3D is dangerous / not dangerous: Nintendo 3DS warning label edition

Oh boy -- get ready for years of competing studies and hysterical news reports claiming that 3D is either life-threateningly dangerous or perfectly safe. (Cellphone radiation, take a backseat.) Today's delightful round of panic comes courtesy of Nintendo's Japanese warning guidelines for the 3DS: players are advised that 3D gameplay causes eye fatigue more quickly than 2D gaming and are told to take a break after 30 minutes of play -- and you should quit immediately if you get ill, which makes sense. Nintendo also says that children under six shouldn't use the 3D mode at all, since their eyes are still developing, and that parents can use controls built into the 3DS to lock it into 2D mode for children.

That's definitely enough to trigger some crazy news reports, and we're sure you've seen a couple today already. But truth be told, this exact same story made the circuit about six months ago, when Reggie Fils-Aime sat down with a number of media outlets during the 3DS launch and said that children under seven shouldn't watch 3D, calling the rule a "standard protocol" in the industry. Here's the full quote that Kotaku ran in June, for example:

"We will recommend that very young children not look at 3D images," [Reggie] said. "That's because, [in] young children, the muscles for the eyes are not fully formed... This is the same messaging that the industry is putting out with 3D movies, so it is a standard protocol. We have the same type of messaging for the [1990s Nintendo virtual reality machine] Virtual Boy, as an example."

Yep, pretty much the same thing -- the only real news today is that Nintendo's age cutoff went from seven to six, which is actually good news. That's not to say there aren't any concerns about 3D damaging vision, however: the biggest worry seems to be that "tricking" your eyes into seeing fake 3D for hours on end at home will cause you to "forget" how to see in proper 3D the rest of the time. That definitely sounds alarming, but unfortunately there just doesn't seem to be any real testing on the subject using modern 3D technology -- but we'd bet a huge wave of research will arrive now that 3D TVs and devices like the 3DS have kicked up consumer awareness. We'll obviously keep an eye out for that research and keep asking questions about 3D's health effects, but in the meantime we're guessing the smart course of action is to treat 3D like any other fine vice: dose yourself in moderation and keep it away from kids until their parents say it's okay. Cool? Cool.