And that is where the flaw is. When wearing old-school 3D glasses, each eye sees the world tinted a different color, and it's exhausting for them. Wearing those red-and-blue lenses for too long would become very uncomfortable.
(Fun fact: Minecraft currently has a feature that lets you view its blocky world in 3D by exploiting the red-and-blue image method. Yes, go find yourself a pair of those old school glasses and try it out for yourself!)
But technology has produced a new, even trickier method of bringing the third dimension to such images, and this method is directly related to gaming. (Since I've gone on far too long already about the technical aspects of 3D imagery, I'll skip over the whole "polarized 3D glasses" thing, which is currently used at movie theaters and doesn't require red and blue imagery.) The 3D television takes advantage of rapid-shutter glasses, glasses that rapidly block one eye, then the other eye. Instead of creating two images that overlap, the images are shown in alternate succession. What?
Instead of showing you sixty frames per second, a 3D television shows you 120. (Or more in some cases. We'll just assume it's 120 for now, to keep the math simple.) Sixty of those are intended for your right eye, and sixty of those are intended for your left eye. The glasses you wear will block those images from each eye alternatively, so that each eye only sees the sixty frames that it's supposed to.
This method comes with its own problems. For one, glasses haven't been eliminated. When wanting to relax and enjoy a film (or a video game) many people generally prefer to not be burdened by a cumbersome piece of headgear.
The second problem relates more directly to video games: framerate. The framerate for a 3D video game must be double that of a 2D video game. Anyone who has played games on a PC has probably experienced frame rate problems. These cause games to lag and stutter, breaking up the flow of the animations. Frame rate problems would be compounded on 3D televisions, because if your game starts dropping frames, the 3D effect will completely dissolve. Gameplay dropping in and out of 3D would be even more annoying to watch than stuttering animations.
Of course, technology is advancing so rapidly that this second problem may not be around for very long. More powerful hardware will eventually be able to handle the 120 frames per second required for 3D imagery without any hitches.
But the problem of the glasses still remains. Do you really want to have to wear them all the time?
A quick look back at the history of film will show a series of advancements that have been met with skepticism, but have ultimately endured. Films with sound (they used to call them "talkies"), color films, surround sound, etc. But none of these changes has ever required viewers to wear special equipment.
Nintendo has figured out a way to provide a 3D experience for handheld devices that does not require glasses. I have no idea how they managed to pull it off, but I've heard that the effect can be tiring for your eyes. And Nintendo is issuing warnings that this technology could be dangerous. Sure, there may not be any truth to this danger factor, and Nintendo is probably just playing it safe in order to avoid massive lawsuits in the future. But these warnings are going to scare off a lot of parents. Can a company that is known for providing the more family-friendly gaming experience really afford to chase away its target demographic with scary warning labels?
My prediction: 3D gaming won't last. It will impress a lot of people for a short period, but the novelty will quickly wear off. Having to wear glasses will grow tiring, and the glasses-free 3D experience is already being labeled as "dangerous." It won't take very long for game developers to realize the risks outweigh the benefits. Until there is a way to enjoy a glasses-free 3D experience without glasses, eye fatigue, or warning labels, 3D is going to remain a mere novelty.
CCC Freelance Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*