The science of 3D gaming

Just as 3D films are quickly becoming more prevalent at the box office, the 3D craze is approaching the video-game industry with equal momentum

A Storytelling Tool

Modern 3D technology has the potential to reinvent the way we play video games, but only if its integration into gaming makes sense to the consumer and doesn't feel like it's being jammed down their throats. For film, the extra dimension is frequently a bonus, but many believe 3DTV could fundamentally enhance video gaming. But will it be enough to convince people to upgrade their televisions and potentially crop their gaming time considerably to avoid eye strain?

Dodgson thinks so, but he's quick to clarify that as of the present, 3D gaming remains just theoretical potential that no one has realized yet. He notes that film directors have already shown how 3D can be more than just eye candy-and even a powerful tool for telling stories.

"In [the film] Up, the 3D was executed well," Dodgson says. "The director used the 3D to help tell the story. The moody, sad scenes had less depth, while the exciting action scenes had more depth. That is one way to use 3D as a storytelling tool."

Of course, 3D films like Journey to the Center of the Earth prove the opposite can be true-sometimes 3D substitutes for a deficient story line.

Dodgson explains that color was once a similar novelty in film. Once filmmakers learned to use color to actually enhance their work, it quickly gained mass appeal. "We know how to use color well, and we are learning how to use 3D well. We need to learn how to use 3D appropriately so that people enjoy watching films or playing video games in 3D while not being constantly reminded of the fact that they're seeing something in 3D."

The Next Stage

As a storytelling device, 3D may not be something consumers absolutely need, but its potential is exciting. Modern 3D entertainment appears to be the precursor of something far greater than what we have today.

Major advances in television technology tend to emerge every couple of years in order to entice consumers to upgrade. And just as 3DTV becomes the norm, TV manufacturers will undoubtedly be working on developing "the next big thing." But what exactly is 3D entertainment leading to?

"The obvious next step is to move to wall-size 3DTV-the movie theater at home," Dodgson says. "Beyond that we move to wrap-around television-a screen on every wall, making the viewer completely and literally immersed. IMAX has already shown that wrapping the screen around the audience can make for a stunning, engrossing experience."

Jannick Rolland, professor of optical engineering at the University of Rochester, takes this one step further. "If the display of images is coupled with haptic [touch] technology as well, you could use a haptic glove to create the feeling of resistance and force to feel the objects, too," Rolland says.

This may all sound a bit far-flung-3DTVs alone have only just recently become available-but consider that the haptic device Rolland describes is little more than a PlayStation Move controller with force feedback, and a fully encompassing 3D room is only one step beyond available modern technology. What we imagine as the be-all and end-all of futuristic, hyperimmersive gaming setups may actually be a lot closer to reality than we previously thought. All of the seeds have already been planted, and once we learn to avoid the inherent pitfalls of this new technology, it's going to be interesting to see what it blossoms into over the next decade.

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Andrew Groen

GamePro
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