We’ve sold office seating for almost 15 years now. In that time, we have learned a lot about seating products. We get questions all the time asking us why someone would buy a gaming chair compared to an office chair. The answer is not always easy. Gaming chairs offer something different than standard office chairs do.
You are definitely giving up quite a bit in terms of build, comfort and adjustability when you go with a gaming chair. In this article, I am going to cover the top 11 problems with gaming chairs. I want to make sure to cover all aspects of gaming chairs so that you know what you are losing compared to a normal ergonomic office chair.
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Top Gaming Chair Problems for 2020
- Customer Expectations
- Bucket Seat is Not Functional
- Side Bolsters are Uncomfortable
- Designed for Small, Slender Builds
- Low Quality, Basic Tilt Mechanisms
- Low End Builds
- Paying for Looks
- Poor Lumbar Support
- Short Warranties
- Lack of Adjustments
- No Range of Movement
- Final Thoughts
What is a gaming chair?
Any office chair that you can sit in comfortably will work for gaming. In today’s world there is a big difference between a chair that you can game in and a gaming chair. Gaming chairs have carved out a unique niche and they typically share the following characteristics:
- Racing style bucket seat
- Multi-color design with logo
- Full back recline
- Basic mechanism
- Limited adjustability compared to office chairs
- Import quality
- Short warranty
Top 11 Gaming Chair Problems List
1. Customer Expectations
I feel that the #1 problem with gaming chairs falls upon the customer. It is not uncommon for customers to have unrealistic expectations for the prices they are paying for merchandise, but this seems to be an especially common problem with gaming chairs.
Customers often expect too much out of a gaming chair for the price that they are paying. People often think that paying $300 for a gaming chair means that they are going to get one of the best quality chairs out there. This is not practical. $300 in the world of office chairs is going to get you a low end office chair.
I am not saying that $300 is a small amount of money, but $300 is not going to give you very much buying power in the office seating market. The best way that I can explain this is buying a car. $10,000 is a lot of money. But, if you go out with $10,000 to buy a new car, you aren’t going to get a top-end car. It works the same way with office chairs.
Low-end office chairs cost $300 and under. Mid-range chairs are around $300-$700. Chairs over $700 are typically considered high-end. The best chairs in the world cost around $1,000+. Keep this in mind when shopping for a gaming chair and you should have a good idea of what to expect at various price points.
2. Bucket Seat Design is Not Functional
The first downside with most gaming chairs is the bucket seat design with side bolsters. This design has been used on gaming chairs because gaming chairs were first developed for racing games. Designing a chair to mimic a car seat was done to help make the user more immersed in the experience.
Race car seats are designed to hold you in place while making fast turns. The bucket seat and pronounced side bolsters serve a very important purpose. They keep you from banging around in the car and allow you to stay focused on driving.
Designing a chair to mimic this design makes sense for racing simulator application where the chair is moving. This design may also make sense for arcade style racing games where the experience only lasts for a few minutes and then you move on to another game in the arcade. The design does not serve a functional purpose for PC or console gaming.
3. Side Bolsters are Uncomfortable
The side bolsters on a gaming chair are a major hindrance. The first problem is the side bolsters on the seat. The side bolsters are metal and usually only have a light amount of padding. You do not want your legs up against the bolsters or they will be uncomfortable. Unfortunately, most gaming chair seats are quite narrow, so this becomes unavoidable unless you have a very slender build.
The side bolsters on the seat are not only a problem for normal sitting positions but they also limit the ways you can use the seat. Since you cannot use the sides of the seat, you cannot do things like cross your legs on the seat, or have one leg up on the seat, etc. A lot of gamers like to be in a relaxed position in their gaming chair, but the bucket seat with side bolsters forces you to be in a pretty specific posture.
The side bolsters on the seat are a major problem but so are the bolsters on the backrest. You basically have the same type of problem, but it affects your shoulders. Most gaming chairs with side bolsters on the back will push your shoulders forward, which is not comfortable for extended periods of use.
