3D, or not 3D

My introduction into the world of current stereoscopic 3D cinema was the movie Coraline. To say that I was dragged to watch the movie in 3D would be an overstatement, since I wasn’t physically dragged to watch the movie. However, my opinion of 3D movies was so scarred by my previous encounter (Spy Kids 3) that in essence I did feel like dragging was performed on me. See, when friends told me about Beowulf and Coraline being available in 3D, my thoughts immediately went to Freddy Krueger heads floating like paper cutouts towards me in the theater, and my more-recent viewing of Spy Kids 3.
The first thing I noticed upon arriving at the theater was that the glasses handed to me were not the traditional red/cyan type, but the new polarized glasses that most people are familiar with by now. I didn’t understand how they worked at the time, but the moment the movie started, I didn’t really care. This was not the Freddy Krueger’s head-floating affair. The window in Coraline’s new house? I could perceive that there was depth between it and the forest behind her. The characters had individual depth to their faces… They weren’t cut outs. And above all else, color was maintained in the movie, instead of being turned into this red/blue mess. The first thing that I said to my fiancé when we left the movie theater was, “The only thing I didn’t like about this was that unlike almost any movie out there, I cannot experience this when it comes home to Bluray.”
Fast forward almost two years and I have become one of the early adopters of a 3D TV (I bought an Atari Jaguar day one, if that is any indication of my Early-Adopterhood Syndrome). But it wasn’t Coraline that lead me to shell out $1700 bucks for a new TV. Instead, it was a visit to my local Sony Style store after learning that video games would soon be taking advantage of this technology. The game that was running when I put the glasses on was a Motorstorm demo. I put the glasses down almost immediately and looked at my wife and said, “That’s it, no more convincing required.”
This is a story from someone who was wowed by the technology from the first experience and has been following its implementation over time. And as such, I have also heard the concerns from gamers and movie-goers regarding 3D’s gimmick-like nature. And truth be told, I can understand the concerns. But I can assure you, 2D is not going anywhere, and the existence of 3D in no way eliminates the existence of 2D. Even if almost everyone in the world adopts it, 2D movies and games will always exist.
The reason for this is simple. Place a hand over one eye and look around (not while you are driving of course). There you have it…2D. Now this explanation is common knowledge and is not meant to be insulting in any way. What I mean to say is that, any movie that is shot in 3D will always include the left and right eye information in order to create the three-dimensional image, and just as such, any video game will always contain the information for both eyes in order to create the illusion of depth. The distance between both eyes is so minimal that either eye camera could easy become your center (should you choose to turn off the effect), and even if this were not the case, it is very easy to create one camera for each eye and one for the center. 3D will never become an absolute requirement any more than being forced to listen to a game’s music or sound effects. Most games have sliders to turn down sound effects and/or music.

What 3D brings to the table for videogames is more valuable than anything it has brought to cinema (especially since movie studios have been known to create 3D movies in post production, like in the instance of Clash of the Titans and Avatar: The Last Airbender). Any console videogame from Playstation one onward, in theory, has the potential to be processed in 3D (trust me, I’ve tested it using a splitscreen in Twisted Metal). Almost every video game that we play nowadays is already 3D. There is a virtual world spread out before us with real 3D space and proportions. This is why it was so simple for games like Motorstorm and Sly Cooper to be given a 3D update. Unlike movies previously shot in 2D (and later forced into 3D in post production), 3D games already contain the information required for 3D environments. While there are some challenges, like making sure that your game’s engine can handle displaying two of the same image at the same time, when built from the ground up, a game can support 3D and 2D with little to no sacrifice to the two-dimensional content.
When we buy videogames, we look for the best form of immersion. Games like Fallout and Oblivion provide rich worlds that have been built with great attention to detail for the single purpose of engulfing the player. What makes 3D in video games standout from other gaming gimmicks, is that used correctly, it can enhance the immersion in a game like never before. The first time I jumped off a cliff in Motorstorm Rift 3D and felt a slight tug to my stomach, convinced me that I made the right choice in adopting this tech. But for those of you who are still on the fence regarding 3D, or who simply will never put on a pair of 3D glasses, don’t worry too much. The end of the world of videogames is not upon us. 3D can’t exist without 2D, and even if a few people complain about it, there will always be an option to turn it off. Next Stop…Gran Turismo 5.

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