Eyesight, Lies, and the Nintendo 3DS

Eyesight, Lies, and the Nintendo 3DS

Supposedly, any press is good press. That’s debatable, especially as far as video gaming and health are concerned. Video games already get blamed for turning today’s kids into obese, easily-distracted lumps of dough, so Nintendo probably isn’t seeing the sunny side of the media reports about how the Nintendo 3DS can potentially damage kids’ eyesight.

In the afterglow produced by the Nintendo 3DS’s huge success at E3 2010, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime mentioned in an interview with Kotaku that kids under six probably shouldn’t spend hours staring at 3D images. Kids’ eyes are still developing at that age, and optometrists are currently unsure about the long-term effects of 3D imagery on underdeveloped optic muscles because the technology is relatively new–though some ophthalmologists believe that any kind of permanent damage occurring is very unlikely.

But in our litigious society, Reggie’s words were better said than left unsaid. Even so, there’s a message between the lines: Use common sense when playing the 3DS. If a child complains about blurry vision, headaches, dizziness, or an inability to see the 3D picture in front of them, parents should turn off the 3DS right away and arrange a trip to the eye doctor.

Alas, common sense has no place during a slow news period. Gamasutra writer Chris Morris recently outlined the sequence of events–or non-events, rather–that led to the Nintendo 3DS’s media flogging. Not only do these reports give off the impression that the 3DS will fire lasers directly into kids’ pupils, but they also leave out key bits of information. First, as Morris points out, all 3D televisions and devices come with a standard warning that’s not unlike Reggie’s disclaimer. Moreover, every computer-rendered movie produced over the past couple of years is offered in 3D: Where’s the deluge of news stories about Disney’s Tangled potentially frying kids’ eyes?

Not surprisingly, one of the most important parts of the Nintendo 3DS’s design is overlooked by the media’s reports: The 3D effects can be turned down or shut off entirely. Sadly, even if there were to be follow-up reports that said, “Oh, yeah, by the way,” they probably wouldn’t do much good: Once a parent has heard “The Nintendo 3DS can ruin your child’s eyesight,” they’re not going to hear much more beyond that.

This breed of irresponsible reporting is detrimental to gaming in general–though it probably got Steve Jobs to smile wider than a kid on Christmas Morning.

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About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.


  1. If I recall correctly, the last Nintendo system that released a warning like that was the Virtual Boy, stating that the games were ages 7 and up.

    I tried some of those games and those visuals fried eyes.

  2. i want a 3ds and i am realy sad that it will kill your eyes cause i wanted one

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