4. Designed for Small, Slender Builds
Most gaming chairs have narrow dimensions and low weight capacities. Gaming chairs with weight capacities or recommended weight limits that are 220 pounds and lower are pretty common. Chairs with large weight ratings are far less common and are quite a bit more expensive.
The narrow design of most gaming chairs, combined with the side bolster design, really limits the size of the person that can use a gaming chair. Almost every gaming chair that we have tested is designed to be used by people with slim to athletic build types.
5. Low Quality, Basic Tilt Mechanisms
Almost all gaming chairs come with the most basic mechanism. The mechanism is the metal part mounted to the underside of your chair that allows your chair to have functions like seat height adjustment. The most basic mechanism is called swivel tilt or center tilt.
A swivel tilt mechanism allows the chair to rock from the point right under the center of the chair’s seat. The reason this is considered the lowest quality mechanism is because the design will lift your knees and feet as you rock back. If you rock back far enough, your feet may come off the ground. This is not recommended for ergonomics and can also be an uncomfortable problem if your knees are hitting your desk when you rock back.
Another downside with swivel tilt mechanisms is that they require the most physical effort to rock back and forth. If we compare them directly to a knee tilt mechanism, we can start to understand why. A knee tilt mechanism allows the chair to tilt from a point just behind your knees. Since most of your body weight is behind the pivot point, it requires much less physical effort to rock back.
The final thing to think about is that a lot of gaming chairs are using the lowest quality swivel tilt mechanisms. There are better swivel tilt mechanisms that others. The bad ones require a lot of physical effort to rock back and the tension adjustment won’t do anything. This will leave you with a chair that should rock back and forth but doesn’t.
6. Low-End Builds
One thing that is common with most gaming chairs is that they are composed of low-end parts and a lot of them are produced in factories with unskilled labor. The vast majority of chairs are coming out of China and many come from factories that produce a lot of low-end furniture.
Most gaming chairs look very similar. This has created a misconception that all of these gaming chairs are being produced from a single factory in China and they are simply rebranded. That is not the case. Instead, there are hundreds of different factories that make the same design, or a slightly varied version. Since there are so many factories producing very similar chairs, the market has become very saturated with chairs that have this look.
Chairs will often be made from cheap plastic. Wood seats and backs are not uncommon. The metal and moving parts are also not always as strong because testing standards are not rigid. The material used for the gaming chairs is almost always going to be low quality. Upholstery is expensive and one of the biggest ways to cut costs is by using a cheap vinyl.
This also goes for the foam. Good chairs will have foam that has been molded into a perfect shape for the seat pan and the rest of the chair. Some gaming chairs have foam that is mismatched and misshaped. It is not meant to hold its shape or last for the long haul.
Attention to detail and quality of craftsmanship are often overlooked on gaming chairs. Things like crooked logos, loose stitching and dirty upholstery are things that are often mentioned in negative gaming chair reviews and it is something that we have seen on the chairs we have brought in for testing.
7. Paying for Looks
One thing to be conscious of is that a lot of the money you are spending on the chair is going toward the way the chair looks. Any logos or words that are stitched on the chair are increasing the costs. This also goes for chairs with different colors. It is more expensive to use different color upholsteries and specific patterns.
You are also paying to have the chair designed to look like a racing car seat without getting any real functionality out of the design. There are a lot of things that you are paying for on a gaming chair that you are not directly benefiting from in terms of comfort or having a good posture.
This becomes a bigger problem the lower in price that you go. If you are paying an extra $50 to have a team logo on a $500 chair, then it is not as big of an increase to make the chair look cooler. But, paying an extra $50 on a chair that costs $150 becomes a big percentage of the chair’s value. This doesn’t leave you much room for the chair itself.
The packaging is also a factor in this. Some gaming chair companies really put a lot of effort into making their box and packaging look cool. This helps to make the unboxing that much more enjoyable and gives the impression of a high quality product.
