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LONG BLOG

Gaming machine error messages that give me the heebie jeebies

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The day of reckoning is almost upon us: Resident Evil 7 will be unleashed, gurning and shrieking, onto the games market tomorrow. The reviews coming out this afternoon after the embargo was lifted suggest that the game is a return to form for the series, with some outlets (including our very own Destructoid) giving the title top marks.

 

Welcome to the family, son.

 

However, it is not only the games that can give the player goosebumps; when things go wrong with the machines themselves, the outcome can be jarring or even terrifying. Hold onto your bowels as we venture into a world of caterwauling sound effects and garish screens: which are the most terrifying games console/computer error messages?

 

Atari Jaguar

 

Out for blood.

 

The Atari Jaguar was generally regarded as paling in comparison to its Nintendo and Sega counterparts: if you watch the Angry Video Game Nerd episodes on the Jaguar, you'll gain a greater understanding of why it was a commercial flop. The start-up screen is incredibly naff, inexplicably featuring a rotating cube made up of photos of jaguars. It might still be worth a look for the ultimate video game enthusiast, not only as a piece of history but because it featured the celebrated Tempest 2000.

 

However, if there's a connection problem or a broken-down Jaguar CD in the cartridge slot, then the console emits a bloodthirsty jaguar roar. Charming. This is the sort of error screen that would disembowel you where you stand and wear your entrails as a feather boa.

 

The one, the only, the classic: Windows Blue Screen of Death (up to Windows 7)

 

Dun dun duuuun.

 

The "jump scare" of error messages is probably the classic BSOD, or Blue Screen of Death. It has existed since time immemorial, or rather ever since there has been such a thing as a Windows computer (who can even remember a time before then?). It often leaps out of nowhere, when a gaming session otherwise seemed perfectly hunky dory.

 

I've only ever triggered a BSOD from something identifiable when 1) I was using my laptop in bed with the entire machine tilted diagonally (what a wanker) and 2) I unplugged a camera I had connected to the computer via the USB port without safely ejecting the hardware. All other instances have come out of the blue, and as a child the screen was a complete shock to the system - I would run to my dad, worrying that I'd broken the family computer. I don't think the complete silence or intense buzzing that accompanies a sudden BSOD helped matters much, either.

 

The poor little sad Mac

 

Goodnight, sweet prince.

 

Before my family got a Windows 98 computer, we had a Macintosh. I spent countless Saturdays writing nonsensical stories about my primary school friendsand playing Percy the Park Keeper games on that massive grey box, and it was my first introduction to something more sophisticated than a typewriter and fingerpaints. It was almost a childhood friend.

 

So imagine my horror when a death rattle came spewing out of my dear friend and his load-up screen featured crosses over his eyes. As you can see above, some versions of the Apple home computers would instead make delightful car-crash noises or play some other terrifying organ-driven doom anthem. The error message only encouraged children to personify their computers by representing them as corpses. As if you needed any further reason not to watch those Steve Jobs biopics.

 

Fearful Harmony/Personified Fear

 

 

The start-up sound for the PlayStation is part of the reason why I always thought of it as being a distinctly "adult" console.

 

I should preface this by saying that I always found the PlayStation start-up screens shit-my-pants scary as a kid, so I used to add a 5 second delay to changing the channel to AV so that I could avoid the opening. As a result, I only became aware of the error tunes, Fearful Harmony and Personified Fear, upon doing a bit more research as a twenty-something. And good God, these error dirges are petrifying. 

 

These sounds generally come about from the console being unable to progress from the initial loading screen, for whatever reason. Because of this, the tunes are either loops of excerpts from the normal start-up sound, or are the result of the start-up sound playing long after it should have concluded. YouTube users have commented on how these abominations arose on their machines, and the reasons vary from a worn laser, mod-chipping (which was absolutely rife in my hometown), scratched discs and trying to emulate Saturn games on the system. 

 

Unlike the other error messages, it provokes chills rather than leaping out at you. The image that pops into my head when hearing these wonky start-up tunes is the diminuitive man from Clock Tower sneaking up behind me, slicing my skull clean off my shoulders with his secateurs and fashioning it into some sort of ornate door-knocker. Yikes.

 

The worst kind of Seaman

 

 Sega probably meant well...probably.

 

Strictly speaking, the final entry to my list isn't an error message from a games console, but rather a kind of warning you will hear if you use a game disc where it is not intended to be used. Yes, I know, I'm a dirty rotten cheat. But I'm also a blubbering, heaving mess after enduring Fearful Harmony, so please do shut up.

 

The Sega Dreamcast is a remarkable console that arguably started the trend for innovative data storage, through the use of the GD-ROM. They were used because of their ability to pack in more data than a CD-ROM (prior to the use of DVDs a little later on in the same generation) and their comparative resistance to piracy. However, the pro of using a CD-ROM is that nothing bad could happen if you put that very same CD-ROM in a CD player; in fact, you could often listen to the game music.

 

Putting a GD-ROM in a CD player, however, would be a very bad idea indeed. The screeching and squawking from attempting to do this could damage stereo speakers, so the Dreamcast discs were fitted with a warning (often from a game character) which would play if the disc were inserted into the wrong machine. Some of these warnings were quite sweet, while others were bone-chilling.

 

The warning from the eponymous Seaman is particularly gruesome, as it forecasts the release of deadly viruses if you go back to Track 1. Given that this was only a year and a half after the release of Resident Evil 2, in which both the T Virus and the G Virus were unleashed with gruesome results, you'll forgive me if I can't take this in good humour. Appalling.

 

I would argue that the Dreamcast is generally speaking the Creepypasta of games consoles, with loud noises and freaky malfunctions galore.

 


 

Which game console error messages/error screens scare you the most? What are the weirdest error messages you've ever encountered while gaming, or the most corrupted console you've ever owned? Let me know in the comments below!

 

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About Charlotte Cuttsone of us since 3:50 PM on 07.05.2016

Likes games, loves speedrunning. Ships herself with the PlayStation Vita.