Gamers, parents, media gadflies, lend me your ears. Um, eyes? Wait. No. Let me start over.
Much has been made of the warning posted on Nintendo’s Japanese web site cautioning that small children refrain from using their forthcoming 3DS system for the sake of their developing vision. Thus far the reaction been far less salacious than one might expect. (Where is the righteous indignation concerning Nintendo’s contempt for our children’s fragile eye balls? Curse your black heart, Mario!) But the idea that a steady diet of the system’s faux 3D could potentially negatively impact the way their brains process regular images isn’t entirely outlandish. Still, as Ars Technica’s John Timmer pointed out in a piece cross-posted to Wired’s own Gadget Lab, this warning instead reflects a savvy bit of corporate caution on the part of Nintendo as opposed to highlighting a verified health risk.
As of now, however, there is no research indicating that there’s a [sic] anything to these worries. The last time a 3-D panic occurred—and they seem to occur every few years—we did an extensive literature search, and checked papers that people had pointed to as evidence of the technology’s harm. Most addressed other topics, and the few studies that were relevant were small and involved short-term disorientation in adults.
In short, this warning message differs little from the kinds of precautionary statements already being spouted by the makers of more traditional, glasses-based 3D consumer products like the televisions produced by Sony and Samsung. Moreover, it echoes the kinds of health and safety warnings attached to current generation non-3D gaming systems concerning potential health issues like eye strain and the slim potential for games as seizure triggers.
These exist, obviously, to protect such companies from potential legal issues down the road, but they spotlight what is the ultimate truth of family gaming. They remind us that parents should be aware of not only the content of the titles that our children play but of their gaming habits as well. Should children (and, for that matter, adults) be reminded to take breaks between gaming sessions to rest their eyes ? Sure. Consequently, should a child under six years of age have unrestrained access a 3DS or any other gaming system? Probably not.
So while the bad news may be that your RSS reader is choked with posts about the implications of the 3DS’s potential dangers, the good news is that it affords us another opportunity to discuss the importance of responsible family gaming. And with that said we can at last move on to more pressing matters. Like speculation regarding footage of this 3DS system allegedly stolen by a Chinese factory worker.