Tabletop gaming is, for the most part, a fairly sedentary activity. Sure, there are some games that may require you to get up and move around (like dexterity games, for instance), but it’s not uncommon for me to be seated for several hours at a time during game night. At GameStorm, a local gaming convention, I taught games for around 50 hours over the course of the weekend—and most of that time, I was seated at a table. So, although I love playing board games and think they have some great benefits, I admit that they may actually be detrimental to my physical health.
Several years ago, I wrote about the dangers of sitting, and shortly after switched to a standing desk. But for game nights, I still spent the whole time sitting down, and in recent years I’ve been ramping up the number of game nights I host, which means even more hours per week in a chair.
Here’s where Fully comes into the picture: the company sells a line of office furniture that helps with posture and staying active. GeekDad Ryan Hiller has previously reviewed some of Fully’s standing desks (like the Cooper standing desk converter and the Jarvis adjustable desk) from a work perspective. Fully approached me about trying out some of their chairs and stools for gaming—would it be possible to incorporate some of these unconventional seating options at game night?
I spoke with a representative from Fully, and we narrowed down their options to these four: Ballo, Tic Toc, Swopper Classic, and ILOA Saddle Chair. Some of their stools are specifically for standing desks and I wanted something that would work for the game table height; there were a few others that I felt might take up a little too much width at the table. I’ve had these four for almost two months now and have put them to some real-world testing at my game nights. Here’s how they stack up!
First, a quick height comparison. The Ballo is one height only at 24.5″ (with a little bit of leeway depending on how much you inflate it), but the other three all have adjustable heights. The Tic Toc has the lowest height at 16″, the ILOA is 21″, and the Swopper is 22″.
Fully extended, the Tic Toc reaches about 24″, the Swopper 27.5″, and the ILOA an almost-standing 31.5″. For the game table, about 23–24″ was about the right height, though the kids often liked to ratchet themselves up a bit higher in the Swopper and ILOA.
Now, for a closer look at each chair.
The Ballo is a lot like sitting on one of those large exercise balls (which are also a nice option), but with a few key differences. It’s actually two separate inflatable sections, with a rigid plastic core in the center. The core gives it a little more structure, so although you can bounce a bit while seated, there’s less give than an exercise ball. The Ballo also won’t roll away when you stand up—though it can tip over if you lean too far. The underside of the top has hand holds all around the seat, so it’s easy to carry one-handed (something that can be tricky with an exercise ball) and you get more height than width.
Sitting on the Ballo gives you a good range of motion—you can bounce, rock back and forth or side to side, or rotate hula-hoop style. I’ve found that it’s generally good to have the base a little farther back so that the core leans forward toward you, keeping you from tipping over backward. Since it’s the only one of the seats that isn’t height-adjustable, it’s best for average adult height. If you have extremely long legs, you may find yourself leaning too far back; too short, and it’ll be more of a leaning chair than a sitting chair.
I felt this one was the least versatile, though it did have its fans in my gaming group and its simplicity is nice. You’ll need to reinflate it from time to time, but it works well. I’d recommend it if you like the experience of sitting on a exercise ball but (1) you wish it didn’t keep rolling away and (2) you didn’t want it quite so squishy. It’s also really fun-looking, which is great in the game room but may be a little weird in an office, depending on the environment. The Ballo retails for $299 and is available in a range of colors.
The Tic Toc stool is perhaps my personal favorite. When I visited the Fully showroom for the first time, I spent a lot of time sitting on the Tic Toc and enjoying the rocking motion. The H-shaped base is gently curved for rocking, and the seat swivels so you can rock back and forth or turn it to rock side to side. It’s the smallest of the four options and very light, making it easy to move around, and the range in height (16″ to 24″) will accommodate a lot of tables (though not standing desks). I wish I’d had the Tic Toc before GameStorm this year, because I probably would have brought it with me just to keep me a little less sedentary during those marathon gaming sessions.
The seat itself is sort of square, with the two front corners bent down slightly to allow your thighs to angle downward, and it’s pretty comfortable. One issue is that, at least in the black-cushion-on-black-wood option, it can sometimes be difficult to see at a glance which two corners are the front, and since the seat spins freely, I often find myself taking a few seconds to correct it before sitting back down. The stool also comes in an uncushioned version (which I tried out in the showroom) and I didn’t have the same issue with that version.
My game room floors are marmoleum, and we did find that the orientation of the base tends to slip a little over time, so you’ll find yourself rocking at an odd angle rather than just forward and back or side to side. I’m guessing this may depend on the type of flooring you have. This one I’d recommend for somebody who wants a simple seating option that allows for some movement in a compact package. It’s priced at $225 for the wooden seat, $250 for the cushioned seat.
