Blog: Why 3D Won't Last

A lot of technology has tried and failed to captivate our attention, and most importantly, our wallets. The past failures are easy enough to count, like the SEGA CD, Nintendo Power Glove, and the N-Gage, just to name a few. The successes are not easy to identify sometimes. Take physics in games, for example: When a physics engine was first introduced, many said it would fail. However, it’s now caught on with the support of Intel and Nvidia with their own variations of how it should be implemented. The point is that it’s here to stay because we expect a physics engine in our games now. The same can’t be said for HD: when it first came out, everyone that developed a game on consoles said this was going to be big and should be supported, though Nintendo didn’t jump on board right away. They’re only slowly moving towards the mindset that gamers want good graphics, not just retro graphics.

Now we have the push for 3D in cinema, home theaters, and PC systems, but is it worth the investment? To answer this question, we’ll have to look at many things, starting with the technology involved with it. The only way to get a 3D image on a 2D panel is to have two identical pictures of a scene that are spaced a certain distance away from the camera. You then need special glasses to see the image on the 3D-compatible TV. I know there are displays that don’t require the glasses, but they’re not as common. This increases the production of a cinema because you now have two cameras doing what one used to do.

This process is simpler for games but still takes a tremendous amount of the Graphics Processor Unit (GPU)’s power to do it. This is due to how you’re now rendering two frames at once on a 3D-capable monitor. In the case of a 3D TV, the cost could be almost thousands more compared to a standard TV of the same size. The cost isn’t as high for PC gamers, but you’re still talking about a 24″ monitor that is anywhere from $400 to $600 depending on whether or not you get the glasses kit with it. Compare that to a regular 24″, which costs $180 to $260. Then when you add in a rig that already costs $3,000, you realize a high-priced monitor wouldn’t be at the top of your list most of the time. All of these 3D displays are required to provide 120hz, so it can output the two images simultaneously and at precise times. If the display can’t provide this, the 3D effect is lost, hence why the cost is so much higher. In comparison, a basic display only requires 60hz for one image.

Now that we have the financial aspect down, there’s another that has to be considered: can you handle a 3D effect that’s being forced on you with this method? In my experience, I can’t handle it because I get migraines and even seizures from prolonged exposer to the fast flickering of fluorescent lighting. I’ve only had migraines happen when I’m in the theater watching a 3D film. There have even been other cases where people have had seizures because of 3D. This hasn’t happened to me, thank goodness. People have also experienced eye strain and an inability to transition back to normal 3D depth perception after watching a 3D movie.

I’ve heard people say, “Once you go 3D, you’ll never go back to 2D for gaming.” However, with such a high cost and knowing how 3D affects me in a theater, why would I want to put the money into a 3D-capable computer rig when it might cause me a migraine or worse? The problem here is product placement: it costs too damn much and is just as ineffective as putting kiosks in public places.

This is where we’re at for 3D gaming: an impasse. There’s no way to evaluate if the cost is worth the investment in your home. I would say that, for me, since I know what 3D will do to me when I go to a theater, it isn’t worth it for me from a medical standpoint. However, if I could try it to see how it would affect me directly other than on an assumption, I would give it a fair shake despite the high cost it would involve. The reason it wouldn’t be worth it for others in general would be the cost. Many gamers can barely handle a $1,500 PC, so a 3D PC or an uber expensive 3D TV would be far above and beyond their budget. The other reason, though probably not as big as the cost issue, would be the unknown of what it could do to you if you’re exposed to it for prolonged periods of time.

I have no problems with technology advancement. It’s just that, in the case of 3D, there are too many factors that hold it back. They’re quite literally faking a 3D image, which is why so many people have problems with it, myself included. When we can make a true 3D image without the trickery, I think it’ll be a revolution. However, as of right now, I think the current generation of 3D came about as financial gain rather than providing movies and games a new way of telling stories. Unfortunately, too many companies are pushing for it, and if you speak a lie long enough—like, that 3D is good for you—then people will believe it as truth even if it isn’t.

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About Brandon Mietzner