Adventures In Red Book Audio

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.

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