We've switched servers and will be updating the old code over the next couple months, meaning that several things might break. Please report issues here
Epileptic Flashing Lights
It seems that whenever something or someone goes haywire, fails or is about to explode, light is going to flash rapidly, randomly and brightly, whether it originates from buttons, lamps, screens or even eyes and orifices. Justified in failing lightbulbs and warning lamps, but may otherwise lead to moments of failed awesomeness.
Notable offenders are the (more contemporary) horror and science fiction genres. Somehow many film and video game-makers believe Everything Is Better with Flashing even though it's not always that awesome.
Not in any way related to Epileptic Trees
. Compare to Power Glows
, where light produces a positive effect, and Glowing Eyes of Doom
, which implies imminent evil rather than imminent (self)destruction. See also Red Alert
, Deadly Fireworks Display
, Stop Motion Lighting
and Throat Light
. May fall under Sensory Abuse
It probably goes without saying, but anyone who actually has epilepsy should avoid any YouTube links on this page.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Kingyo Chuihou About 16 minutes into episode 41.
- Pokémon will forever be haunted by the Digital Soldier Porygon incident. Episode 38 aired only once on December 16 1997 in Japan, and in the half-hour that it showed, 700 kids had seizures and had to be hospitalized. The episode was never aired anywhere else in the world, having been outright banned by Japanese law, and holds the infamous world record of most seizures induced by a television show. As a result of this reputation, Porygon (and later, its evolutions, Porygon2 and Porygon-Z) have never had a huge role in any episode since... which serves as little more than insult to injury, since it wasn't Porygon who set off the Epileptic Flashing Lights, but Pikachu, with his yellow and white flashing electricity, hitting the vaccine missiles that produced the seizure-inducing red and blue flashes. Pikachu and his lightning attacks then proceeded to appear in every episode and movie since...
- The actual stinger is that soon after the airing of the episode in question (which alone wasn't responsible for the total seizure count), several news outlets in Japan AIRED THE OFFENDING SCENE AGAIN as part of stories covering the incident, causing more seizures...
- "You did it, Pikachu!"
- The episode being banned entirely is also a bit of an overreaction, since changing the scene to remove the risk of seizures would be a very simple edit. Interestingly, after this episode aired the animators sprung into action and went back to edit the first 37 episode to make them free from flashing lights. Some of these carried over into the dub episodes. The "seizureific" versions were uploaded to the internet by the fansub group Pokemon-originals in April 2013.
- The episode was also part of the reason why the first season went Out of Order from there.
- The reaction flooded to other Anime as producers sought to make sure such an incident never happened again (it hasn't, so they're doing something right). All sequences that employed that effect were slowed to more acceptable levels (many know about the rate of flicker for such effects that they feel is the most "at risk" rate). They've taken the issue rather seriously anymore.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion combines this with Unreadably Fast Text on a few occasions, especially in episode 22.
- Dragon Ball Z has a serious case of this when Gohan and Super Perfect Cell are using their Kamehamehas against each other in a final battle. (This was actually edited to be subdued quite a bit in Kai)
- Sailor Moon uses this in-universe. When Ami is introduced, the Monster of the Day, in a disguise, mentioned that that day's assignment is to be done via a disc. Ami remarks that she always gets headaches whenever she uses the disc. The disc ends up being just a very feint blue strobe that fills up an entire computer screen. The monster sticks Ami's face into the monitor (the sequence itself is actually tame on people watching the scene). It's also the scene in which it is revealed that Ami is Sailor Mercury.
- Of course, many will cite the MOTD death scenes in Super S as actually being seizure inducing. Sailor Moon wasn't one to fall victim to the trope as it rarely did have any very intense sequences, but the red/white effect got to near Porygon-level danger.
Films — Live-Action
- In The Andromeda Strain, the flashing alarm lights of the secret underground Wildfire laboratory literally become epileptic flashing lights when Dr. Peter Leavitt suffers an epileptic fit because of them.
- In the film, the male Dr. Peter Leavitt in the novel is changed into a woman, Dr. Ruth Leavitt. Rather than the epileptic fit being just another problem to deal with, it becomes a Plot Point when a flashing computer screen causes her to have an absence (trancelike) seizure and not notice the vital information it's transmitting.