8. Poor Lumbar Support
Something that we see on almost all gaming chairs is an adjustable lumbar pillow support. The pad is held in place with a couple straps which allow the pad to move up and down. Gaming chairs are a type of seating that come with lumbar pillows. The reason is that gaming chairs do not have any lumbar support built into the backrest. This goes back to the low-end build quality.
Using a flat backrest and avoiding any mechanical systems with a built-in lumbar support system is a way to really cut down on costs. Substituting built-in lumbar support with a pillow is much cheaper but it is not nearly as effective.
It is impossible to get the correct amount of padding in a pillow to make everyone happy. No matter how you design the pillow, it will be too soft for some or too hard for others. This is why good quality ergonomic chairs have adjustable lumbar systems or pronounced curves on the backrest. An adjustable system allows the chair to adapt to the person. A pillow does not allow for that.
Another problem with the pillow and straps system is that the straps do not always hold the pillow in position firmly. The pillow will often move when you get up or sit down. It can also move if you are someone who is leaning forward and moving in their chair.
9. Short Warranties
Almost all gaming chairs come with a warranty period of two years or less. In the office seating world, a two year warranty is among the shortest warranty periods on an office chair. This just goes along with the level of quality you are getting from the chair.
In office seating, the warranty that a manufacturer is willing to offer for their chair is often a really good indicator of the quality of the chair. The highest end chairs have fully comprehensive warranties of 10-15 years. Mid-range chairs have long warranty lengths but they may exclude some parts, like foam and fabric to five years. Low-end chairs have warranty periods of two to three years or less.
10. Lack of Adjustments
Gaming chairs lack adjustments when compared to ergonomic office chairs. This starts with the mechanisms that we talked about earlier. Because you have a basic swivel tilt mechanism, you miss out on things like multiple position tilt lock, synchro tilt and forward seat tilt.
The bucket seat design also means that you have a fixed seat and backrest. You will not have seat depth adjustment or back height adjustment with the bucket seat design. This is one of the biggest limiting factors in terms of allowing a gaming chair to fit a wide range of people.
The final area where we see the biggest difference in adjustability, from ergonomic chairs to gaming chairs, is that gaming chairs have arms that do not have as many functions. Most gaming chairs have arms with height adjustment only. Some do not have any adjustment at all. It is uncommon to see gaming chairs with three or four-way arms.
Three and four–way adjustable arms allow you to adjust the height, width, and arm pad on your armrests. This allows you to get the arms in the most ideal position for comfort. Since gaming chair arms have little adjustability, you will need to adapt to the chair instead of adjusting the chair to you.
11. No range of movement
The final problem with gaming chairs that we are going to look at is the limited range of movement that they allow. For the last several years there has been a large movement in the office furniture world to incorporate more movement and less sitting into your workday.
The more we learn about sitting for prolonged hours and the more data we collect, the more we are finding that sitting for an extended period of time is bad for your health. This is why we have seen a huge increase in usage with things like adjustable height desks, standing desk converters and active seating products.
This is also true for standard office chairs. More and more chairs are being designed to allow you to easily move while you are sitting. Flexible chair frames, mesh upholsteries and dynamic mechanisms allow you to move around in your chair to keep you from being in the same position all day.
The racing seat design is the exact opposite of this thought process. As we discussed earlier, the bucket seat design is meant to hold you in one spot for the whole time you are sitting. The frame is rigid and the side bolsters keep you snug in one spot. This is not healthy for long periods.
Gaming chairs have their place and they serve a much needed purpose. If you are looking for a chair with a specific racing look or you need something to match a particular gaming set-up, then a gaming chair is for you. They look cool, have a unique shape and give you the ability to have a chair with multiple colors, in a variety of different patterns. You can get brand logos, team logos or no logo.
But, aside from the looks, it will typically be a better investment to go with an equally priced office chair. It will usually have a better build quality, more adjustability and a better warranty. Ergonomic chairs almost always offer better support and fit a wider range of people than a gaming chair.
The most important thing is to temper your expectations and understand what a gaming chair does well compared to a typical ergonomic office chair. As long as you know the downsides of going with a gaming chair, you should easily be able to decide if it will be the right seating choice for you.