Talking Point: To 3D or Not to 3D?

That is the question

With the release of the 3DS in Japan, gamers have finally been able to sit down with the system and play it for extended periods of time. While this has led to a lot of excitement and rave reviews, it's also brought up a lot of complaints about headaches, motion sickness and blurred vision. Given that there are a huge number of gamers outside of Japan who have yet to experience the 3DS for themselves, this has led to a lot of concern regarding these problems. We thought we'd take a look at why exactly these problems have arisen and do a little testing of our own to see how our eyes handle the 3D effect.

To begin with, the human eyes see 3D on a constant basis in real life. Every human being with two functioning eyes views the world around them in full 3D, and it's what gives us our depth perception. If you close one of your eyes and line up an object close by with an object farther away and then switch eyes, you'll see that these objects no longer line up. The reason for this is that, while each eye is viewing the same basic image, they're doing so from slightly different perspectives.

The 3DS uses this same principle: the system sends the same picture of the action taking place onscreen to each eye with a slight variance between the two to each eye. Just like in real life, this adds the perception of depth to the screen that allows us to view things taking place on the screen in 3D.

So if 3D is something we have always been viewing in our everyday life already, why are some gamers having problems viewing it on the 3DS screen? Well to be honest, the majority of the problem likely lies in the fact that we've spent years playing games on our portable game systems in 2D with each eye receiving basically the same picture. Now all of a sudden this has changed and it's throwing our eyes off a bit. And just like many other things in real life, it can take some time to adapt to something completely new like this experience, and as some people are more sensitive to headaches and motion sickness, it can affect everyone a little differently.

It's like getting a new prescription for contacts or glasses: for about the first week or so you might have blurred vision, headaches and sometimes a bit of motion sickness, as our eyes and brains slowly become accustomed to the changes made to our vision. And for some, this will likely be the scenario with the 3DS as your eyes get used to viewing the screen in this brand new way.

Our Downloads Editor Corbie Dillard has had plenty of hands-on experience with the console since it arrived last week, and here are his thoughts:

Over the past four days, I've had a chance to put in around 30 hours of playing time into the system, with every single hour viewed at the maximum 3D setting. I wanted to try to push the envelope with the system early on to see how it effects not only my eyes but also see if I had any symptoms like headaches or motion sickness of any kind.

My first session on the first day the system arrived was a marathon four hour session with absolutely no break whatsoever playing Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition. While my thumb wasn't so lucky, my eyes did perfectly fine with no real signs of fatigue or blurred vision of any kind. I also didn't experience any headaches or motion sickness throughout this run.

Over the next few days I would spend about two hours at a time playing both Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition and Ridge Racer 3D, but so far I still haven't had any difficulties of any kind. Even when I'd switch over to my DSi to play Radiant Historia, I never noticed any problems focusing on the 2D after playing so much of the 3DS.

The bottom line is that everyone will have a different experience when it comes to playing the 3DS system. There's no denying that some will have problems viewing the 3D, especially at first, but for most people it will just be giving their eyes and brain time to acclimate to this new way of viewing and playing video games. Of course for those who just can't seem to comfortably play the system in 3D, you can always turn the depth slider to the off position and enjoy the wonderful 2D gaming side of the 3DS, which after seeing some of the amazing 3DS games in action, certainly isn't a bad thing.