- You'd think that with HD becoming the norm (and thus a much better quality picture to view television in), that networks would take photo sensitivity into account. Far from it, however, as this trope has begun creeping up on several promos for shows in recent years.
- NBC had their "more colorful" campaign for a few years. Though there were other criticisms concerning the campaign, one familiar aspect of the promos was a transition NBC seemly fell in love with: a second long flash of a "color test" style flash where the colors of the NBC peacock swept across the screen (left to right then back) before the name and time of show was told. Each bar was small enough so each color of the peacock was present during the flash, but it was the sweep that made it interesting. It was toned down slightly in its sophomore season for some shows.
- Spike TV has its current way of displaying its logo during promos and such, with its logo in the center of a black screen, then a sound with a solid color (usually the same color as the Spike logo taking over the entire screen for a second before it returning to black, with the logo itself changing color during the flash. What's ironic about it is that the usual color of the logo is yellow, the same color that Pikachu fires his Thunderbolt in (yellow is said to be a MAJOR problem color for photo sensitive people, along with red, and was also the color added to that mix in the Porygon episode that made what could've been a tamer issue in that episode to become a widespread epidemic). The logo bug does a VERY rapid yellow flicker at times, too, that lasts for a few seconds, usually when a program returns from commercial.
- TBS has recently done this, but it's hard to know when they are going to actually employ it. Whenever the name of a show comes up in their promos, it's in a black on white (or vice versa) panel while the panels itself are on another background color. The panel rapidly flashes, with the text and background trading colors during the flashes.
- CMT had done this with their 2011 Country Music Awards promo. That circle suddenly flashing several different colors for a few seconds caught a few people off guard.
- The Weeping Angels in Doctor Who seem to have the ability to cause this as a power. Since they can only move when unseen...
- Kamen Rider Black's finishers later in the series. You will go blind.
- The BBC's news bulletins always issue warnings before showing footage containing flash photography (British TV seems to be more conscious about this than any other country).
- A few vanity cards actually did this:
- Russian production company BND (which that logo was scary to begin with) had to edit its ball-to-mask vanity card to black and white from it's original color because of the sudden circle effect that happened when the ball hit its target. The color in question? Yep: the dreaded yellow!
- Go on YouTube and search for "Ear Booker Productions" . This was "Weird Al" Yankovic's production company when he starred in his short lived CBS kids show. Not only is it a firm example of the trope in fine fashion (epileptics beware), but the background music was called "Bite Me", which was on his album "Off The Deep End" which after 11 minutes of silence after "You Don't Love Me Anymore", the track begins, which is just him screaming like a maniac while disconjorted music plays in the background (it was intended to scare anyone that forgot to eject the disc). Imagine a rapid white and black flash taking up the entire screen, with large text that trades colors with the background on every color switch in said flash zooming up at you, for four seconds while THAT music track plays. Yeah, an epileptic's worst nightmare!
- On Supernatural, flickering lights are a sign of a ghost haunting or sometimes a nearby demon. Angels tend to make light-bulbs explode.
- This may be the goal of every lighting technician at rock/metal concerts.
- Too many videos to count. Especially with the recent popularity of dubstep, which seems to depend on weird effects which may make you feel like you're already having a seizure...or at least tripping on acid.
- Kanye West did two in a row lately, leading some to joke he has something against epileptics.
- Slayer and their concerts. 30 straight minutes of strobes and people probably seizing, almost seizing, or leaving before seizing.
- Meshuggah. Polyrhythmic epileptic strobes.
- The music videos for Christian Metal band Impending Doom's "Silence the Oppressors" and "My Nemesis."
- During Stroboscope Multiball in Attack from Mars, a strobolight under the playfield flying saucer rapidly flashes during gameplay, making it harder to track the pinballs flying about. The game ended up being the first pinball to have an epilepsy warning sticker applied to it.
- Getting a Starman in Super Mario Bros. triggers these.
- Secret Service has the "Retina Scanner", a large red/yellow/blue light bar on top of the backbox. It flashes at times during the game, and accompanies the post-game sing-along for "Nobody Does It Better".
