For nearly 20 years, I’ve been sitting in the same piece of shit: a grey swivel chair that I got for cheap as a teenager. It creaks if you look at it; it’s covered in enormous amounts of my hair. It does not do my body any favours. Very possibly it has been exacerbating my depression. This is stupid – my job is almost entirely working on the computer, and I play a lot of video games, so sitting in this chair is the main activity I do, every single day of my life, for far longer than I care to admit.
This piece was first published on Kotaku US on February 16, 2018.
All this is vastly preferable to the shame of owning a gaming chair, which I do now. Website writers are offered free shit all the time. I’ll try just about any product that purports to bolster my gaming skills, like esports training apps or sketchy gamer drugs. The apps and drugs were useless. And I figured the same would go for DXRacer’s Valkyrie gaming chair: another product that made big promises wrapped up in tons of gamer branding that wouldn’t deliver on its claims; more bullshit from a brand capitalising on the myth of “gamer identity” to sell an overpriced chair that is not any different from the cheap chair that I already own.
Also, it costs £336. Sadly, the chair is comfortable as hell.
The Valkyrie is big. The one they sent me is black and yellow, like a looming pleather bumblebee. In addition to being massive, the Valkyrie is heavy. According to DXRacer, it weighs 66.14 pounds. In its huge box complete with packing materials, it felt like it weighed sixteen tons. I had to carry that box up a flight of stairs to my flat.
The day the chair arrived, I had just had lunch with my mother, who lifts weights regularly. The two of us carried the chair upstairs together. This sucked, because I had to explain to my buff non-gamer mother that I had received a gaming chair in the post to review for work, for my definitely real job that she totally understands. “That sounds cool,” she told me. “No, it sucks,” I huffed. “It’s just a silly idea I had.” (Mum – thanks for reading, and for helping carry the chair.)
That weight is, admittedly, a big part of what makes the chair feel good. It has a metal frame and base, unlike my other chair, which has a thin frame coated in plastic. The Valkyrie is almost impossible to tip over, unlike some other gaming chairs. It’s also silent, unlike my old desk chair that moans in protest if its occupant so much as breathes.
Pretty sure I did this right.
The Valkyrie does not come with clear instructions on how to put the chair together, but I made some educated guesses. I know what a chair should look like. The reason it took a while to put together by myself is because, again, it’s a massive and heavy chair. As I put it together and its hulking shape took its final form, I realised how visible a choice I had just made.
I already have a preposterous gaming setup in my office, and even in that context, the Valkyrie sticks out. Over the years, I have accrued some flashy gaming items. There’s a computer chassis with clear glass siding to reveal a motherboard that cycles through rainbow colours, and a gaming keyboard with LED lights beneath the keycaps. There are limits: some of my computer parts came with “Republic of Gamers” stickers, including a fake passport for that supposed realm, but I left those stickers in a box somewhere. I am definitely a citizen of the Republic of Gamers, but I’d prefer not to advertise it.
This massive yellow and black gaming chair is worse than any of that. It takes my set-up to another level. It’s not a level I ever thought I’d get to. Its looming five-pointed backrest has become characteristic to almost every gamer chair design across brands, as a Google image search for the phrase “gamer chair” will prove. It’s a chair design seen on esports tournament stages and mega-popular Twitch streams, serving as a hulking visual signifier that the head resting on its pillows takes gaming seriously. Even without that cultural context, the chair’s very design, from its gold embroidered stitching and Triforce-like triangle detailing, screams with gusto: This is a gamer chair. This is a chair a gamer would buy.
Google Image results for “gamer chair.”
I can’t prove this, but I’m almost certain that the popularity of this style of gaudy gamer chairs exploded alongside streaming and the rise of esports tournaments. If you’re going to sell furniture to gamers, best do it with the one item the audience can invariably see. The chair backrest goes higher than most heads would; conveniently, the brand’s name is splashed across the very top, making it visible on any Twitch channel or esports stage.
I love this chair. I don’t want to believe that people have spend several hundred pounds in order to take gaming seriously. Gaming has enough expensive barriers and cliquey signalling already. I don’t like that competitive gaming in particular has gotten so obsessed with a specific slick image that exudes ugly exclusivity. It’s not just that this is a gamer chair. It’s also a chair that I associate with people who think they’re better than I am. I can feel the sting of both my supposed lack of gaming prowess and class consciousness, here.
It’s the type of item that makes you feel hesitant about bringing a date home to see your place. Which would be worse: a date turned off by the sight of the gamer chair behemoth, or a date who is way too into it? Is there a third option? I hope so, because I don’t actually want to get rid of this chair.
My hypothetical date could also, conceivably, be turned off by the number of synthesizers I own.
Apart from its monstrous appearance and the fact that this chair is the physical manifestation of the fake gamer identity made by brands, I have nothing bad to say about this chair. Unlike my light-up computer and keyboard, the chair has the benefit of physically helping me. It is utilitarian.
The Valkyrie’s customisation comforts include controls for adjusting the height and angle of each armrest, as well as the seat height and tilt of the backrest – unlike my creaky old chair from my early days, which lets you adjust seat height and nothing else. My new gamer chair also includes two optional cushions: a lower back cushion at the base of the backrest, and a small neck cushion. I love both, but in particular, I’m shocked that the neck cushion placement happens to rest in just the right spot.
If I sit in the chair and close my eyes, I feel like the chair was built in a laboratory based on a mould of me. When I open my eyes and look at the chair, though, I think the lab was doing an experiment to test the most garish, expensive “gamer” item that could get me to abandon my general principle of rejecting the idea that I need to buy shit from corporations in order to better experience playing video games. It worked. I have been seduced by this chair.
I don’t know if the Valkyrie is the best chair on the market. Perhaps there is a more subtle gaming chair out there. Or perhaps the Valkyrie’s showboat nature is just your style. I clearly have no idea what the heck I’m talking about when it comes to chairs. I think I’ve made that very clear. But I can tell you that this is a comfortable chair.
Readers, don’t be like me. Don’t assume that these fancy gaming chairs are full of shit. I had to wait until somebody offered me an actual nice office chair, free of charge, in order to finally learn that sitting in a chair can feel good. I’ll get over the shame eventually.