The FEAR: the Red Ring of Death

[Editor’s note: Dexter345 talks about the much feared Red Ring of Death for his Monthly Musing piece. — CTZ]

Fear. It’s an emotion that I hardly ever think about. I’m not a huge fan of scary movies* because they’re usually filled with cheap, predictable jump-scares or nauseating-yet-unimaginative grotesqueness, neither of which frighten me.

I’m almost equally poorly versed in survival horror games, with my only foray into them being Leon Kennedy’s mission to save the President’s daughter (he’s a bad enough dude) in Spain. And while there were elements of Resident Evil 4 that made my heart race (Dr. Salvador, I’m looking at you), that fear is nothing compared to the one thing I dread most in videogames.

I am deathly afraid of the Red Ring of Death. And it’s no wonder why I fear the RRoD more than anything else that is video game related. Let’s take three other things I fear in videogames to compare, after the jump.

  1. “Green Grass and High Tides” coming up during a mystery setlist while I’m playing guitar on Expert in Rock Band.
  2. Being the last man standing during a Search and Destroy match on Call of Duty 4.
  3. Hearing the aforementioned doctor’s chainsaw rev up but not knowing where he is in Resident Evil 4.

What do these all have in common? Well, for one, they’re all situations that I have been in, and while success is possible, I know it’s going to take some quick reflexes, all of my skill, and a little bit of luck. But more importantly, all three situations share the trait that the consequences of failure are not exactly grave.

If I fail Green Grass, then we’ll just play the song over until I get it, or we’ll quit and hope for a different song to come up next time we select the mystery setlist. If I’m killed before I can plant/defuse the bomb, then we’ll lose the round and maybe the match, but then we start a new one right afterward. If the good doctor decapitates me with his chainsaw, then I just have to load my previous save and go from there.

The Red Ring of Death does not offer these concessions. It can strike at any time, to any XBox 360 owner. When it hits, there is nothing that can be done. And worst of all, it doesn’t inconvenience you for a few minutes to get your game progress back; it inconveniences you for weeks.

So any time my 360 has so much as a hiccup, I get anxious. “Was that just a glitch in the game, or is my Xbox going to die?” “Oh God, it just froze, I hope my Xbox is okay.” “Why is it taking so long to load, please let my Xbox live to see another day.”

And I think that’s what makes the fear of a Red Ring of Death the worst fear I have. It’s persistent. If I feared a particular character or situation in a particular game enough, I could escape it by simply putting in a different game. But the Red Ring of Death is like an ominous halo of destruction, perched above my Xbox and in my mind at all times, waiting for its time to strike.

And when it does, I won’t be able to fear “Green Grass and High Tides.” I won’t be able to fear having the responsibility to win the match for the team. At least when it does hit, I can take solace in the fact that I can still hook up my GameCube and fear Dr. Salvador.

*[Editor’s note: I think Dexter345 was going to make a joke here, but he completely forgot to add what the * meant. Total fail. — CTZ]

Darren Nakamura
Darren is a scientist during the day. He has been a Destructoid community member since 2006, joining the front page as a contributor in 2011. While he enjoys shooters, RPGs, platformers, strategy, and rhythm games, he takes particular interest in independent games. He produced the Zero Cool Podcast for about four years, and he plays board games quite a bit when he can find willing companions.