Let’s face it, it was always likely that the launch of a new 3D gaming gizmo selling hundreds of thousands of units (141,000 and climbing and the record for the most pre-ordered games gadget in Amazon’s history) would result in a few complaints about eye strain and headaches.
If we learned anything from Avatar 3D in the cinema, it’s that people’s eyes are not all the same and many people with otherwise “normal” vision can have problems with stereoscopic 3D effects. Perhaps that’s no great shock if you’re an optometrist or someone who normally wears glasses, but for me it’s weird to think that the rendering of a fake 3D image can uncover so many sight problems in people who would otherwise be considered to have “normal” vision.
So, the Nintendo 3DS launched, and, surprisingly, us Brits aren’t getting ripped off on the price, which is about $250 in the US and £180 here in the UK, which is about fair considering the exchange rate and the fact that we’re getting mugged for 20% VAT.
Early reviews were decidedly mixed. The 3D function was initially impressive, but came with complaints that the viewing position and angle was restrictive and 3D gameplay resulted in headaches for some people. A reviewer at Entertainment Weekly said the glasses-free 3D was, “a wonder to behold” but complained that, “in order to view the screen properly, you must keep your eyes within an unforgiving sweet spot roughly 9 to 12 inches away” and, “I spent the rest of the day with a nagging pain in my cranium, and a slight unsettled feeling in my stomach” (source). Not good.
A selection of Twitter tweets seem to suggest that the 3DS can cause headaches in some people…
Got to play with a 3DS for a bit today. It was super cool but I’ve got a headache now
Played with a 3DS yesterday. It was fun, but I can see myself getting a headache from playing longer than 5 min
First Impressions of the 3DS 3D good, no headache yet
3DS is mine Already received a headache but meh
140 char 3DS review: Actually disappointing. Impressive tech, nub good, viewing angle impractically rigid. Pilotwings GUI headache inducing
The new Nintendo 3DS is a *very* impressive machine. I’d like it better without the headache and motion sickness
Nintendo UK’s head of PR, Rob Saunders, then commented that…
“We have shown Nintendo 3DS at multiple events around the world to literally hundreds of thousands of people and have received very few negative comments. As with anything that requires focus, from reading to staring at a computer screen, taking breaks frequent breaks is always recommended. When viewing any kind of 3D images (TV, movies etc.), some people might experience minor discomfort. The effects are short term and have no lasting effect, in fact most players can continue after taking a short break. The Nintendo 3D was designed with a 3D depth slider that lets users adjust the 3D effect to a level that suits them for optimum enjoyment.”
So, it seems like a positive launch overall for the new 3DS, but tinged with the possibility of headaches that 3D gameplay causes… headaches which are unlikely to be limited to the glasses-free 3DS and more likely to be inherent with general 3D gameplay as our brains try to make sense of the artificial 3D images.