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The phrase “What’s the point?” has long been synonymous with 3D in our circles. Games work without it already, and its inclusion certainly won’t expand the possibilities of game design. But we had exactly the same doubts about the importance of HD a few years ago, and look where we are now.
You didn’t need HD. You probably didn’t even want it at first. But once you’d played with it, exactly how many pounds of puréed disgust did you begin lavishing upon your old standard-def TV with each and every glance? And even since you’ve regularly played in 720p and 1080p, how often has your personal most-wanted-sequels list been inspired by the phrase “That would look great in HD”?
We’re the same way with 3D now. Although it’s not going to be necessary for every type of game (it would be absolutely wasted on a Tetris or a StarCraft, for example), it really does give the spectacle of playing games the same boost that HD does. In fact, it’s almost like the missing part of HD. We’re already used to high polygon counts and realistic lighting making game worlds feel solid and tactile, but when those graphics are augmented by a ‘real’ 3D display, their true potential is completely realised.
We just can’t help but re-imagine our favourite games (Gears of War and WipEout in particularly would be staggeringly visceral), and even how 3D could actually improve certain genres. 3D platforming could be made much more pleasurable with a boost in spatial awareness.
While we’re not totally sold on the need for 3D in movies, it seems a much more natural fit for gaming. Video games are, after all, about creating immersive interaction. That’s the sole reason we’ve seen graphics and sound technology progress every few years since the late ‘70s. Taken within that context, 3D of this fidelity suddenly becomes a completely legitimate and natural stage of that progression. We genuinely won’t be surprised to see it become a completely naturalised part of the gaming landscape in a few years time.
And that time-scale brings us on to our final HD parallel, which is unfortunately a slightly less welcome one.