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Why I Stopped Playing The 3DS In 3D

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Tomorrow will mark my one week anniversary of owning a Nintendo 3DS. I'm happy with the handheld — it's a peach. However, six days in, and I've already ditched the 3D. I loathe it, and it's a feature I can do without.

Thankfully, Nintendo allows players to switch on the 3D effect and switch it off. And thankfully, the stylish hardware and elegant software that powers it are compelling enough to warrant a purchase. But the 3D? No thanks.


When I first got the machine, I was amazed by the 3D effect. I still am. I posted tips players could follow in order to enjoy the 3DS in its 3D glory and not get ill. Those tips are certainly helpful, and I haven't gotten sick to my stomach from playing the 3DS. As time passed, I did get headaches and a general worn-out feeling — even with the 3D in its weakest setting. I'm not alone: My wife made it about two days with the 3D and then switched it off. However, my 7-year-old played with it for the recommended time and thought it was "really cool". It is cool. It really is. 3D images without the need of stupid glasses!


Before the 3DS launched, there were reports on how it takes twice as much effort for human eyes to reproduce the 3D effect. I've found this to be true. Eye strain has left me feeling like I'm cross-eyed (I'm not, so do not worry). I've been trying to figure out why I'm experiencing this. Of course, it's no doubt a side-effect of autostereoscopy. But I've been wondering if there is something intrinsic to the way that the 3DS is set up that makes players (read: me) more susceptible to issues.

The anecdotal conclusion I've reached is that it is the result of having two screens. The top screen can display the 3D effect, while the touch screen is in 2D. Players typically end up using both while playing, but focusing on the top screen. So while playing, players eyes will focus on the 3D, and then have to re-focus on the 2D as they use the touch screen. This focusing, re-focusing and then focusing again could be the cause of issues I'm having.

The other issue is that the 3DS requires a sweetspot for the 3D effect to be viewed. So you must stay in the same position to view the 3D effect. Shifting position might mean that you have to tweak the 3D effect. Even pressing buttons on certain games, thereby causing the handheld to move slightly, can impact the 3D effect. This makes it difficult to relax — like listening to music and constantly have to turn up and turn down the volume. You can't focus on simply playing.

When the 3DS launched, many Twitter users complained of eye strain, so others do seem to be affected by the 3D effect. I'm finding particular difficulty with the Professor Layton game — reading text in 3D hasn't been fun — and with the special over-the-shoulder "3D view" in Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition. The traditional Super Street Fighter IV view in 3D is far more manageable. But even Nintendo's own efforts, like the on-board games and Nintendogs + Cats, are causing my eyes to work hard to produce the effect.


The upside? The hardware itself is definitely worth the purchase. Buy it. If you liked the DS, you will like this machine. It's...a new DS, with better graphics, a better interface and honest-to-goodness online. What else can you ask for? I'd trade my Nintendo 3DS for a Nintendo 2DS anytime. Thing is, that's a harder sell. You can't have a famous Japanese boy band go on television and talk about Nintendo's new wonderful interface for 15 seconds at a time. Well, I guess you can, but, like I said, it's a harder sell.


Nintendo is in the third act of an amazing play. In the first act, it rolled out touch-based gaming. For the second act, it introduced it's take on motion-based gaming. But the third act is a lot trickier. On the Nintendo 3DS, glasses-free 3D is a gimmick. It's a gimmick, and people will buy the 3DS because of that gimmick. But the 3DS is good enough without the 3D effect, which doesn't matter, because the handheld stands up on its own merits. The 3DS doesn't need 3D, and neither do I.