetary situation and your income, but for most people a $500+ office chair is out of the question.

Obviously there are plenty of more affordable ‘non-gaming’ office chairs out there, but what I’m saying is that some of these gaming branded chairs aren’t a bad value proposition at all. You’ll have to do some digging, since there are a lot of companies out there looking to make a quick buck out of this racing style chair trend, but for 300-400 dollars you can definitely find some pretty darn good chairs. But yes, it is true that there’s plenty of overpriced gaming style garbage out there as well.

Value for money

An often heard piece of criticism towards gaming chairs is that they’re vastly overpriced for what they offer. I definitely get where that’s coming from as well. As mentioned before there are definitely people out there busy cashing in on the current hype around these chairs, but once you do your research properly you’ll find that getting a proper desk chair with all the necessary adjustments and build quality is going to cost you a bit, gaming branding or not.

There is some truth in this saying though, since a lot of the lower end ‘budget’ companies (and models) are usually inferior to the mid and high tier offerings; there’s only so much corners you can cut with stuff like this before a product becomes outright subpar. That’s not to say that there aren’t cheaper products out there offering a great value proposition, but these lower tier price points are where the majority of these ‘slap a logo on a mass produced product from China’ companies operate.

Then there’s also the fact that the comfort and fit of a certain chair is largely dependent on the person sitting in it. A lot of people seem to make the mistake of just buying the first chair that looks good and fits their budget, but if you’re a larger person you obviously won’t comfortably fit in a chair that’s designed for smaller people. As with most things in life: research is the key here.

The verdict

You’re probably coming out of this article thinking ‘well now I still don’t know which is better between gaming chairs and regular chairs,’ and that’s because there isn’t a definitive answer to that question, in my opinion. At least not generally speaking.

Gaming chairs really are ordinary office chairs with a more aggressive design philosophy and ditto marketing strategy. If you like the way they look and you find a racing style chair that fits you perfectly then by all means go for it. I do encourage you to really research your purchase before committing to it, and if you can test out a bunch of chairs in real life you really should do just that. Find out what features and size you need, and start browsing the internet or your local stores.

It is true that some companies are putting out inferior products trying to make some easy money on the ever-growing gaming market, but you can’t dismiss an entire industry based on a few bad apples, in my opinion. Long story short: if you’re looking for a new desk chair you definitely shouldn’t eliminate gaming chairs by default. At the price range most of these chairs are competing in you can definitely find some really nice products.

All in all it doesn’t really matter if your chair is a ‘gaming chair’ or not. Whether you’re sitting in a $5000 custom molded chair or a $229 chair from a Swedish furniture brand; if you’re comfortable and sitting the correct way then you’re good to go.

Source(s): hse.gov.uk, ccohs.ca, osha.gov

Lars

Competitive/semi-pro gamer for over a decade now. Damn I'm getting old. Whenever I'm not gaming I like to write about games and hardware.

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