3 Aug 2021

An Office Chair vs Gaming Chair: What's The Difference?

Having difficulty trying to choose between a gaming chair and office chair?

A gaming chair and office chair are often used interchangeably since they seem to perform the same functionalities. However, these chairs are actually vastly different.

Surprised?

Read on to find out the core differences between an office chair (more specifically, an ergonomic office chair) and a gaming chair, and how to determine which you should buy depending on your taste and preferences.

P.S. We also have infographics below to clearly illustrate the differences, if you're more of a visual person!

So, what exactly is an ergonomic office chair?

Founded by Polish biologist Wojciech Jastrzebowski in 1857, the word “ergonomics” comes from two Greek words, namely “ergon” and “nomos.”

“Ergon” means work and “Nomos” means laws, hence ergonomics can be loosely translated into “laws of work".

Thus, an ergonomic office chair can be referred to as any type of chair that serves to maximise your comfort, productivity, and efficiency when using it in your workplace or home office. 

What defines a gaming chair

A gaming chair, as its name suggests, is a chair specifically designed for dedicated gamers.

These gaming chairs are meant to make the user feel incredible when playing video games, in terms of both aesthetic and — to a certain degree — comfort. Naturally, a gaming chair is usually not recommended for people who are looking for a comfortable office chair to sit on for long periods at the desk.

Here's an interesting nugget:

The first gaming chair was invented in 2006 by a company called DXRacer that originally manufactured seats for luxury sports cars.

That's why most gaming chairs you see today have a racing car seat aesthetic, which has both pros and cons!

In the market, there are three categories of gaming chairs, namely: 

1. PC & Racing Style Chairs, which are the most popular and commonly-used gaming chairs to play video games at a desk.

2. Rocker gaming chairs, which are curved gaming chairs that balance on an angle, allowing you to rock forward and back.

3. Floor gaming chairs, which are super plush and resemble cushions!

For the rest of this article, we will be referring to PC and racing style gaming chairs whenever we mention "gaming chairs", since they are what most are pitting against office chairs.

With that out of the way, here are some of the pointers to differentiate a gaming chair from an office chair!

A visual comparison of a gaming chair vs office chair

An overview of the chairs

1. General design

Gaming chair

Inspired by racing seats that are meant to keep the driver safe without shifting around, a gaming chair's racing-style chair design may look sleek, but it also gives rise to many problems when it comes to ergonomics.

Why?

💡 Ergonomics is primarily focused on adjustability, such that the chair can be catered to a range of body shapes and sitting positions to maximise comfort. On the other hand, a racing style gaming chair restricts you to certain positions, which is uncomfortable and bad for your posture and health as well.

Another by-product of gaming chairs being heavily inspired by racing seats is that racing style gaming chairs are typically catered to small, slender builds.

This is because racers are traditionally known to have leaner and fitter physiques in order to accommodate the rigorousness of competitive racing! Of course, there are racing style gaming chairs with a larger recommended weight limit, but these often come with a heftier price tag as well.

Office chair

On the other hand, office chairs, especially ergonomic ones, are often minimalistic in design.

Whether this looks sleek or bare to you, the reason behind this is because manufacturers of these chairs place more emphasis on the practicality of the chairs, which is what makes them so comfortable to sit on for long periods.

2. Seat design

Gaming Chair

Seat Pan:

Most gaming chairs adopt a bucket seat design, whereby both sides of the chair are raised intentionally. Inspired by racing seats, these are known as side bolsters and play a vital part in holding the driver in position while attempting fast manoeuvres and drifts.

💡 While this could assist the gamer in terms of immersion due to the visuals and the physical experience of sitting in a chair that cradles you, this design does not serve any other functional purposes when it comes to gaming and, on the contrary, could be counterproductive.

This is because the increased restriction of the space available to you could potentially restrict blood flow to your feet and leave you aching after what is supposed to be an enjoyable gaming session.

Elevated Front Lip:
In a similar vein, you'll realise that the seat design of a racing style gaming chair is usually more elevated in the front. This helps the race car driver reach the gas pedals better while remaining secure in the seat.

