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Adding 3D to gaming has been one of the major paradigm shifts since the industry's conception. The addition of a Z plane has changed graphics and in turn the way games are played in every game that uses it. Like most major changes, the first games to highlight it were considered revolutionary and it spread from there.

3D polygon graphics first appeared in arcades and computers during the 1980s, before making its way onto consoles in the 1990s. While 3D polygons had previously been used for arcade games like Winning Run (1988) and Hard Drivin' (1989), the first mainstream success for 3D graphics was Sega's revolutionary early 90's arcade hits like Virtua Racing (1992), Virtua Fighter (1993), and Daytona USA (1993). Soon after, 3D gained mainstream attention on consoles with the 1994 launch of the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation, both of which emphasized 3D as selling points. The next breakthrough came in 1996, when the Nintendo 64 launched with Super Mario 64, which gave gamers a new way to experience Mario and new controls that supported it, made possible by Nintendo's revolutionary analog stick controller.

One of the major issues that 3D gaming has brought up is the issue of control. 2D gaming allowed for computer controlled camera, which would suffice because of the limited range of visibility. With the addition of the third dimension, the range of visibility increases to the point that it becomes difficult for any computer to accurately control a camera. Games have offered many solutions to this issue, two being user control and 2D simulation. Having the user control the camera is a popular alternative, but can be a risky move depending on how the player views the world.

The first-person shooter genre, as well as third-person shooters, are popular examples of user-controlled camera and exemplifies gaming in all three dimensions as users must focus on all three axes in gameplay. Another alternative is to have a 3D game simulate 2D games. This can be seen in games like the Super Smash Bros. series, in which the character models and environments are 3D but the gameplay only exists on the X and Y axis. Some games give limited access to the Z axis, such as LittleBigPlanet, in an effort to extend this limitation. Other games will offer combat in what appears to be 3D settings, but in reality gameplay really only exists in the X and Y axis. There is no vertical combat in these games and as such the camera can be controlled much easier.

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