- This was the main selling point of Flash, in the form of its (then-new) flash lamps providing quick bursts of bright light.
- Dungeons & Dragons included a "Dragon Box" topper with two strobe lights. Operators could put it on top of the backbox to raise the game's profile and attract bystanders.
- Strange Science has a backbox topper that resembles a Jacob's Ladder, with a flashing elecrical arc between the poles.
- The Miz's "mini-tron" when he comes out. The kaleidoscopic effect was used on the bigger mini during 2010 and was dumped in favor of the paparazzi one, but has always been used in some form or fashion during his entrance.
- White lights flash very rapidly on the entrance stage whenever John Cena comes out to his theme. Cena usually says something to the camera before coming off the stage and running to the ring, which usually means having to see a few more seconds of the effect.
- This was made somewhat worse after Raw 1000. The WWE debuted a new set that featured circular pillars with lights every 10 feet or so that can also strobe when they want them to, which they "want them to" during Cena's entrance. And when Cena says his spiel to the camera, the camera is usually somehow pointing straight towards one of the strobe lights.
- Speaking of Raw milestones, the recent 20th Anniversary of RAW and the recap of the intros to Raw made us all remember (or just now realize, depending on how you saw it) how seizure inducing some of the WWE's show intros were back in the Attitude era. Raw's "Move It To The Music" especially, when the WWE just LOVED covering every frame with flashing strobe lights and forever changing angles and scenes.
- CM Punk's first entrance's mini-tron also had random colors rapidly going about.
- Matt Hardy, when he was with the WWE, had an entrance with had red and blue lights flickering VERY rapidly, aimed to the ENTIRE CROWD.
- Sometimes when WCW Monday Nitro went to break, or did a panoramic move for a wrestler's entrance, the camera zoomed in (for some odd reason) to one of the lights that surrounded the entrance way, which flashed different colors.
- The WWE Signature during the Attitude Era is nicknamed the "seizure inducing WWE logo" for a reason. What was it with the WWE wanting everyone to get epilepsy during that era? Maybe because the era was so awesome that people just didn't care.
- Even more inducing was the commercials (there were two) for the currently Vaporware WWE Network. The commercials had several words going all over the screen with various color effects that could make you go blind.
- Chris Jericho and his "light bright jacket".
- Randy Orton is known in part due to his entrance and Rev Theory's "Voices". When the bridges are played (between each verse and the ensuing chorus), the minitrons suddenly flashs bright white flicker light whenever a high chord is played (the trons are initially deep orange). Though you'd think this would cause people fits, this actually is one of the more popular aspects of his entrance.
- So much so that people actually complained when it wasn't included in one of the WWE games.
- There's one cyberarm option in one of the Chrome manuals of Cyberpunk 2020, that installs below the wrist what is basically a stroboscopic light. Anyone who sees it flaring and fails the saving throw gets dazed and the effects of a seizure.
- Disney's Aladdin: The Stage Musical uses this during the Cave of Wonders sequence and at a few other points. Warning sign included.
- Used in Amaluna during the first aerial straps number to depict lightning flashes.
- The UK touring production of Starlight Express features flashing light effects through practically all of "AC/DC", and "Freight" includes a moment of flashing sudden enough to make anyone jump out of their skin if they don't have a seizure outright.
- Video games are famous for constantly reminding you of this health risk. There's at least one warning about this in every single video game instruction manual (usually found on the inside front cover of them). Up until recently, this was the only time a warning appeared on the game (no one knows for sure where or why this began, as there were no widespread incidents occurring that prompted the warning to be included). However, it seems like now the warnings have gotten plentiful, with even game SYSTEMS imploring you to "read the health and safety precautions before using the system." There are also warning specific for the seizure risk on the back of every game box now, and many games make it a point to shove it in your face even more when you go to play the game, sometimes in its own font, making the false impression that that particular game has things within it that no other game has that would be especially risky for photosensitive people. There could be, at most, a total of four separate warnings you could see about this risk before you can even play the game. Funny thing is that with the advancement of technology, many games are rather tame when dealing with how to show certain effects, and it's mainly because of the HD advancement and how big some TVs are that might be making some of these game console manufacturers nervous (one of the precautionary measures is the smaller the TV, the lower of a risk a game is). In short, though many can understand the reasons for the warnings, so many can get rather annoying for a game that has no intense "light shows" in them (if they have light shows in them, they are more of the soft, aura type that would never fall into this trope).
