Thursday, March 5, 2015

3D: film gimmick, gaming fantasy?

Occasionally I remember a conversation I had about games in which, on discussing how I'd tried out 3D glasses (imagine the old red/blue things) with some games, I was told "3D can stay the f*** out of my games. I was taken aback at the time, and it still seems odd to me now; enough that I've mulled it over sufficiently to want to rant about it.

It's popular these days to either love or hate 3D; however, I think that to do either of these things for all 3D media is misguided.

I can think of some compelling arguments for why 3D simply isn't a good fit for a lot of cinema. Much media has gotten used to being presented from one direction; cinematography and TV is filled with scenes where everything is essentially occurring well away from the camera (in TV shows, especially live ones, this is so prominent that I'd argue this is a significant reason for the relative lack of 3DTV adoption). Additionally, depth isn't a hugely important dimension in storytelling in most films.

As the technology becomes more familiar, I think this will change to some extent. Watching Lindy Beige (not necessarily a film expert, but he is a persuasive talker) in his video on the introduction of 48 fps (particularly his point near the end about zooming techniques), it seems to me that cinematography techniques will always take some time to adapt to new technology. By extension, I think cinema can adapt to 3D... When it feels it necessary. After all, there are numerous theatrical styles, but there are not all adopted all of the time.

The goal behind 3D, in my opinion, is to draw the viewer into the experience. If you were to think of this in theatrical terms it would similar to invisible theater, which brings the action right in front of you. It must be spectacularly difficult to produce a story that is spatially distinct, which you can navigate and interact with; however, games take such an idea and allow you to experience it at your leisure.

In most games, you become an actor in the theater. It thus makes sense to me that if you are an actor in the story then this story should be occurring all around you. What's more, gamers have had the freedom of exploring their game worlds in 3 dimensions (albeit via the 2D of their screens) for years, and while I think 3D is going to take time to mature in the cinema, games developers have been thinking in 3D constantly for years now. Even some existing games would work spectacularly well.

Yes, there will need to be adaptations, but mostly nothing that wasn't already on the to-do list: more detailed actors and props, better physics implementations, and more attention to details such as the placement of actors during important plot points (For example, in Skyrim you may sometimes find other actors or props obscuring your view of someone you're in conversation with). Very few things need to change in games that would be unnecessary if 3D didn't exist.

So, I still disagree that 3D screens/goggles are in any way bad for games. Luckily for those who think otherwise, implementing such technology requires almost no changes to the mechanics of a game, so we both get what we want.

But anyway, give it another 5 years, and no one will want to consume 3D games on a 2D screen any more.


  1. Can't wait to see VR headsets coming to mainstream. It seems this is slowly becoming a reality with HTC and Sony releasing their headsets in the near future.

    Anyway I am maybe drifting a little from what your blog entry was about, but it is something I wanted to send to you and remembered about it

    1. Some cool technology there. I suspect the the tech industry was disillusioned with making 3D products after the underwhelming uptake of 3DTVs, but then saw the demand for 3D in gaming once Oculus Rift popped out of nowhere on Kickstarter, because the whole VR scene didn't really seem to exist outside of lab research until then.
      I'm a little sceptical of the VR stuff where you actually walk around. Given the various youtube videos of TVs being smashed by Wii users, the potential for mishaps upon putting on opaque goggles and walking around seems err... daring...