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HOW TO PICK THE BEST CHAIR FOR GAMING

Seat Yourself: How to Pick The Best Chair For Gaming

I recently had a chance to sit down and talk with Sean Morrison at ESPN about the Herman Miller x Logitech gaming chair announcement. I wanted to expand on my thoughts about ergonomics and give you guys a bit of a guide as to how to pick the best chair for gaming.

(Note: if you just want the checklist for picking a good chair and some examples of good options, scroll to “What’s the best chair for gaming?“)

My general perspective is that a chair, any chair, is only so important. There are absolutely some basic ergonomic qualities a chair should have: comfortable seat, adjustable armrests, adjustable height, appropriate fit relative to your height and width.

A chair and good posture in it are only a part of what goes into preventing injury and optimizing performance. Your gaming/work habits–how often do you stand up and move around? How often do you change position? How often do you take rest or stretching breaks?–play a much bigger part in those aims, as do your general lifestyle habits relating to sleep, nutrition, hydration, and exercise. 

If you’re doing great with everything else in terms of lifestyle and gaming/work habits, but you sit on a wooden dining room chair, sure, you’re going to have pain and the chair is probably going to be the primary cause of that.

But past a certain point of support and adjustability, there’s not anything substantially and significantly better that one chair will offer you over the other. At the same time, even if you have the world’s best chair, it’s not going to make up for a lack of relevant muscular endurance and strength, poor posture, poor nutrition and hydration habits, lack of sleep, or insufficient movement/activity in general.

What makes a gaming chair different?

Here’s my breakdown of the traditional racing-style gaming chair:  

There are some definite cons to using a racing-style chair for prolonged sitting. Most racing chairs have bucket seats, with raised sides and an elevated front. The raised sides reduce the amount of shifting and changing position that you can do easily. I like to teach that “your best posture is your next posture”–that is, consistently moving and changing position is better than any one “perfect” posture you could have.

If your chair doesn’t let you shift easily, that’s a bit of a con in my book. The same goes with the elevated front of the chair. In a racecar, that’s functional and designed to help you reach the pedals comfortably and keep you in your seat. At a desk, you generally want your feet planted on the floor and knees at roughly 90 degrees. An elevated front makes that harder and puts extra pressure against the backs of the thighs.

Racing chairs also tend to have a deeper seat, which can mean choosing between extra pressure against the back of the knees/calves and having to scoot forward and leaving your back unsupported so that your knees aren’t pressured if you’re on the shorter-than-average size.

Some of the biggest pros aren’t necessarily unique to a typical gaming chair, but they are seen most commonly in that specific type of chair. To me, the biggest ergonomic selling points are the points of adjustability. The more ways you can adjust a chair–armrest height, armrest rotation, back angle, seat angle, seat height–the more likely it is you’ll be able to set your chair up to support you in a good posture. Adjustable backs in particular are great because your spinal has multiple types of support. Some chair positions, like a more reclined backrest, allow you to put less pressure on your discs. Other chair positions, like a more upright backrest, allow you to decrease the muscle work required to maintain upright posture.

Why does my chair matter?

Gaming relies on players performing extremely precise, extremely fast, extremely repetitive movements and the wrist and hand. Mobile extremities require a stable base, and that starts from where you’re in contact with the floor That’s not to say you constantly have to be in contact with the floor–I tend to shift around and spend some time sitting cross-legged, some time with both feet on the ground, and some time with one leg crossed, the other on the ground–but your stability starts from your feet and your butt. 

Stability of the proximal parts of the arms–elbows, shoulders, and even up into where the arms meet the upper back and neck–is also important here. That’s why I encourage players to use armrests, either the ones on their chair or clip-on ones. Armrests should be at the height of the belly button and also level with the keyboard. Sometimes, that means adjusting the height of the chair and putting something under your feet so you can have a straight line from bellybutton through forearms to the keyboard. 

Muscles have optimal resting positions and optimal length-tension relationships for quick firing. Your posture and the position of joints above and below the muscle in question all play into the ability of that muscle to rest in optimal positioning for best length-tension relationships.

What’s the best chair for gaming?

Here are the qualities you want any chair you buy to have:

1. The more points of adjustability, the better. At minimum: armrests, chair height. Bonus: back angle, seat angle.

2. The width of the chair should allow you to use the armrests without your arms being too far out to the side. A good measurement of “too far” is if you feel tension or pressure in your shoulders, or the space between your elbow and side is longer than the length of your hand.

2. The edge of the seat should be flat or angled slightly down.

3. The backrest should let you relax your shoulders and comfortably maintain an upright posture.

4. The seat should be supportive but comfortable to sit on and distribute your weight evenly. For longer periods of playing, you’ll likely want foam > mesh. 