- That being said, there are a few games in which they are not kidding about the warning at the beginning. Beat Hazard and its Ultra companion (that's also now out for the PS3 now, as well), for example, is basically epilepsy, now available in video game format. The game, at the beginning, has a specific warning that that particular game uses intense strobe lighting effects. This game uses it to a fault, to the point where TotalBiscuit, who once praised the game, changed his opinion on it due to it just being too much, and when the game is featured on a video on his channel, he makes sure people are aware of the risks before moving on with the video.
- Star Fox 64 has several bosses that get light-emitting cracks before exploding.
- In the NES game Iron Tank, bosses display a seizure-inducing light show when exploding. This effect is also used when V2 rockets explode, one notable example about 2/3 through the first level, and even more pronounced when the player is killed. Photosensitive people should stay clear.
- The arcade version of Salamander features an enemy that does this.
- The disco/strip club in Duke Nukem 3D.
- All text (and graphics) in Burn The Trash.
- La-Mulana does this after Bahamut is defeated.
- Spheres Of Chaos is based on bright colors and flashes. One of the options include screen flashing when one particular enemy is defeated. The game warns about seizure possibilities.
- Techno Kitten Adventures. You control a flying kitten with a rainbow-spewing jetpack as it flies through colorful backgrouns and avoids flashing, color-changing obstacles. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2d2B0wQwqZU
- The overkill on Senator's stage in Eternal Champions: Challenge From The Dark Side.
- In Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, the screen flashes as bosses die. When Link dies, the screen flashes multiple colours save for Link's black silhouette. These effects have been considerably toned down in rereleases, however.
- There's a technicality that goes with this, however, in that some games that have a neon-chroma pattern flash (red, yellow, blue, green) that could show the way it was intended on a TV screen (thus not as bad) will get into seizure inducing when someone posts it on YouTube or any other video host that forces videos to a specific framerate. Usually this is a good thing to tame such issues in these cases, but when it destroys THAT pattern, it actually makes it WORSE! The earlier Zelda games featured some of these that get translated badly when you see videos of, say, the ending of the first Zelda, or the final boss in Zelda 2, or the beginning of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. On a TV screen, the colors flash too rapidly and in such a pattern that it wouldn't be too much of a concern (might catch you off guard, but no serious concern), whereas if you viewed the very same thing on YouTube, it would give you a sodding headache because it can't display all the colors in the pattern, so it only displays certain colors in the pattern...and it always seems to make the flash much more seizure inducing.
- Despite that, the Game Boy Advance re-release of Link to the Past changed the intro to where the sword piercing the Z in Zelda only makes the screen turn solid white than what it was previously. Maybe Nintendo saw what the slower frame rate of YouTube did to that chroma effect when people posted the SNES version (only when someone actually films the TV screen that the game is playing on can you see what the effect is actually supposed to look like).
- The strangest thing about this effect and how YouTube destroys it to make it more seizure-inducing is that The Angry Video Game Nerd's review of Zelda 2 seems to be able to avoid the massacre of the rainbow effect, show the rainbow effect to a degree, and not have it cause much issue. The secret? James' well-documented way of recording game footage (some of it is too dimmed to be an issue, and sometimes, the screen is just solid red as in the re-releases).
- Same cannot be said for a YouTube gaming series called "Continue?" (no relation to AVGN, by the way). The very first thing you see in the intro: the Zelda 2 death, with the blue and green strobe in full, bright HD glory!
- In Transformers Convoy No Nazo, this happens after boss deaths and when starting a game. This was fixed in the Virtual Console rerelease.
- In Kirby's Dream Land 3, the screen rapidly flashes white during the cutscene where the True Final Boss appears. This was changed in the Virtual Console version.
- Child of Eden uses these a lot.
- When you beat the final boss in Ghoul School and finally save the girl.
