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3D Games Can Ruin Children's Eyes, Nintendo Warns

Nintendo 3DS

Destroyer of eyes. Who knew 3D could be so risky? (Nintendo)

3D is the hot new media trend as of late -- but is it safe? Not for children under 6, warns Nintendo.

In anticipation of the impending Nintendo World 2011 and the launch of its upcoming portable console, the Nintendo 3DS, the influential video game company has posted a cautionary note on its Japanese website.

“Vision of children under the age of six has been said [to be in the] developmental stage,” Nintendo warned. The company fears that 3D content “delivers 3D images with different left and right images, [which] has a potential impact on the growth of children’s eyes.”

But users of all ages can succumb to the perils of 3D experience. Since the 3DS creates the illusion of 3D without the need for glasses, it can add extra eye strain, causing users to feel sick or nauseous after extended use. In July, Sony warned of similar issues with its PlayStation 3, amending its terms of service to offer a stark warning for users.

Some people may experience discomfort (such as eye strain, eye fatigue or nausea) while watching 3D video images or playing stereoscopic 3D games on 3D televisions," read Sony Online's amended terms.

The notice went to say that Sony "recommends that all viewers take regular breaks while watching 3D video or playing stereoscopic 3D games.

Dr. Michael Ehrenhaus, an ophthalmologist with New York Cornea Consultants, thinks Nintendo and Sony may be getting ahead of themselves with these disclaimers. 

"It's hard to say that it'll ruin development," Ehrenhaus told FoxNews.com. "I don't foresee it as a major issue, they're just being overly concerned."

He explained that the disclaimer comes from worries about the eye strain people can get by focusing on something for long periods of times. Young children may suffer from a condition called amblyopia or "lazy eye," where one eye sees better than the other. And with children under a certain age -- Nintendo warns of age 6 or under, while Ehrenhaus suggest up to age 8 -- amblyopia and the additional eye strain of 3D may not be a safe combination.

"They think the brain is still pliable or malleable up to age 8," he told FoxNews.com. After that point, it's much much harder to retrain the brain, and the eye strain of 3D is probably less of an issue, he said.

Originally unveiled at the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo, the Nintendo 3DS will be released in Japan on February 26, 2011 for about $300 with North American, European, and Australian launches soon after.

The system boasts backwards compatibility and will launch with an arsenal of 3D titles including Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D, Winning Eleven 3DSoccer, Street Fighter IV 3D Edition, and Resident Evil among others.

Nintendo will be including protective measures such as parental controls, which restrict games to their 2D presentation, and recommends that users of all ages take breaks from 3D content every 30 minutes.

But eye strain from 3D may turn out to be merely the latest in a long line of fears about television and video gaming. It's similar to the widespread worries that arose after flashing lights in games led to rare epileptic fits, or the old wives tale about sitting too close to the television. 

"A lot of these myths never really play out," Ehrenhaus said.