3D Gaming in the Past

It’s no secret that Sony is pushing 3D gaming in a big way. With games like Wipeout HD, and Super Stardust already available, and many more games on their way, Sony is doing everything they can to make sure that 3D gaming is here to stay. But the PlayStation 3 isn’t the first console to explore the world of 3D games. In fact, there have been several past attempts to bring 3D to gaming consoles. Here’s a look at some past attempts.

The Vectrex 3D Imager

The earliest attempt at 3D gaming, the 3D imager was a pair of goggles for the classic Vectrex console. The 3D imager works through the use of a color wheel that is inserted into the goggles. Half of the wheel was black, and the other was made up of several different colors. As you play a game the wheel would rotate, and you would alternate between seeing the Vectrex screen through the left or right eye. At the same time an image would be drawn on the screen to correspond to either the right of left eye. The combination of the spinning wheel and corresponding images created the 3D effect.

There were only a few games released for the 3D imager. These included 3D Mine Storm, 3D Narrow Escape and 3D Crazy Coaster. Each game came with its own color wheel to be inserted into the goggles. A 3D version of Pole Position was supposed to appear on the system but was never released.

SegaScope 3D

Perhaps one of the more popular attempts at 3D gaming was the SegaScope 3D accessory for the Sega Master System. The SegaScope 3D glasses are actually LCD shutter glasses, which work by having each Liquid Crystal Display lens alternate between completely transparent or completely dark. This works in conjunction with the game, which displays an alternate image for the left and right eye on the screen in sync with the glasses. The synchronization of the glasses with the image displayed on screen is what creates the 3D effect. This method of providing 3D images also allowed for the games to be displayed in full color.

There were just a handful of games that supported the SegaScope glasses, including 3D versions of arcade classics Zaxxon and Space Harrier, along with Missile Defense 3D, which had the player shooting down missiles using the Light Phaser, the Sega Master System’s Light Gun.

Nintendo Virtual Boy

Released in 1995, the Virtual Boy was Nintendo’s early attempt at creating a portable 3D game console, although realistically, it’s a bit of a stretch to call the Virtual Boy portable. The system was developed by the Late Gunpei Yokoi, who is also known as the designer of both Nintendo’s Game and Watch series, as well as the Gameboy. The system uses two arrays of LEDs, one array for each eye, These two arrays would draw a slightly different image that when combined would create the 3D effect.
Unfortunately for Nintendo, the Virtual Boy did not have any success, either here in the states or in Japan. There were several reasons for this. One reason can be attributed to the poor visuals. Red is the only color you’ll se in a Virtual Boy game besides black. The reason for this is because the LEDs used in the system are exclusively red. This design choice was made because red LEDs were cheaper and use power more efficiently than blue or green LEDs. The color red also showed up better in the display. This lack of full color games definitely hurt the system.

Perhaps one of the more well known issues with the Virtual Boy was headaches. There were reports of people complaining of headaches after using the system for a prolonged period of time, and it was highly recommended that players take breaks from playing to prevent any problems.

There was also a lack or any real third party support for the system. This was actually done on purpose. Nintendo didn’t want a lot of third-party shovelware on the system, so their peculiar solution to the problem was to only allow certain developers access to it. It’s not a stretch to say that their way of solving the problem backfired. Some notable games that were released for the system included Mario’s Tennis, which came with the system and had you playing tennis with popular characters from the Mario universe, platformer Virtual Boy Wario Land, and Red Alarm, a 3D space shooter reminiscent of games like Starfox.

Anaglyph Glasses

You may not know what Anaglyph Glasses are based on the name alone, but it’s a safe bet you’ve seen them before. Anaglyph Glasses are the 3D glasses that generally have one red and one cyan colored lens. Remember those glasses people would wear to see those old 3D movies? Those were anaglyph glasses. Several games on various consoles came with these glasses and allowed you to play the game in 3D. On the NES this included games like 3D World Runner and Rad Racer, which gave the player the option to play the game in 3D, using 3D glasses that came packed in with the game. Years later, Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves for the PlayStation 2 had parts of the game playable in 3D. It too came with a pair of 3D glasses.

The Future?

Even in gaming’s early years, there have been those who have tried to extend their games to the third dimension. Right now, Nintendo with their upcoming 3DS and Sony with the PlayStation 3 are the current players in the 3D game. Chances are though, they won’t be the last.

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Written by Paul Nash

Paul is originally from New York City but now lives in South Florida (A former New Yorker now living in Florida? That NEVER happens…). Paul has been playing video games for a long time. He started playing games during the days of the Sega Master System and NES, and hasn’t really stopped since. He’s owned just about all of the major consoles since then, and quite honestly, doesn’t see the sense in stopping now. Some of his favorite games include Revenge of Shinobi, Final Fantasy Tactics, and The Mark of Kri.

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  • Anonymous

    A serious blast from the past, nicely done!

  • nice article man – I still suspect Sony’s latest attempt to get us all to wear stupid glasses will go the same way as all of those….