by Andrew “Boter” Bugenis
People in my generation spend a lot of time in front of screens. From spreadsheets to gaming, mobile phones to consoles, we spend a lot of time gazing unblinkingly into the digital abyss. And for some people, it gazes right back, causing actual physical discomfort – a phenomenon known medically as Computer Vision Syndrome, with symptoms usually ranging from headaches to eye fatigue.
There are two generally accepted methods to help control CVS (the medical condition, not the drugstore). The first is to control the environment – reduce glare, make sure your monitor isn’t reflecting anything weird, maybe not have the brightness all the way up. I mean seriously, are you trying to work on your tan? Never mind, if you’re as pale as me that might actually be effective. The second method is what’s referred to as the 20-20-20 rule. Every twenty minutes, look at something twenty feet away for twenty seconds.
Buuuuut let’s face it. Your computer is set up wherever you have room. Your game console is probably in the living room with big ol’ windows right next to it. And your phone – well, you’ve been known to look at that thing for an hour straight. And who has time for breaks? Remember how the Wii would pester you every half hour or so to take a break? Ain’t nobody got time for that. (The reminder was also in video game manuals. I need to tell you because I’m sure you can’t remember the last time you read a video game manual.)
Enter GUNNAR Optiks. Founded in 2007, the company solely makes computer glasses, and as such puts more thought into them, from engineering to marketing, than pretty much anyone else. Ask your optician for computer glasses and they’re prescribe a slight tint and an anti-reflective coating. Go to GUNNAR and they’ll recommend… everything.
Full Disclosure: No, this isn’t sponsored; no, this isn’t a hoax product; no, I don’t own a pair, I own three pairs.
I won’t keep you in suspense – Gunnars do the trick. (I’m not sure if that’s how they want their glasses to be stylized but it’s easier than all-caps, so hah.) Before getting my first pair I often got headaches a couple of hours into the day. Once I got them and engaged in some heavy reading online to stress test them, the headaches went away and my sense of time got all screwed up; without headaches, how was I supposed to know it was 2PM? In the end I think the tradeoff is worth it.
But how do Gunnars do what they do? Well, the answer is, I’m not sure. The company makes a lot of claims. They do have that anti-reflective coating. They sit closer to your face than regular eyeglasses, which supposedly helps keep moisture in – “ocular microclimate” being the marketing buzzterm. (Of all the elements, I think this is the fishiest – they sit a bit closer but not, I think, close enough to make much of a difference. If they were close enough to actually keep enough moisture in your eyes to prevent them from getting dried out and irritated, I feel like the lenses would get greasy pretty quickly.) And if you don’t wear prescription eyewear, the lenses offer a slight magnification to more easily pick out detail on the screen. (Prescription wearers can get Gunnars in their own prescription, but this would not feature the magnification.) But perhaps the most distinctive feature of your average pair of Gunnars is the amber tint in the lens.
The theory goes that the amber lenses filter out the harsher blue wavelengths that contribute to eye strain, and especially the more annoying wavelengths given off by fluorescent lights, which stand a good chance of being where you play and almost certainly where you work. After a minute or so, you don’t notice the yellow tinge your world has taken – until you take them off again, that is. And if you’re a graphic designer or someone else who *really* needs that accurate color while working, Gunnars are also available with “Crystalline” clear lenses, and also have an outdoor sunglasses-type lens for… working on a computer outside, I guess?
/me sets down the brochure
Right, but what does all that mean? Well, it means that Gunnars reduce eye strain when you’re working on a computer. That’s it – they work. Simple, right? Case closed. If you get headaches looking at electronic screens, get the glasses because they work. Bit of an anticlimax, really. So let’s look at some more specifics on the company, and some of the frames they offer.
When given the choice between marketing to people working on spreadsheets in a cubicle and marketing to gamers, Gunnar Optiks went full-bore for the latter. The colors on the website are red and white on black, they have numerous sponsorships with big names (MLG, Blizzard, Razer, SteelSeries), and many of the styles would only be found on gamers. Most pairs are $80. Prescription lenses do jack this up considerably to the $250 range, though the ordering method is very easy at this point – just make sure you’ve had an eye exam recently and factor that into your overall price. Sometimes non-prescription pairs are on sale, either direct from the site or through affiliates like Amazon and Best Buy, which also sell them, so $50 isn’t out of the question. There’s a wide variety of frames and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding some that are right for you.
As I mentioned before, I have three sets of Gunnars. The first pair I got were the Edge style. These are rimless and until very recently were worn daily at work. The arms hold on nice and tight (too tight to start with, but they loosened up over time) and easily allow headphones to be worn over them. Ultimately, as rimless glasses, they’ve accumulated stress where the bridge meets the lenses over the last six years of near-daily use and there are sizeable cracks in the lenses, leading me to need to replace them, but this is an issue on rimless glasses in general and not a direct reflection on the Gunnars.
My second pair (and, to be clear, not the direct replacements for the Edge pair) were a set in the PPK style. Whereas the Edge glasses were a somewhat subdued black with red accents at the temples and the bridge, the PPKs did away with subtlety in a bright neon green. (This was my choice as at the time I was working at a video game store where that was the company color; PPKs are available in three or four different colors with varying levels of intensity.) The metal in the frames is very thin – lightweight but I worry a bit about durability. I like how they look, but unfortunately the arm style isn’t compatible with headphones at all – even though the site lists them as headset compatible. Wearing headphones with the PPKs results in the back of the arm digging into the sides of your head above and behind your ear very uncomfortably, to the point where if I had to wear headphones and these were my only pair of Gunnars I’d take my chances with the CVS. Still, sans-headphones, they’re an attractive, more lightweight pair.
I just received my third pair, and the Edge replacements, recently – Wing, in “Mercury/Red” – a half-rim set in shiny silver with red accents. When I ordered these they were only available for prescription orders, but that may change. Like the Edge frames, they made no mention of headset compatibility but are nonetheless very comfy with a nice big set of headphones on. The arms are spring loaded to keep tension against the sides of your head without pinching. This might just be because they’re brand new, but right now they’re my favorite of the bunch.
Computer vision syndrome is a real thing and –
Wait. Yup, okay, we’re doing this.
…and can be a real headache for those that suffer from it.
I make no apologies.
You can mitigate CVS in a lot of different ways – changing the environment, taking breaks. Or you could get yourself some cool-looking eyewear and roll with the punches. I, obviously, will do the latter. How about you?
GUNNAR Optiks Computer Glasses
Price: $80 (most common price), $250 (prescription, most common price)
Andrew “Boter” Bugenis
Boter is a gamer and a filmmaker, and to combine the two, a Let’s Player. Say “science fiction” and his ears perk up, but don’t say “Star Wars” unless you have nothing else to do that day. You can check out his series “Boter Plays Something” and more on his YouTube channel and elsewhere.