The Swopper Classic is the most popular of the bunch; the other three all had people who liked them or disliked them, but the Swopper was almost universally liked, and it’s the one that my kids fight over. I have to tell them to let other guests try it out, or they’d just sit in it all the time.
It’s really fun to look at—it’s a big red button, with a matching bright red spring on the base (also available in other colors), and it just begs to be bounced on. And it does bounce: you get several inches of give in the spring, and it’s a firm bounce, not squishy. The seat is nice and cushy and fairly large, and is easily adjustable (from 22″ to 27.5″).
Aside from the up-and-down motion, you can also lean just a little, allowing for some rocking or wiggling motion. The base tilts a little bit but naturally pulls itself back toward upright. The base is a large metal hoop, which makes the Swopper the heaviest stool in this group. There are two options for the pads—metal or felted—depending on your flooring surface, but the weight of the base keeps the Swopper from shifting much. It’s really something you want to plant somewhere and leave in place. (The Swopper Air, which also has a more breathable cushion, has an option to get a base with wheels.)
It’s just downright fun to sit in. One of my guests really loved it but said she thought she might drive everyone else crazy because she’d be bouncing on it the entire evening—but that’s what my kids do anyway. It’s really great for fidgety people, but the firmness of the spring also means that if you need to sit still to take your turn, it can be very stable.
All that fabulousness comes at a price, though: the Swopper Classic is the most expensive of this batch, at $599. As much as I’d love to have four of these around the gaming table, it’s definitely a splurge—probably more like the equivalent of the La-Z-Boy in the den, where you hang a sign on it that proclaims it “Dad’s Chair” and never let anyone else sit in it.
ILOA Saddle Chair
Our final seat is the ILOA Saddle Chair. The seat of this is a little like the Tic Toc with the bent-down corners, but even more so. My guests have compared it to a bicycle seat or riding a horse—which suits the name—because you sort of straddle the stool while seated. That’s particularly true when you raise the seat, and the ILOA rises higher than the others (from 21″ to 31.5″). That allows it to be used at a regular desk or a lower standing desk. When it’s fully raised, I found that I could either sit farther back and rest my feet on the spokes of the base, or else sit closer to the front and have my feet flat on the ground. The seat itself is wood with three separate cushions on the panels, and it’s pretty comfortable to sit on, though my daughters tell me the fabric is a little scratchy on their legs when they’re wearing shorts.
Other than the shape of the seat, the ILOA felt closest to a traditional office chair—it has wheels and it swivels, so I think it would make the easiest transition from a regular chair. It’s the only one of the four options that doesn’t tilt at all, so it can feel a little more stable for those who aren’t used to the tilting of the other seats.
Overall I think the ILOA is a good, sturdy workhorse of a chair. It encourages you to sit forward, and you can easily change your position from fully seated to almost standing over the course of the evening. Because it is restricted to swiveling and rolling, it feels a little less “active” than the other options. The ILOA retails for $395.
Fully offers several other seating options on the website, including kids’ versions of the Swopper and Tic Toc and a few other pivoting stools.
One thing that you may have noticed is that none of the chairs I tried have any sort of back support. I’m somewhat used to this already because my dining room chairs are backless stools, and when I play games I tend to lean forward on the table as I play, not back. I think generally taking away back support forces you to be more aware of your posture, though I had at least one guest say he felt like he might need to hunch over the table to feel a little more stability. I’d recommend sitting on the front of your chair without using the back support a bit and see how that feels to you before investing in a backless stool, but most of my guests haven’t complained about that particular feature.
It’s definitely not cheap to upgrade your gaming space with Fully chairs; depending on whether you have a dedicated gaming area or if you play at your dining table, you may not be able to replace all of the existing seating with these active chairs. I’ll admit that these chairs are pricier than what I’d usually consider spending myself, and certainly wouldn’t have been able to afford all four at once, so I’m thankful that Fully provided these samples for review. My existing chairs were purchased from a yard sale at $20 for the set, and that included a table, too. But after spending time in the Fully showroom, I’d already been seriously considering a Tic Toc stool for myself, thinking that maybe over time I could gradually replace some of the seating with other Tic Tocs.
If you do spend a lot of time playing games, though, I think it’s something to consider, whether you look for something from Fully or find other solutions. It doesn’t take the place of exercise, of course, but any sort of motion is better than spending hours at a time just sitting still (especially while I eat snacks), so if you’re considering an upgrade to your gaming space, put active seating on your list!
For more information, visit the Fully website. If you’re in San Francisco or Portland, you can also visit the showroom to try out the seats (and desks) for yourself!
Disclosure: Fully provided samples of these chairs for review.