Adventures in Red Book Audio: Don’t Play This Disc!

In the early days of CD-ROM gaming, a lot of games made use of Red Book audio, the same audio standard used by audio CDs. This meant that many of these games had crisp, digital audio that was light years ahead of the 16-bit MIDI audio that was commonplace at the time. It also meant that you could put the game disc in your CD player and play the music off of it like a regular CD.

Sadly, that didn’t last long. In Japan, game soundtracks were (and continue to be) a pretty big deal, so allowing gamers to just pop the game disc into their CD player and rock out to the soundtrack kind of cannibalized that market. Additionally, there were some games that could never use Red Book audio because of size limitations, or other technical concerns. Simply put, most games you’ll find for any of the early CD systems have no Red Book audio of any kind.

If you ever tried to put any of these games in your CD player, you would just be treated with one long “data track” where all the game information was stored. In my personal experience, this track was usually silent, but apparently some CD players would try to read these tracks as audio, causing loud digital garbage to be played out of your speakers.

If developers were smart, they would have tried to sell that shit to Lou Reed, but instead, they decided to try their best to make sure that gamers never attempted to put those discs in their CD players, lest they blow speakers or cause some other damage to their home audio system. To this effect, they would usually put warning in instruction booklets advising gamers against putting CD-ROM gems like Gex into their car stereo.

However, to really drive the point home, sometimes they would also stick in an audio warning on the disc itself. It was a tactic that was entirely pointless though, since the “data track” with the potentially damaging audio had to be the first track, meaning that any warning about the hypothetical damage caused by putting the disc in the system would play AFTER the possibly dangerous track had already finished playing.

Also, for me at least, these warnings created the unintended effect of actually making me want to put game discs in my CD player even more, just to find out if they had some weird warning on them. In effect, I was actively doing what they were warning me not to do specifically because they were warning me not to do it.

That was how teenage me stuck it to the man.

Anyways, I was digging through my old games and thought it would be fun to show off some of these goofy warnings, a strange byproduct of a bygone era in gaming. Hope you find them interesting.

Crystal Dynamics Warning

I found this clip on the disc for the Sega Saturn version of Off-World Interceptor Extreme, although I assume that Crystal Dynamics put it on most of their game discs. I love the sick guitar solo background music, and it makes me wonder; why stop there? Why not make the whole warning a musical number? I imagine an old-school education rap: “Yo, take this disc out of your system fool/before it blows your speakers and your eardrums too!” It could have been the sequel to “Don’t Copy That Floppy.” Alas.

European Dreamcast Warnings

I ripped this off of the disc for Disney Magical Racing, and it’s great because it’s such a catch-all; a warning for just about everyone in every country where this game might have ended up. If you’ve ever wanted to know how to say “playing this disc on a hi-fi or other audio equipment can cause serious damage to its speakers” in German (or English, Spanish or French for that matter), you’re in luck. I hope and pray that one day a sample from this warning will make its way into a minimal German house track. DJ Hell, hit me up!

Japanese Dreamcast Warning

Found on an import copy of  Star Gladiator 2. I’ve always loved the Japanese pronunciation of “Dreamcast.” I think the only thing that would have made this better would be if a super-authoritative Japanese dude belted out the warning in his strictest voice possible. The lady saying this just sounds too damn nice.

2 Responses to Adventures in Red Book Audio: Don’t Play This Disc!

  • Drain says:

    I’ve always had the pleasure of hearing the noise of the data track whenever i popped a Playstation disc into my CD player back in the day. Of course, some of those warnings they put on some of the discs were moot as quite a few games had playable audio starting from track 2 onwards. So it was a bit of an Easter Egg hunt trying to see which games you could listen to and which ones you couldn’t. Also, loving the Japanese warning lady. The incredibly nice way she says it actually would make me stop the disc as opposed to the other warnings where I’d be a rebel and go “you can’t tell me what to do” lol. Politeness for me goes a long way lol.

  • Rusty says:

    Damn James, I need these as a MP3 so I can randomly stick them in playlists 🙂

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