A sub-trope of Lost In Transmission, where crucial information is corrupted, whether by a virus or other means. In Real Life data follows what's known as a "protocol"note . In order to be read by a computer, data must be recorded in a specific way, thus as much as one bit in the wrong place can make a file unreadable. Of course it's obviously possible to salvage the uncorrupted parts with a bit of patience.... While many of the things shown to corrupt data in fiction are capable of doing so (viruses might be designed to corrupt a file or may do so by accident while copying themselves into one, damage to storage media obviously risks damaging the data on it, etc) most corruption tends to be the result of a computer malfunction (such as the write head of a Hard Drive miswriting the data to its disc, or a poor Internet connection causing data to be wrongly transmitted) or user error (such as yanking out a USB drive while it's being written tonote ). Many data storage devices are designed to prevent this sort of thing through a number of techniques. Read more about it on The Other Wiki.
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Anime and Manga
- Sword Art Online: Depending on how you look at it, how Kirito lost nearly all of his Aincrad items or how he kept his stats and one particularly important item when he started ALO. Also, why he happened to meet Leafa, of all people, when starting ALO.
- In one issue of Sonic the Hedgehog, Shadow retrieves a disk that contains files from Gerald Robotnik about his true purpose. However, the disk is damaged by a Badnik attack and the thing was already 50 years old, so it was starting to decay badly. NICOLE is able to rebuild it enough for Shadow to get his answers, though.
- In an earlier issue, #165, the robot ISAAC was revealed to have corrupted data from centuries of wear (though not all of it was corrupted). It also reveals that the person he was protecting for centuries since the Xorda attack, Dr. Robotnkik's ancestor Ivan Kintorbor, is dead.
- In the climax of the British detective dramedy The House in Nightmare Park (1973), the movies the hero detective Foster is confronted by Not So Dead Verity pointing a gun at him. She demands the diamonds and he unwraps the package, throwing the covering paper into the fire. However, the document inside reveals the covering paper was actually the map to the diamonds hidden in the estate, by the time they realize the map is already burned away. The film ends with a camera shot moving away from Foster as he starts to dig in the large grounds outside the house to find the diamonds.
- In one of the Thursday Next books, there is a "mispeling virus", which causes misspellings to manifest wherever it shows up, turning a parrot into a carrot, the floor into flour and other unpleasant consequences. This sounds more amusing than dangerous until you realize it can turn your bones into boons, your nose into a noose or your hands into hats, depending on the severity of the infection. In short, if your body is infected, you are most likely going to die unless you get help really quickly. It can only be contained by dictionaries.
Live Action TV
- Zoviet France evokes this trope heavily in their music, they rely heavily on the decomposition of both their instruments and even their recording devises, claiming it aids in the intangibility of the music. Digilouge evokes this to a T, from the random clippings and chirpings to the art work dipicting a Matrix-like corruption of a computer system.
- Iron Crown Enterprise's Cyberspace. The Worm virus goes through other files and "eats" them, leaving a string of random characters.
- It's mentioned in Eclipse Phase that something like this can theoretically happen to saved backups. It gets a lot more corrupt when the Exsurgent virus gets involved.
- Paranoia: If data hasn't been censored beyond all hope of reliability, it's corrupted, and if it's not corrupted, it's straightforwardly wrong.
- Supplement Virtual Realities
- The Hog virus takes over the memory used by other files, causing them to crash.
- Scramble IC will corrupt the file it's protecting to prevent it from being copied.
- Short story "Virtual Realities". The "Matrix Born Project" file which was the source of the story was corrupted. An attempt is made to reconstruct it but was only 61% successful.
- Several supplements mention that a computer file was corrupted by some kind of software attack, usually a virus or IC (defense program).
- Corporate Shadowfiles. Aztechnology got into Shadowland and planted a virus that edited their entry in the title work.
- Tir Tairngire. On five different occasions someone working for the title country got into Shadowland and corrupted or deleted files about it.
- Threats. The Alamos 20,000 file was corrupted by a heavy viral attack before Shadowland received it.
- Supplement Virtual Realities
- Traveller - The New Era: One of the side effects of infestation by the Virus was a corruption of information transmission, such as Traveller News Service bulletins in Traveller products being replaced by random characters. One of the signs that the Virus had been defeated was Traveller News Service bulletins becoming partially and then fully readable again.
- In the .hack video games, the protagonist is playing a MMORPG Game Within A Game and has to defeat in-game bosses whose data is corrupted and whose names are shown containing random characters.
- Knights of the Old Republic: Several cases. One is where sabotage on the part of an angry wife leaves her philandering husband stranded in the Tatooine desert. Your call as to whether or not you fix his droids or "fix" his droids. The other notable case is when using T3-M4 to stage the breakout. The Sith droid tries a memory wipe and T3-M4 uses the opening to corrupt the other droid's data.
- Tron 2.0: This trope is encountered all over the place. Virus-infected Z-Lots will have garbled names. Attacking with a certain weapon will cause the Program to convulse and stammer error messages. If a virus infects Jet's Profiler subroutine, then the input for enemy names and stats are garbled. Considering the universe we're dealing with, all of it is perfectly Justified.
- Mass Effect 1 uses this in the character creation sequence in order to justify you selecting your Shepard's family and psychological background, as well as his or her class and face.
- Marathon: Various Terminal messages.
- In Batman: Arkham Origins the opening level has Batman finding a smashed surveilance drone. He retrieves the memory chip from the wreckage, but finds that it's badly damaged. He takes it back to the Batcave to restore it, when allows him to find out about the 50 million dollar bounty and the eight assassins coming after him.
- Homestuck. Partway through act 5, the Homestuck game disc gets a nasty scratch, so the next several pages are marred by visual glitches and corrupted text. Eventually it causes the story to freeze just before a climactic fight, so the reader takes the disc to Doc Scratch to fix it.
- In Act 6 Act 6, when the story switches from discs to console cartridges, the cartridge in question is jammed with special stardust and candy corn, producing similar effects.