5. You should be able to shift and move easily within the chair.

This is NOT an exhaustive list by any means, but examples of several chairs across different body types/sizes and price points that demonstrate good ergonomic qualities.

For Tall Individuals

Raynor Ergohuman High Back Leather Office Chair

Raynor Ergohuman High Back Chair 
Back height: 22.5 in
Seat height: 19-24 in
Price: $724

  • Armrests adjust in height and in angle
  • Adjustable lumbar support
  • Adjustable seat depth
  • Adjustable back angle with lock

Vert by Uplift


Back height: 22 in
Seat height: 16-20 in
Price: $359

  • Adjustable armrests
  • Height-adjustable lumbar support
  • Adjustable back angle with lock

Flash Furniture Mesh Executive Chair


Back height: 21 in
Seat height: 18-22 in
Price: $143

  • Adjustable armrests
  • Adjustable tension-tilt back with lock

 


For Big and Tall Individuals

Steelcase Series 1 Task Chair


Seat height: 16.5-21.5 in
Seat width: 19.5 in
Weight capacity: 300 lbs.
Price: $420

  • Adjustable seat rest
  • Adjustable back angle with lock
  • Adjustable lumbar support
  • Adjustable armrests (in multiple planes)

Seating, Inc. Heavy Duty Chair

Seat height: 16.5-21 in
Seat width: 22 in
Weight capacity: 400 lbs.
Price: $636

  • Adjustable seat rest
  • Adjustable back angle with lock
  • Adjustable lumbar support
  • Adjustable armrests

Driscott Mesh Back Big & Tall Chair

Seat height: 17.5-21.7 in
Seat width: 23.6 in
Weight Capacity: 400 lbs.
Price: $220

  • Adjustable armrest height and width
  • Adjustable tension-controlled tilt and tilt lock
  • Designed for 8 hr workdays under loads up to 400 lbs.

 

 


 

For Average-Sized Individuals

Steelcase Amia
Depth: 15.5-18.5 in
Back Height: 23.38 in 
Price: $681

  • Adjustable arm width, height, and depth
  • Adjustable height
  • Adjustable back angle
  • Adjustable height lumbar support
  • Also good for shorter folks due to range of seat depth options available

Pursuit by Uplift
Back Height: 25.2 in
Price: $329

  • Adjustable armrest height
  • Adjustable height
  • Adjustable back angle with lock
  • Waterfall edge (for some folks, this can feel like an uncomfortable bump; for others, it can feel like a gentle and comfortable slope. YMMV)

Traymore Luxura Managers Chair with Adjustable Task Arms
Seat Depth: 16.8 in
Back Height: 21.0 in
Price: $99

  • Adjustable armrest height
  • Adjustable height
  • Acceptable “budget” option for average-height individuals

 


 

For Petite Individuals

Petite Ergonomic Chair
Seat Depth: 16.1-17.2”
Price: $224.95

  • Adjustable height
  • Adjustable arm height and width
  • Tilt lock 
  • Shallower seat depth (good for shorter legs)

WorkPro 12000 Series
Seat Depth: 15.5”
Price: $379

  • Adjustable arm height and angle
  • Reclines
  • Waterfall edge (for some folks, this can feel like an uncomfortable bump; for others, it can feel like a gentle and comfortable slope. YMMV)
  • Shallower seat depth (good for shorter legs)

 

Staples Telford II Luxura Managers Chair
Seat Depth: 16.1″
Price: $120

  • Adjustable arm height
  • Adjustable seat height
  • Shallower seat depth
    (Note: this is the chair that I own and have used for the past 2 years. I find it to be an excellent chair for me, ergonomically speaking; I’m 5’2″ and 125 lbs.)

 


 

 

Ok, but what about gaming chairs?

You might notice that I haven’t listed any gaming chairs on this list. That’s not because they’re universally terrible or because I’d never recommend them in any case whatsoever, but because in my opinion, an office chair will give you better ergonomics and comfort for a similar price point. If you strongly prefer a gaming chair/gaming brand,

Secretlab and Noblechair have relatively little upward tilt in the seat, a moderately firm cushion, and the adjustable components I mentioned above; they will generally be a good fit if you’re an average-sized male gamer or larger, and

Vertagear makes a more classically ergonomic-type chair (the Triigger) with a waterfall edge and more points of adjustability, although the seat itself is mesh, which is fairly firm.

That being said, I would and do still recommend ergonomic office chairs for gaming. Regardless of whether you choose a racing-style chair or an office-style chair, the most important thing is that it fits you and your specific needs.

 

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