That said, we're pretty sure that there are no gas pedals for you to step on underneath your desk, so this feature is redundant and counterproductive in terms of the chair's overall ergonomics.

💡 Ideally, you should be seated with your knees at a 90-degree angle as it takes pressure away from your hips and knee joints. Sitting on a gaming chair with an elevated front lip discourages you from doing so, which might lead to spinal or knee misalignments in the long term.

Seat Depth:
Since most gaming chairs come with a bucket seat, adjustability options for seat depth can be extremely limited.

This could result in one of the two problems:
1. Either your seat depth becomes too shallow, leading to increased pressure on a small portion of your thighs, or,
2. Your seat depth becomes too deep, which may lead to a lack of lumbar support if you're forced to sit at the edge of the seat in order to be closer to your computer screen. 

Office chair

Seat Pan:
Most office chairs are often accompanied by a waterfall seat with its front edges curved, akin to a rock smoothened by water. 

💡 The downward-sloping nature of the seat helps to relieve pressure from the back of the thighs, while improving blood circulation in the legs so that you won't end up with pins and needles after long hours.

Adjustable Seat Depth & Height:
Ergonomic office chairs are also popular due to their high level of customisation, which is thanks to the many adjustment points available.

Good, high-end office chairs like the Herman Miller Aeron and ErgoTune Supreme have the ability to adjust the seat depth and height to fit any person, regardless of their body type. This allows the office chair to support a wide range of sitting positions for the user, ensuring proper posture for the least amount of body aches and pains!

💡 Ideally, the seat depth of the office chair should allow 2 to 3 fingers’ width between the back of your knees and the seat pan, whereas the seat height should be such that your knees are at a comfortable 90-degree angle. Overall, the lumbar support should also be sufficiently flushed to your lower back to fit its natural curvature. 

3. Headrest

Gaming chair

Most gaming chairs do not have a built-in headrest but rather, they rely on support pillows.

Due to the lack of adjustability when it comes to the positioning and angle of the support pillow, some individuals might actually feel uncomfortable instead when it becomes an obstruction by sitting too high or too low, which pushes your head forward or downwards.

Office Chair

On the contrary, the headrests of ergonomic office chairs are normally adjustable. The bare minimum is to be height-adjustable, but higher-end office chairs should allow you to tailor the level of protrusion and angle as well.

Overall, this will provide more well-rounded support to your neck and your shoulders, but only if it fits you to a T. Otherwise, you may be better off purchasing office chairs that do not come with a headrest, such as a Herman Miller or ErgoTune Classic. 

4. Lumbar support

Gaming chair

Lumbar Pillows:
Most gaming chairs in the market come with detachable lumbar pillows as a form of lumbar support for the user. 

💡 While studies have revealed that these pillows do improve the overall comfort of individuals using the chair as opposed to without, lumbar support pillows are still inferior when compared to built-in lumbar support.

This is because while support pillows are usually made with memory foam, which conforms to the curve of your spine, most of these pillows only come with a single-strap design, which results in flimsy support.

Plus, the amount of padding in the pillows cannot be customised, so it may either be too hard or too soft for you and there's nothing you can do about it.

"Why don't I just remove the pillow, then? Do I really need that back support?"

You wouldn't want to do that, and yes, you do, unless living with back pain sounds like an absolute delight.

A flat backrest does not cater to the natural curvature of your lower back, which needs to be supported throughout the day or else your back muscles are going to be overworked.

This could lead to not just back pain, but also injuries in the long run!

Office chair

Built-in Lumbar Support:
For office chairs with ergonomic design, the adjustable lumbar support is thoughtfully designed to cater to the comfort of every individual.

💡 Its adjustability allows it to fit your natural curve snugly, and in fact, the ErgoTune Supreme, incurred us thousands of dollars just to develop across a span of 2 years — it's not easy to create a lumbar support that automatically adjusts to the curve of your spine regardless of your sitting position!

Need a chair for that all-day comfort? Get the top rated ergonomic chair today!

