Our Definitions For 2D And 3D Are Broken, Please Fix

For years now, video games have been divided into two categories: 2D and 3D. With the advent of 3D televisions and portable consoles, those definitions might be antiquated. Time for an update!

2D video games refer to action happening on a 2D plane and typically are either side-scrolling or vertically-scrolling. What's more, the characters and environments are usually rendered in 2D. 3D video games refer to characters and environments rendered in 3D. Action and movements have depth. These definitions hold up on 2D screens, but as previously mentioned, video gaming could very well be moving towards gaming on 3D screens. (The upcoming Nintendo 3DS seems to be an indication of that.)

Here's where it gets confusing though. Super Mario 64 is 3D in the old-fashioned sense. But it's not 3D in the flying-off-the-screen sense of the word. Referring to it as a "3D game" and Super Mario Bros. as a "2D" game doesn't really hold up any more! Take a title like Wolfenstein 3D, which would be confusing for modern audiences as the game isn't in Avatar-like 3D. (The game itself is actually in 2.5D with the bad guys rendered as sprites, but that's beyond of the scope of this conversation!)

We need a new way to refer to gaming on a 3D screen. I came up with "Full 3D". And then, for example, Super Mario 64 would be simply 3D? But then, that might confuse those who do not follow gaming. Perhaps all these older games will be retro-actively displayed in Full 3D on new game consoles?

Suggestions are more than welcomed.



    Full Visual 3D vs 3D graphics. Simple.

    It's fairly simple. There are 3 mediums which can be given values in dimensions; display, graphics and gameplay.
    A video game with 2D gameplay would be a side scroller.
    A video game with 2D graphics would be something which uses sprites etc.
    A video game running on a 2D display is one which runs on a traditional 2D screen (monitor, television).

    A video game with 3D gameplay is one that is played in 3 dimensions (most modern games)
    A video game with 3D graphics uses 3D models inside a three-dimensional space to represent the gameworld.
    A video game running on a 3D display is one being played on a 3D monitor or television.

    The problem with trying to come up with a proper 'word' for a game, such as calling it 2D or 3D or 'Full 3D' is that you simply aren't being specific enough about WHICH QUALITY YOU ARE DESCRIBING. The game has no dimension itself; it is a video game. What can be measured in terms of dimensions is ASPECTS OF THE GAME. The gameplay could have any number of dimensions, as could the graphics or output medium. There is no one name to describe all of these QUALITIES simultaneously, you must declare them individually with respect to that quality.

    Those definitions have been broken for a while now, this is just another layer of brokenness. Case in point: Street Fighter is alternatively referred to as both a "2D fighter" and a "3D fighter", depending on who you talk to.

    Then you have the bastard concept of "2.5D"... maybe we should just stop using Ds altogether.

    traditional 3d and holographic.... thats what i always assumed film 3d was. especially the new stuff which doesnt require glasses

    I would leave the "3d glasses" effect to it's own contextual dialogue since it has absolutely zero effect on gameplay.


    "The game is in 3d not 2d"
    (meaning exactly what it has for the last 15 years)

    "This game utilizes the stereoscopic 3d effect"
    (no need to shorten it or use the just the term '3d' because it doesn't count for anything other than a gimmick.)

    What is wring with Stereoscopic?

    This word has been around for ages, and clearly describes the glasses/crosseyed/lenticular methods for false depth perception. Why not popularise it?

    It can even be shorthanded to SS. for Example:
    SF2 is 2D
    VF is 3D
    SF4 is 3D on a 2D plane
    SF5 may come out in SS-3D (on a 2D plane).

    I feel that any other word that is used will be less clear, and only add to the confusion when the next breakthrough comes. Would you prefer holographic projection to be called HP-3D, or Super-Turbo-True-3D?

    So what sort of game is it when I sit down and play chess with my friend? You can project chess down to a 2D board, as long as you're not playing one of those snazzy modern varients...

    I am sure some clever marketing individual will think up a cool name to describe their new product. We'll have to suffer through some poor choices for a while but in the end everyone will agree on something. Of course by then we'll probably be wondering what to call the next big invoation in gaming dimensionality.


    I mean really - what is it with this new obsession with 3D movies and 3D television, it's just an optical effect and no where near as important (or ground breaking) as 3D graphics.

    I for one wish the gaming press would get over it already, they used similar tech (and glasses) back in the Master System days - why is this now the next big thing all of the sudden?

    Need I remind anybody about the Virtual Boy?

      The virtual boy can only project in shades of red, and thus was awful to look at. Today they finally figured out how to make 3d movies actually viewable with all of the colour intact. This is more than enough to prove that there is newly founded potential in 3d optical technology.

      Now if they perfect it to the point where we do not need glasses with a fair viewing angle, then that will be a significant advancement to pay attention to. However even with that, the world is not ready yet simply because too many people are still playing catchup when it comes to upgrading to 1280x720p and 1920x1080p resolution screens, and it only gets worse when they do not even know what that really means yet. Jumping straight into commercializing the 3d technologies to the mainstream and bypassing the normal HDTVs is business suicide at this point.

    antiquated oooooooh big word... give me another

    Yeah, I'm with the "let's just call it a bad idea and move on" crowd, Until 3d projection technology gets alot better, I don't want to be using it when sitting at home playing games.

    I don't know about other people but it doesn't feel natural at all on my eyes, and I find it pretty damn distracting too.

    How about we take the marketting approach to this question.

    Lets call it 4D!

    Immersive Third Dimension.


    It is when the 3D game has an immersive ability to be viewed from different angles. While all games have the potential to be mentally immersive the actual viewing plane is static.

    I3D is simple enough to remember - "buzz" word enough to be adopted thanks to Apple's obsession. Just needs to become accepted.

    Plus I3D being short and using the I function gives it a personal property touch that makes people instinctively attracted to it.

    I would like credit if it did become popular though :D

      I'd quickly trademark that!

      You need to have the I in lowercase to please all the iSheep out there.

      I can see it being "i3D" without question. Personally I rage at anything with an "i" in front of it.


    Call the new 3D "stereoscopic 3D" or just "stereo 3D". That should do.

      Stereo 3D, or S3D, is perfect.

    3DV for "Visual 3D"


    3DG for "Graphics 3D"

    hows that?

    How about something like 3D-D (3D + Depth)? No need to make the sayings overly complicated now.

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