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Monday, April 25, 2011

My eyes! Nintendo 3DS NOT suitable for children - or adults

Is it just me or am I seeing double? Playing the Nintendo 3DS
felt like trying to look at something stuck to my nose.
Allow me a geek moment. I have been interested in getting my hands on a Nintendo 3DS to test it out. For anybody that doesn't know what that is, it's basically the newest iteration of the Game Boy, but in a different stratosphere. Specifically, it features mind-bending, glasses-free 3D.

As a parent of two, I often look forward to video games when the kids drift off to sleep after hours of partying with each other in the backroom. It's something I can do quietly because the mute is almost always on when I play video games. However, sometimes I don't feel like having my 40" TV demanding my attention after the lights go out. So little screens are welcome at night.

However, Nintendo itself has warned that your eyeballs can have a bad hair day (let your imagination run wild with that mental image for a second) if you use the thing. When I got locked out of my house for three days while my wife was out of town with the keys, I was about to buy one of these $250 gadgets on an impulse, rationalizing that having a new toy would keep me out of trouble with the wife and kids out of town. But the only angelic voice I had in a sea of little red devils wanting a new gadget warned me I'd probably better try the thing out first.

I'm glad I did. I walked into Best Buy the other day and found a 9-year old child just finishing his tech demo with the shiny little blue device. Glad I didn't have to glare at him intimidatingly until he left it to me, I took it up and immediately felt my eyes go all wonky trying to read the 3D image on the top screen. It felt a little like crossing your eyes to look at a 3D dot art image, which were way cool in the early 90s, if I recall. I quickly found the depth slider on the right and adjusted it to where my eyes weren't screaming about having to look in so many directions at once.

The 3D image is crisp, but even adjusting to the most comfortable depth, it doesn't feel quite right. And of course, it's just a trick to make your eyes see two images at once. Apparently, my brain grasped this better than my eyeballs, and I felt a headache coming on quickly. Worst of all, jumping down to look at data on the lower screen really throws the eyes for a loop. You literally feel your eyes "shift" to see the 2-dimensional data. Yes, you can turn the 3D off entirely, but isn't that why you just spent $250 bones on the thing?

Sadly, I came away unimpressed with a minor headache after testing the thing for 15 minutes. In fact, I was seeing double for the next few minutes after I got off. My eyes just couldn't track as fast after playing with the thing. The good news? I don't have to spend $250 in the next little while. If the toy makes my adult head swim through the deep end so easily, I'd rather not even risk my kids getting their hands on something like that when they don't even know how to swim. Which is precisely why Nintendo issued the vision warning about the 3D for children under 6.

Having been a DS owner already, I know the powerful pull the little gadget had on little hands and eyes. So I think I'll skip bringing this one into a house where my kids love coloring on the DS. I think my kid's eyes will thank me for it. I'm pretty sure they'd develop lazy eyes or something worse if I let them play with it. I was halfway there myself just testing it out.

Besides, I can think of lots less expensive ways to get a headache.

Anyone else had a similar experience with this thing?


  1. My son just received one for his birthday from a relative and I felt the eyestrain and got a headache after spending just 15 minutes setting it up!

    Granted, I am one who easily falls victim to motion sickness, but I asked my son how his eyes felt and he said they felt weird and blurry after playing. That is a red flag for me and I kind of wish we didn't own one of these now.

    I decided to turn off the 3D entirely via the parental controls so as not to damage his eyes. He just turned 7 yesterday and the warning if for kids 6 and under. Too close for comfort if you ask me.

    I am curious too if any other parents have spent any time playing with this and what their thoughts are.


  2. I know the feeling. I can't believe they let the thing get to market. Glasses-free 3D is not ready for public consumption. The sales figures are going along with that statement. Nintendo has reported disappointment in the sales thus far.

    Now I am one whose stomach can take just about anything you throw at it. While people at the fair are throwing up, I'm wishing the rides would go faster, so it really says something if I feel slightly woozy when I played this thing. I will never let my kids mess with that if it throws me for a loop. I've never really experienced the double vision and motion blur that I felt after playing on a 3DS for 15 minutes. It was strange.

    At least they let you disable the 3D though.

    1. I love my 3ds and I personally have no issues with the graphics. They did take some getting used to - you have to hold the system in the proper position and give your eyes a moment to adjust, that's for sure. However, I have never had any real discomfort or headaches, and I -always- have the slider set to the maximum depth. Unfortunately, it's a technology that cannot be enjoyed by everyone. But it might not be for the reason you think.

      Some eye doctors have stated that the 3D graphics, or really, someone's inability to view them properly or without discomfort, could potentially identify certain types of vision impairments, enabling you to get your child eye care early on, which would actually prevent damage in the long run. However, there are no absolute conclusions as of yet - I think it would be interesting to conduct some kind of experiment to look into the matter.

      Check this article out if you want to know a little more:

  3. I've had one since it came out. I play on it for long periods at a time. Watch 3D videos. Play Mario Kart 7... Not a single head ache. Not a single vision issue. Of course, I hold the device at a reasonable distance, so that my eyes don't have to completely cross. In fact, I hold it like they say in the manual. Yes, I had to read the manual for once. Go figure.

    But summary, no eye or headache issues. Love playing it. Up to over an hour in a row.

  4. Got the XL version about two weeks ago. possible that the new larger screen lessens the vertigo effect you are describing. Ive shown the device to several people and no one complained about eye strain issues or headaches. keep in mind, as you stated, you can disable the 3d both with a slider bar AND via parental lockout in the device software on both versions of the system. finally the 3d is not the only reason to buy the system. The 3DS system is considerably more powerful and higher resolution than the previous DS system. the games are much better, more fluid, dynamic and better looking. There are tons of cool social features built into the OS such as Street Pass near feild communication as well as the Nintendo eShop which lets you download games and demos. I understand it makes YOUR eyes and brain go Wonky but I don't think it's fair of you to negatively rate and generalize the device as bad or damaging because you may possibly not know how to use it correctly or have a bad personal experience with it. While you may argue that you're only speaking for yourself you review is written in such a way that you implied that the system is bad for everyone. I don't think it's fair to call honey or peanuts evil, because some kids have allergies to them. Anyway, that's just my 2 cents. I think everyone should go out and try the system out for themselvs before making any judgements solely based on this biased review.

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