Sony’s Red Screen of Death

Kids nowadays (insert crotchety old grumbling voice here) don’t know how easy they have it. When they insert their discs into their machines (if they still bother with discs), the worst that can happen to them is a friendly little error message telling them that it’s not compatible or whatever. In fact, I’m not sure what the PS4 does, but I don’t think the PS3 does anything at all, it just doesn’t read the disc and present you with an option.

Kids nowadays (crotchety voice etc etc) don’t have to deal with the horror… of the Red Screen Of Death.

Alright, alright, without context it doesn’t seem so bad. But picture me, seven years old, having never touched PC gaming in my life, sitting in front of my PS2 and ready to be greeted with my little Playstation 2 intro vwomp. Having never touched upon PC gaming, I’m not accustomed to errors and workarounds, I’m just used to shit working. And for Sony to not only throw up an error screen, but to accompany creepy music and a bloody red mist was actually one of the most terrifying experiences of my childhood.

The Playstation 1 had a Red Screen Of Death, too, but I guess I was lucky enough not to encounter it when growing up. I did encounter it a few years ago for the first time when booting it up for nostalgia, and although it did creep me out, the combination of a lack of creepy music and, you know, being an adult is what stopped me from throwing it out the window in a fit of fearful tears exclaiming “you were supposed to be the chosen one”.

Overly played out Star Wars references aside, I actually found out something interesting about the Playstation 2 startup screen today. The blocks shown in the booting up sequences apparently represent the amount of games you’ve played, with their respective heights being indicative of the time spent within these games. It’d explain why, after some years, my Playstation 2 appeared to be more of a crowded cityscape than New York. Its population, however, is somewhat smaller than New York’s, given the abundance of the toxic blue fumes which run through the city streets, absorbing the blood of all who come into contact with it.

Well, where did you think the aforementioned red mist came from?

In all seriousness, though, the abundance of people claiming that the Red Screen Of Death is totally the scariest thing ever should be of some indication that there’s actually psychological reasoning behind it. My guess would be that shaking a child’s certainty of getting past the already abstract bootup screen and into the game is bound to leave some lasting effects, and replacing it with a red mist and an eerily ominous music cue only adds to this effect. Adults watching it for the first time will think “well what’s so scary about some tosser putting his disc in upside down”, but let’s be honest, that error screen was a demon possessed hell pit and we all know it.


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