It wasn't too long ago that the 3D hype mushroomed into a full-on marketing blitz. It seemed like putting a 3D entertainment package in every home was a foregone certainty. All the big electronic companies were on board, asking us to dish out thousands of dollars on 3D televisions, Blu-ray players, glasses, as well as asking us to refresh our movie collections with pricier 3D copies. Of course, it trickled into video games as well, with the PS3 and Xbox 360 sporting a few dozen titles that support the stereoscopic 3D display. And let’s not forget the Nintendo 3DS, a portable gaming device with a glasses-free 3D experience built into the system.
I didn't think much on this article topic until last week when I was reminiscing about all the cool peripherals and accessories I saw at this year's E3 as well as the push to reinvigorate virtual reality back into the gaming industry with devices like the Oculus Rift. I racked my brain, but I honestly couldn't remember the promotion of anything new with 3D. Maybe it was there, and I just brushed it aside for lack of interest. Even Nintendo, showcasing a sizeable roster of 3DS games, touted the gameplay features with nary a mention of 3D visuals.
Perhaps watching movies in 3D has become your preferred choice, but do many gamers say the same about playing video games? Here's a few reasons why most of us are passing on 3D.
Though 3D TVs are being rolled out by every electronics producer, the feature still doesn't come standard with every flatscreen. You either buy a TV with 3D or without it. The majority of those considering a 3D set are in it for the movies. So now it's either a regular TV, or a 3D TV along with the 3D Blu-ray and extra glasses–a much more expensive choice. Gamers are very price-conscious folk, so after looking at what they get out of the experience, most are content staying in the two-dimensional world when gaming.
3D graphics may add a whole new dimension to visualizing a game, but does it do anything to the gameplay? You may feel like you're whizzing through gorgeous vistas in Gran Turismo 5, or feel out-of-this-world taking on Helghast forces in Killzone 3, but the exact same controls and game mechanics occur with or without the eye-bending depth of 3D. Again, there may be a small faction of people who've fallen in love with the encompassing perspective, but most gamers are more interested in a good gameplay experience than nifty visuals.
This is where 3D truly becomes a detriment. Because of the layered perspective, your eyes are forced to work harder. This visual overload, in turn, requires your brain to work harder to process the enhanced imagery, and thus your reflexes and control speed suffer. Mix that with frequent issues of blurred visuals, poor sharpness, and disorientation, and you've got some serious handicaps heading into a deathmatch. I've yet to meet a serious PvP gamer who goes into an online match marathon donning their 3D shades.
Finally, there's the Nintendo 3DS. When it looked like 3D was heading towards the stratosphere, the big N jumped right onto the bandwagon, promoting a glasses-free 3D experience with their newest portable platform. Nintendo's entire marketing strategy prior to the system's launch was on this sole feature. After the system was released, and it became clear that we gamers were more interested in quality games rather than funky visuals, Nintendo went virtually silent on the subject. Now, the 3DS is arguably the hottest gaming device out there, and yet nobody from the Kyoto-based company dares even whisper the system's "driving" feature.
Of course, the problem with 3D on the handheld is that it fights against other features. Without the use of special glasses, you need to hold the system in the perfect "sweet" spot, or the overlapping layers cause distortion. This makes it impossible to play a game using tilt controls in conjunction with the 3D effect. It's either one or the other. Also, many of the games have poor 3D programming, which causes headaches, and the warning that children under the age of seven should not use the effect seems to alienate an audience that Nintendo is famous for attracting. And lastly, having the 3D cranked up sucks the juice right out of the battery. So it's either a couple of hours of headache-inducing visuals, or several hours without the strain on your eyes.
Now, I have made it a point to criticize the 3D feature in my 3DS game reviews, talking about whether it works or not. And honestly, sometimes it works. Fire Emblem: Awakening, for example, has an isometric display on the combat map that gives it that diorama-like presentation. Also, since it is a turn-based game, there's no fear of cursing the 3D effect for blurring at the wrong time and forcing you down a bottomless pit, such as in Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D. I'm hooked on Animal Crossing: New Leaf at the moment, and while the 3D effect does give me the feeling of a creator looking down on his prosperous little world, this "not-so-casual" game (as I explained in a recent article) fills many hours of my day, so I choose battery life over multi-layered visuals.
Now, I could be wrong on the entire subject, this is, after all, just my opinion. If so, I will accept all the trolling in the comments below with a grain of salt. However, my goal is to see where all you gamers stand on the issue. Are 3D visuals really an important facet of your gaming experience, or do you consider it an expensive fad that you wish would quietly go away? Let me know.
Senior Contributing Writer