5. Armrests

Gaming chair

We're not on a quest to put down gaming chairs; we're very objective in our comparison. That is why we'll say this:

In order to cater to the vigorous hand and arm movements of the average gamer, the armrests of gaming chairs are generally more flexible and adaptable than those of office chairs. Yup, we'll admit that.

Most gaming chairs in the market boast “3D armrests” or more, where “D” refers to the dimensions by which the armrests can move. 3D Armrests can not only move upwards and downwards, but can also swivel sideways and move forwards and backwards.

Office chair

This is primarily where standard office chairs tend to fall behind in terms of comfort, because most only possess up to 2D armrests, which means they are unable to cater to the forward and backward range of motion of the arms.

Even so, superior ergonomic office chairs should have adjustable armrests that are at least on par with most gaming chairs. 

💡 Case in point, the ErgoTune Supreme is famed for its GyroBrace 5D Armrests, which adds an additional range of motion that allows your armrests to rotate up to 270-degrees, making it perfect for supporting any activity throughout the day, be it typing, texting, or gaming.

6. Backrest recline

Gaming chair

Both gaming chairs and standard office chairs usually offer backrest recline, but gaming chairs are known to have a really high degree of recline available — think 180-degrees! 

Office chair

While having the flexibility to recline up to 180-degree is a good bonus, it is not a must-have.

According to a study, the most ideal recline angle is between 110 to 130-degrees, where disc pressure is not only the lowest, but the muscles in your lower back are also worked the least.

Most ergonomic chairs can recline up to at least 110 degrees, which means that they can still help you reduce fatigue and muscle ache even on workdays that seem to never end. Yep, those days, when the clock hand seem to inch along painstakingly slowly. 

Some office chairs have greater recline flexibility, such as the ErgoTune Supreme.

💡 The ErgoTune Supreme can recline up to 136-degrees, which allows you to sit upright at 110-degrees while you work, and then lean back into your chair at 136-degrees when you feel like you need a quick shuteye.  .

7. Backrest

Like how the bucket seat design prevents you from being flung around in your seat when you're turning corners at 300km/h, the primary purpose of the winged backrest is to keep the racer’s upper body sturdy during races.

This is good if you're using your chair solely to play racing simulator games like Mario Kart and Daytona, but if the only race you're going to partake in is society's rat race, then having a winged backrest is just another stumbling block in your quest to become number one. 

💡 This is due to the additional restriction on your upper body when using the chair, which allows for less ergonomic adjustments to improve your posture and overall comfort. This has been linked to affect your mood and productivity levels! 

8. Upholstery

Gaming chair

Usually made from leather or faux leather and supported by high-density foam, these materials are aesthetically pleasing and generally easy to clean, making them good for those who love fuss-free, e-aesthetics.

It does fall short in other areas, though, like when leather tends to peel under hot weather if not maintained and moisturised, and how it can have a “sticky” feel if you sit on it for long. On top of that, leather usually commands a significant price point, which can greatly inflate the price of your gaming chair. 

Office chair

In comparison, office chairs have a greater variety of upholstery, which includes mesh and fabric.For sure, they may not look as plush, but they do stand up to leather in terms of durability and breathability. 

💡 The ErgoTune Supreme features a unique hybrid of both mesh and fabric, known as the Duraweave Hybrid Mesh. Combining the breathability mesh and the durability of fabric, this chair is highly favoured especially in hot and humid climates like Singapore!

Gaming chair vs office chair TL;DR

Alright! You made it to the end of the article!

By now, you should be able to determine if a gaming chair or office chair is a better fit for you.

To summarise,

Gaming chairs

  • Is great for gamers who place great emphasis on flamboyant aesthetics, enough to pay a steep price for it.
  • Especially great if you're a huge fan of racing games, for the ultimate immersive experience.

Ergonomic office chairs

  • Better suited for the average user, who simply wants a chair that will not result in back pain after long hours of usage.
  • Triumphs a gaming chair in terms of ergonomics and practicality.
  • Have a wide price range depending on its level of adjustability that you can choose from.