The Meaning and Importance of a FOV In Gaming

There are some aspects of video games that we notice as soon as a title starts. A low frame rate, misaligned textures, and wonky physics are all examples that can make or break our experiences from the get-go. Then there are the aspects that can have an enormous effect on our play without many of us consciously noticing them. Field of view is one of these aspects, as a simple feature with significant implications.

Here we'll look at the FOV meaning and the effect it has on players and performance. Like the arrow in the FedEx logo, this is one of those things you might not be able to unsee, but it's worth understanding all the same.

What Is FOV?

The basic FOV meaning is a field of view. This is the area of the game that is visible to players. A FOV is measured by horizontal and vertical angles, though it's far more common for the horizontal angle to be measured in gaming instead of the vertical. Instead, the vertical angle will usually be tied to the horizontal FOV.

For reference, a typical human in real life has a horizontal and vertical FOV of 135 degrees and 180 degrees, respectively. Video games will adapt FOVs differently based on the type of game, and where the player’s perspective originated. No matter the game, FOVs will tend to be lower than what we experience in real life, thanks to a screen being a more limited space than our entire natural viewing area.

The Effect on Players

FOV for players is important for a couple of reasons: gameplay and player comfort. In gameplay, a wide FOV provides more visual information, which is great for games that rely on spatial awareness. On the flipside, some titles like horror games might use narrow FOVs to limit visual input, to make a player feel more alone or claustrophobic.

Issues can appear when FOV doesn’t match up to what our brains naturally expect. We unconsciously expect a certain FOV when screens are specific distances, and when these expectations don’t align with display output, motion sickness can result. This is why FOV sliders are so important in gaming, especially in titles played on both close PC monitors and more distant TV screens.

FOV and Performance

While many players would prefer wider FOVs than what is provided as default, FOV also comes with a potential performance cost. The wider the FOV, the more information needs to be displayed on screen, and the greater the processing toll this takes.

PC games often let you modify many graphics settings to offset performance loss on wide FOVs, but console games are less likely to offer this ability. The result is that even though newer console games are increasingly adopting FOV sliders, they can often fail to balance the performance degradation that results.

Whatever your chosen FOV, we can all agree that more customization is a good thing. Whether we prefer to lock out views for greater scares or widen FOVs out to avoid feeling dizzy, FOVs play an important and underrated role in the experience. Plus, with VR gaming making strides in the 2020s, the necessity of FOV control will only continue to grow.