- Brutal Mario, a hack of Super Mario World, has the first Koopaling boss in a room full of multicolored flashing lights as you hit him.
- The Japanese Pokémon Red, Green, and Blue uses screen flashes as part of the animation for the attack localized as Thunderbolt internationally. This was removed in the international releases and Yellow because of the Porygon incident and the introduction of the Game Boy Color.
- Williams Electronics' Arcade Games had a knack for having text and certain objects flash colors rapidly. Games like Blaster (an epileptic's nightmare), Defender (both), Robotron 2084, NARC, and even some of the text in the first Mortal Kombat games were known to do this. However, most of these were in the standard neon "red, yellow, blue, green" pattern that seems to never really cause an issue. MK is not as lucky, though the text is small enough to not cause too much of an issue.
- Early Mega Man games were known to have its background flash black and white whenever you defeated a Wily boss. The sequence is slow enough of flickers, though.
- However, Circus Caper isn't so lucky. Whenever Tim gains a key, the screen turns turquoise, and when the key finally hits his head, the screen rapidly flashes silver and blue, surely making people go into epileptic fits.
- Half-Life is known in part for the effect that one sees when travelling through dimensions from Earth to Zen. In the base game, there are a few moments when you'll see green lightning bolts strike the screen, causing it to ficker green and black for half a second to a second. That in of itself isn't too bad, and Opposing Force didn't have any of this, but it's Blue Shift and the console exclusive Decay that cranked this up a bit. Whenever someone went into a portal, the screen suddenly began flashing green and black (about the same speed as the Mega Man flashes explained above), which could last a few seconds (during the endings of both games, the effect occurred several times, too, since the characters were stuck in some vortex effect). This was toned down a bit when Valve re-released the original Half Life to have it use its then new "Source" engine.
- There was a bug in the beta of World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria that made one of the new mounts travel at a breakneck pace, making everything around it go crazy. Many players dubbed the mount (a ride-able phoenix mount) the "seizure bird" because what they saw was rather similar to the Porygon incident. Others, though, thought it was just a mount taking acid. Obviously, this was a bug, as there was no mount speed increase announced for Mists of Pandaria.
- Averted somewhat in Wipeout HD. When Sony went to test the game, it came back delayed because it didn't pass the "epilepsy test" that it give to every game. Although many don't pass the first time, Wipeout HD got notoriety for it due to a few reasons. For one, it was a much hyped game that had people waiting to buy it. Secondly, the game was to come out for the PlayStation 3, which struggled to gain friends in the gaming media at the time, making some jump on the opportunity to rant on Sony more. Third, the reason for the failure got severely nerfed as a result. The reason? In the game's "Zone Mode", the race tracks had an equalizer effect that moved to whatever music that was being played at the time while each zone changed the type of color scheme, as well. effect got removed in favor of a "pulse" effect that made the entire road area of the track flash faintly.
- Saints Row: The Third has an ad that warns of rapidly flashing lights that can cause epileptic fits. The ad itself does everything in it's power to cause epileptic fits with all the rapidly changing flashing lights. It makes Pokemon look positively tame in comparison.
- The Dead Space series has flickering lights in quite a few areas (mostly in the first game). Most notable is in Chapter 6 of the first game: a screen is flickering very rapidly (right after killing the second huge tentacle Necromorph that grabs you). The reason this is most notable is because on it is code for how to read the texts on the walls that are in a weird language. Perhaps having a seizure is the only way to know the truth about The Marker.
- The dance club where Max Payne 3's second chapter takes place has a seizure-tastic strobe hallway.
- While the goal of the Virtual Console is distribute classic games with little to no changes from their original forms, one of the few alterations routinely made is to tone down any flashing lights or patterns that could trigger seizures.
- Kickle Cubicle and the reveal of the third palace.
- Ninja Gaiden 1(NES) has this when the player loses their last life.
- Level 4 in Cheetahmen has a strobing background.
- The "seizure cave"(third part of Mission 3) in the NES port of Double Dragon 1.
- Kyokugen, a doujin Vertical Scrolling Shooter for the MSX2, has a Limit Break that causes severely eye-straining screen flashes.
