Play Stuff Blog

3-D or Not 3-D?  

Three-dimensional games proved the hot topic at this year’s Game Developers Conference. Attendees experienced a plethora of 3-D technologies on the exhibit floor and participated in various  3-D related sessions. I’m not referring here to three-dimensional renderings of graphics in a two-dimensional display, the quality and prevalence of which have risen since 5th-generation console games ushered them in during the late 1990s; rather, I’m referring to stereoscopic technologies used most often for 3-D movies. My unofficial count at GDC revealed a dozen vendors selling fully developed 3-D game titles,   3-D game development engines and renderers, and various systems, including a wide variety of 3-D viewing technologies, all of which required glasses.

In their session, “3-D Game Creation on PlayStation 3,” Ian Bickerstaff and Simon Benson of Sony Computer Entertainment spoke about both the technogical aspects of 3-D game design and what is making 3-D gaming in the home a reality, especially high definition (and high frame rate) LCD monitors and the new HDMI standards.

Jaws 3-D from Underground 3d movies Photo from Underground3dmovies


The rise of digital cinema and 3-D movie production is also fueling the movement toward stereoscopic game design. During my younger years, 3-D cinema existed only in a limited capacity supported by inferior technologies, and I came to view 3-D as a marketing gimmick for otherwise horrible movies—titles like Jaws 3-D and Amityville 3-D immediately come to mind.  Such exposure to bad 3-D technologies may explain why many gamers of my generation are skeptical about the new trend. In addition to gimmicky, in-your-face 3-D movies, many of us also experienced the gaming industry’s early forays into 3-D games, such as Nintendo’s Virtual Boy in the mid 1990s. Only 800,000 copies shipped worldwide, but today it’s a strong collector’s item—ICHEG owns several originals.

Virtual Boy

After attending GDC, I have a renewed hope for stereoscopic gaming. I’m also excited about the 3-D movies I’ve been watching with my daughter. They display a new artistic and tasteful use of stereoscopic technology. James Cameron’s recent 3-D masterpiece, Avatar, which became the highest-grossing film of all time worldwide, is lending unprecedented credence to this film technique. The Avatar game by Ubisoft already allows for 3D effects over the HDMI standard, and from what I’ve seen you can expect many game releases to follow suit over the next couple of years.

Avatar from Graham Young Photo from Graham Young


We’d love to hear your thoughts and predictions about stereoscopic gaming. Will this be the next breakthrough in gaming? A short-lived fad? A technology that will enhance the overall game play and immersive experience? Or a technology that will distract from good game design?