The past several years have seen steady growth in the number of gamers switching from traditional office chairs to gaming chairs. Availability and affordability now make them a must-have item for thousands of casual and hardcore gamers. With designs and features that target the needs of gamers, manufacturers seem to have a handle on what gamers want.
At the end of the day, a chair is a chair, right? So, does it really matter what you sit on while you play? Well, yes. There is a wide range of differences in gaming and office chairs. Let’s take a look at both types and see how they stack up against one another.
A Brief History of Gaming Chairs
Most of us are all familiar with office desk chairs. They range from the inexpensive models you can find at your favorite superstore to high-end leather chairs you might find a judge sitting on in a courtroom. Or they could be focused more on ergonomics, like the latest kneeling chair design out of Sweden.
Most office chairs are designed to use the least expensive materials available while being functional and comfortable. This is primarily due to the fact that office chairs are marketed towards widespread use in office environments. Corporations that buy hundreds or even thousands of chairs do not need each one to have cup holders, lumbar support pillows, and tilt options that include lying flat on your back.
Enter the Gaming Chair
Gaming chairs came onto the scene in the mid-2000’s.
Early manufacturers created templates based on designs from seats created for sports cars. Most gaming chairs are designed for use behind a desk. Others, such as rocker chairs, are designed to sit on the floor or in front of a TV. These specialty chairs often include surround sound speakers and connections for power and gaming consoles.
As the chairs became more popular, the colors and designs helped them to stand out. Customers of gaming chair brands today can pick from several color options. Corporate, college and professional team logos are available as options on some models. Others even offer limited edition chairs that are branded with a specific video game franchise, such as Fallout ’76.
A recent major motivation for buying a gaming chair has been the proliferation of online streaming sites like Twitch, YouTube and Facebook.
People turn to these streamers for entertainment and cannot help but notice how many of them have colorful and what appear to be comfortable gaming chairs. Watching someone play for hours, while being uncomfortable, is a great selling tool. Manufacturers understand this and have sponsored many streamers as a means to get their product in front of thousands of people.
Comfort is Important
If you work in an office, you are spending around 40 hours a week sitting in a chair. If you leave the office every day and do not think about your aching back, you may be just fine to use an office chair for gaming. If your company did not spring for well-padded, comfortable chairs and you have no concerns about your physical state, an office chair may be just fine for you.
Before you make that decision consider this. For most of us, what we do while sitting at our office desk is much different than when we are playing games. The office environment is less physically taxing on our body. We read and reply to emails. We click through spreadsheets and documents. We may occasionally right-click an icon. We are relaxed with little need to stay in one position for an extended period of time.
When we are playing games on our computer, we click often. We have to place our hands at odd positions to both move around and issue commands. Most importantly, we have to do this for long stretches of time. This takes a toll on our bodies, specifically our arms, shoulders, and neck.
Gaming chair designers have a lot of data to work with when addressing health concerns while designing chairs. Compared to most office chairs, gaming chairs are designed to offer support for the shoulder and neck areas through the use of chairs with high backs. Many models also come with an adjustable neck and lumbar support pillows.
While most gaming chairs focus on the same general areas for comfort, office chairs provide a wide range of options, mostly driven by price.
The basic office chair has four wheels, a seat, and a back. As you spend more money, additional features are available, like adjustable seat level and backs. High-end office chairs include adjustments of the arms and lumbar support.
The level of comfort required depends on the individual. Some people can sit for hours and not feel any discomfort. Others need constant support to tweak their settings several times during a gaming session. What works for you will affect how many features your chair will need.
A Design to Match Your Style
Enough about comfort! How it looks, as a part of your gaming setup, is important too. This goes for both those who prefer flashy and gamers who like a subtle look to their space.
For the most part, gaming chair design has stuck to an interpretation of a modern racing seat. High backs, leather or faux-leather, and bright colors. With all other considerations being equal, how the chair looks is most important to many gamers.
Those that prefer subtlety may be pleased to know that not all gaming chairs have bright and bold colors. Manufacturers prefer the flashy look but many offer models that are basic black or black with understated colors used for the trim.
Beyond the visual appearance, the design of the chair incorporates many of the comfort features that have been discussed. Having a tall back that allows for a headrest and curves to support shoulders is an example of a design element that also addresses comfort.
Other design features, like the placement of adjustment levers, are designed differently for office and gaming chairs. Gamers generally adjust their chairs more often than office chair users.
Cost is Always a Factor
Cost is a prime factor for people contemplating the purchase of a chair for their gaming setup. Fortunately, both gaming and office chairs have a wide range of price points available.
The entry-level cost for most office chairs is in the $40 – 60 range. At this range, you get a chair with four wheels that is height adjustable, and that is about all you get. There is no adjustable support for your back, and the reality is that most people cannot sit for hours without being very uncomfortable.
The most popular office chairs are mid-range models. They cost anywhere from $120-250. These are well-built and designed to last for a long time. Most have several adjustment features, such as armrest, height, and tilt. The material used in manufacturing these models is typically faux leather or mesh material.
High-end office chairs range from $300 to up to $1000. These are the best of the best and will do everything for you except type your letters. They are ergonomically designed to be adjustable at almost every pressure point on your body. They provide support for your neck, shoulders, upper and lower back.
The bottom line on office chairs is that you get what you pay for. There is a premium on the features included on an office chair. This is where you see the separation between gaming and office chairs.
You can find gaming chairs for $150 to $800 that have all the same features. They have curved seats that support your legs, lumbar support, upper back, and shoulder support. Most have adjustable neck and back pillows and allow for a full 90 degree recline to lie comfortably on your back.
The differences between low, mid-range, and high-end gaming chairs are in the quality of materials used. The more expensive ones use stronger leather and stitching.
Which One Will You Choose?
For gamers, the choice between using an office chair or a gaming chair is clear. Tune out the hype and pick the one is best for you. That may sound like an easy way to be noncommittal but it really does come down to what works for your body and your budget.
In general, gamers should use gaming chairs. Here is why:
– Gaming chairs are designed for gamers to use during long gaming sessions. Little design features, like armrests that adjust horizontally as well as vertically are a blessing when you need to keep your arm at just the right spot while using your mouse and keyboard.
– Office chairs can be comfortable but are not designed for the gamer. They are designed for people who sit back at a desk and casually work with the computer. They are not designed for someone who may have to sit up straight for long periods of time and then wants to tilt back their chair while playing another game. Think of the difference in seating between using a keyboard and a controller. Gaming chairs give you the flexibility to do both comfortably.
– Gaming chairs look cooler. Even if you prefer basic black, the race car design of most gaming chairs looks as good as it feels. If you want to make a bolder statement about your gaming setup, then you will absolutely want a gaming chair with bright colors.
– Finally, most gaming chairs are manufactured by companies who specialize in them. They have hundreds of hours of R&D and ergonomic testing behind them and know the features gamers like. You can find the same dedication to testing in some office chairs, but those will be the ones you have to spend much more money.
The ultimate decision is yours. Read reviews, sit on those you can find in stores, and pick which chair is the most comfortable, has a design that matches your tastes, and is affordable. You will find that when you do get the chair you like, you will be a much happier gamer.