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2020 has given many of us a new appreciation for our old office chairs. Sure, the gas lift had a mind of its own and one of the arms was a bit wobbly. But at least you didn’t end up with a gnawing ache in your lower back after eight hours at your monitor.
A good chair is a must for any “work from home” office. And a gaming chair may seem a great choice.
The rise in their popularity has seen the price of entry drop to around $100. Higher-end gaming chairs offer adjustability similar to an excellent Herman Miller or Steelcase seat for much less money.
I’m currently using an Anda Seat Fnatic Edition, a gaming chair tied in with a top UK esports organization. It’s a great gaming chair, but shows why home office workers, and even keen gamers, may be better off with a more conventional seat.
Reason 1: The Bucket seat problem
Most gaming chairs designs are based on the bucket seat of a racing car. These cradle your body well, but are not generally intended for use fully upright.
You sit back in them, and the shape of the back rest is the opposite of that of a task or operator chair.
Boil it down to the fundamentals and every iconic office chair has a convex back. It pushes out further at the bottom than the top, to promote good posture. Gaming chairs are usually slightly concave.
This, and a very high back, makes them look like thrones. It’s a big part of their appeal.
Such a shape makes it much easier to slouch in a gaming chair, which leads to lower back problems.
Reason 2: Limp lumbar support
This very issue is why many gaming chairs come with separate lumbar support cushions. The Anda Seat Fnatic Edition has a second neck cushion too.
These modular add-ons amount to an admission the bucket seat isn’t really the best shape for a chair you’ll sit on for hours on end. They re-sculpt the back of the seat so it is closer to that of a classic task chair.
The lingering issue is that the memory foam used in these parts, in most high-quality gaming chairs, does not provide all that much resistance.
Memory foam is squishy. Rest against it and it depresses, putty-like, to mould to the shape of your back. It is a lot softer than the lumbar support of the Herman Miller Aeron and Steelcase Leap chairs I use in my home office.
Why use soft lumbar support instead of a more effective one? These are leisure chairs, and the feel of the Anda Seat Fnatic Edition’s velvet-topped memory foam cushioning is lovely. That’s the aim.
But it may not be the best fit for your lower back health unless you are also mindful of your posture. A gaming chair gives you what you want. A classic office chair gives you what you need.
This isn’t necessarily a reason to instantly write off a gaming chair, though. The best traditional office chairs are far more expensive than a mid-tier gaming one.
Brands like Herman Miller, Humanscale and Steelcase all command a significant premium, not least because their chairs are really aimed at companies with budget to spend, not the average person looking to get a seat for the spare room.
Some of the top models that have the throne-like scale of a gaming chair are the Humanscale Freedom Headrest (from $1165), Steelcase Leap with Headrest ($1924) and Herman Miller Cosm ($1395). They cost a lot.
There are cheaper options, of course, like the $229 IKEA Markus, which is popular pick for gaming and home office use. But it does not have anything like the adjustability of a mid-tier or high-end gaming chair.
The Anda Seat Fnatic Edition has “3D” arm rests, which tilt left to right and slide back and forth as well as moving up and down.
Gaming chairs are also fantastic for post-lunch naps. Higher end models can recline so they’re almost flat, and their chunky padding is a dream for a quick snooze. On second though, maybe we all need a gaming chair.
Just think twice before assuming they do everything as well as a classic office chair, only with more swagger and bravado.