3D Gaming Consoles

Throughout the years, many video gaming companies have attempted to create a true stereoscopic 3D gaming experience. Some have bordered on brilliance, others have crashed catastrophically. Here’s brief rundown of some of the more notable offerings.

For the purposes of this article I have defined a stereoscopic 3D video game as any video game which uses stereoscopic technologies to create depth perception by any type of video display. Such games should not to be confused with regular video games that use 3D game graphics, which do not give the illusion of real depth beyond the screen.

Vectrex 3D Imager 01

Vectrex 3D Imager (1984)

The utterly brilliant, but ultimately shunned Vectrex video game console with its unique vector based graphics system holds the honour of being the first video game console to dabble with a 3D gaming experience.

Released as an expensive add-on in 1984, the 3D Imager was a bulky (and noisy) pair of 3D glasses which contained a rotating colour wheel, which synchronised with the Vectrex’s monochrome display.

Vectrex 3D Imager 02

The 3D Imager works by spinning a motorised disk in front of the viewer's eyes. The disk has a black 180 degrees segment and three 60 degree segments of red, green and blue filters. Only one eye will see the Vectrex screen at any one time while the other will be blocked by the 180 degree mask. Spinning the disk at a high speed convinces the gamer into thinking that the multiple images it is seeing are two different views of the same object. Only three games were made for the short lived Vectrex and its 3D imager. 3D Crazy Coaster, 3D MineStorm and 3D Narrow Escape.

SegaScope 3D Glasses (1987)

Sega really were ahead of the game back in the late 80s when they released the shutter-based SegaScope 3D Glasses for the Sega Master System. Incredibly, it’s the same type of 3D technology that is used with today’s modern high definition televisions.

Sega Scope 01

Sega were there first. Each SegaScope 3D kit came with a pair of glasses that connected to an adaptor, which in turn plugged into an add-on port on the Sega Master System. Since they required a card player for the adapter the Master System II was incompatible with the SegaScope 3D Glasses.

Sega Scope 02

The handful of games compatible with the SegaScope included: Blade Eagle 3D, Line of Fire 3D, Maze Hunter 3D, Missile Defense 3D, Out Run 3D, Poseidon Wars 3D, Space Harrier 3D and Zaxxon 3D. Each cartridge contained both a 3D and 2D version of the game.

The Virtual Boy (1995)

Probably the most infamous 3D gaming device is Nintendo’s Virtual Boy. Marketed as a portable, virtual reality, game console it was only released in Japan and North America for a very short period. The 32-bit Virtual Boy used a monochromatic visor that only produced hues of red and black instead of full colour graphics.

Virtual Boy 02

The 3D effects are created on two very small screens, each one directed to an eye through oscillating mirrors. The gloomy and dark 3D effect often caused nausea amongst players and it was even suggested it could cause eye trauma to younger game players. To mitigate this Nintendo included an option within each Virtual Boy game released that pauses the game every fifteen or thirty minutes. Despite repeated price drops, the gaming community virtually (huh!) ignored the device and Nintendo were embarrassingly forced to discontinue less than a year later. About twenty games were made for the Virtual Boy.

The Nintendo 3DS (2011)

Without question, the greatest advancement in 3D video gaming technology is the Nintendo 3DS. Nintendo originally announced the device in March 2010 and officially unveiled it at E3 in the same year.

3DS 01

Ever the innovators, Nintendo created a true 3D gaming experience without the need for additional accessories such as specialist 3D glasses. Even more incredible is that Nintendo created the 3D experience in a portable format, something they tried to achieve, but ultimately failed 15 years earlier with the ill fated Virtual Boy. There is an abundance of dedicated 3D games for the 3DS, which in itself is a testimony to the incredible success of the device. The 3DS is also backwards compatible with the back catalogue of regular DS games.

Review by Author Steven Howlett:

Book available from Amazon here: Diary Of An 80s Computer Geek 

Follow him on Twitter here toosj_howlett

3DS 02

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