- Early versions of Tempest reportedly had seizure inducing visual effects, which may have inspired the Polybius urban legend.
- Occurs when using Showstopper in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door.
- Homestuck used rapidly flashing lights in the Flash "[S] Jade: Wake up", to the point of it falling under this trope. Andrew Hussie made sure to construct it so as to avoid triggering seizures though, despite the rapid flashing. As a whole, the series uses rapidly alternating and often brightly colored animation fairly often, though the only known time cases of photosensitives having problems with it have arisen is the second intermission's Flash, which caused multiple reports of headaches; it's safe to view it on YouTube, though, as the site's compression pretty much destroys the framerate to the point where it's not a problem.
- Hookie Dookie Panic (A finished comic by the maker of Geist Panik) mentions it here: "Oh great. Are you epileptic?" "No, why?" "Heh. You will be." (Lens Flare! Flash! Lens Flare! Flash! Lens Flare! Flash!) "Damn you all! Stop convulsing! Why do they always convulse!?"
- Many YouTube "stars" such as The Angry Video Game Nerd have criticized games and other media for being "seizure inducing", or that watching a certain sequence would cause them to have a seizure. Their actual comment might be in snark, but the actual criticism would be a serious issue they had with the media.
- It's a popular trend anymore among YouTube comments, as well. Go look at the comment section to any video that might contain a variety of this trope, and you will more than likely, at some point, find a comment that brings up the flashes or claims that it's a seizure-inducing sequence, even if it might be tame in comparison to other patterns that might cause anyone to have issues, or have yet to have any cases reported.
- Invoked in Dragon Ball Abridged with Jeice and Berter's "Seizure Procedure" attack, which creates a stroboscopic light show designed to induce an epileptic fit In-Universe. Krillin finds himself catatonic due to this attack, which adds to his "Owned" count.
- The Nostalgia Critic's review of the Neverending Story 3 has a point where the Critic criticized the cheap transport effect, saying that "you could get a seizure traveling that way." The effect itself uses rapid zooming in and out and bright white flashes. Tame compared to some sequences, but still rather annoying.
- A Spotify advertisement for Royal Blood's debut Self-Titled Album employs this trope to an annoying effect.
- In Code Lyoko, whenever one of XANA's monster is struck by the heroes' weapons, bright light pour from the wound — just before it explodes if the Eye of XANA logo is hit.
- On the season 10 The Simpsons episode "30 Minutes Over Tokyo," Bart watches a robot anime, recognizing it as "that cartoon that causes seizures."note Sure enough, the show has flashing lights that gives Bart, Lisa, and Marge seizures (Homer initially fakes it because he sees everyone else on the floor doing it). When it cuts to commercial, everyone snaps out of it. When it comes back from commercial, everyone starts seizing again. To drive the point further home, the cartoon is called, "Battling Seizure Robots."
- South Park also parodied the Pokémon incident with "Chinpokomon" - though in this case Kenny got the seizure from the video game instead of the cartoon. (And he died of it, of course)
- The Problem Solverz is rather infamous for its bright and flashy animation style.
- Oh God, Tazmania, and that intro to the show. Three times, when the song goes into its chorus "Come to Tazmania", the show title in its brown stick font flies in every which way as the screen flashes many different colors. This was changed when the intro also got shortened, but some people have spotted the full intro unedited.
- The Archie Show has the background rapidly change colors during several songs, including the theme song.
- The Powerpuff Girls episode "See Me, Feel Me, Gnomey" uses this in one shot when the gnome is singing. It's the reason the episode wasn't shown on Cartoon Network and is only available on DVD.
- The opening sequence of Metalocalypse.
- Before Hanna-Barbera whored out the Justice League during the 70s and 80s in just about every variety imaginable (as in, before the DC Animated Universe made everything okay again), Filmation tried their luck at the Justice League and Teen Titans. Their intros to those shows? Announcing all of the heroes as the 70s shows did later on, only while each hero demonstrated their power and strength against an ever strobing background of whatever color patter they chose for that show. Yep, there's a reason those can only be found by a rare hit on YouTube.
- Yellow Submarine, most notably in the Sea of Science ("Only A Northern Song" number) and Sea of Holes sequences.