The success of James Cameron’s Avatar has undeniably changed the way mainstream entertainment consumers view 3D – moving the medium from niche applications (mostly horror and children’s movies) to a whole new level of immersion altogether.
Where previous 3D endeavors were built around the notion of constantly reminding the viewer that they were seeing something in 3D, i.e. explosions flinging debris into the face of the audience, Avatar elected to present viewers with a straight-forward experience that simply looked incredible in 3D. There are very few moments in Avatar that stuck out as overt attempts to remind the audience how cool the 3D experience was; instead, these moments simply utilized the technology to further immerse the viewer in the world of Pandora.
But what does this newly fashioned 3D experience mean for gamers (and entertainment lovers in general)?
At the beginning of the month, during Sony’s CES press conference, the company unveiled a plan to make an aggressive push to incorporate 3D technology in many of their upcoming product lines, in an attempt to position themselves as “an undisputed global leader in 3D.” While the technology is certainly impressive, and quieted a lot of dissenters that felt 3D home theatre tech couldn’t satisfy consumers who had grown accustom to HD visuals, Sony’s 3D TVs still require the use of the “shutter glasses” which make the effect possible. Sony has yet to reveal the cost of the glasses but most industry estimates put their price point between $200-$400 a piece at launch.
The necessity for the glasses inherently changes how we interact with our home theatre, games, etc. ESPN 3D is a great notion, but watching Sunday football – what used to be a simple social gathering, where the biggest concern was deciding who would be picking up the pizza bill, would now have potentially expensive hurdles for participation.
Everyone would need a pair of the costly shutter glasses to enjoy the action. Also, any quasi-spectators who might be busy preparing buffalo chicken wings for the group, and can’t focus their attention solely on the display would no longer have the luxury of sneaking peaks at the action – not to mention that anyone with astigmatism or other eye problems might not even be able to see the 3D effects. The result – something that was once an unbiased social event could instead become an isolating one.
Similar to 3D, over the course of the last decade video games have begun to break free of their niche market – enticing casual consumers back down piranha pipes and into the fields of Hyrule. Titles have become more cinematic, the notion of onlookers (friends and significant others) actually watching someone play through a single campaign for hours has become more common. Common enough that Sony made a commercial about it.
But the difference between the reemergence of 3D and that of video games, though they are both improved evolutions of their predecessors, is that one has re-invigorated consumers with the ability to engage with others, through online gameplay and vibrant console communities such as Xbox Live, while the other promises an immersive but isolating experience.