A stunning revelation or horrible event affects a character or someone they care deeply about, leaving them shocked to the point of mentally shutting down for a while, analogous to the Blue Screen of Death. The effect is similar to passing a Despair Event Horizon, but is temporary rather than permanent. Alternatively, if, say, this occurs during a fight, a hero may have a violent outburst, killing Evil Minions and hurling their own companions aside. They may run off and have to be tracked down by their friends for Epiphany Therapy. Alone in a Crowd typically represents a milder, non-disabling form of BSOD; a related trope is Heroic Safe Mode, wherein the hero "defaults" to a fight or flight mindset before rebooting in safety. A Shell-Shocked Veteran may have a BSOD in their back story.
The trope name notwithstanding, the character suffering a Heroic BSOD may not necessarily be a fully-fledged hero. However, if something like this happens to a more ambiguous or mundane character, it is much more likely to be Played for Laughs or just taken less seriously. But a BSOD is never brief or trivial; the effect must involve some kind of total mental shut-down to qualify. Also, an outright villain suffering a similar effect will usually experience a Villainous Breakdown (often involving them going completely crazy instead of shutting down) or a Villainous B.S.O.D. (whereby they gain a conscience).
Possible triggers include failing in something crucial such as saving a loved one, being betrayed by a close friend, being forced to make an "impossible" choice (e.g. having to choose between using "evil" methods or laying friends open to attack), or being hit with a Breaking Speech or Armor-Piercing Question. Other tropes such as These Hands Have Killed often overlap. When the trope is Played for Laughs or used for melodramatic effect, the cause can be less substantial; deranged behavior from someone supposedly sane, seeing something completely surreal, or being hit with a Wall of Text, say.
Other people can attempt to reboot the character; Get a Hold of Yourself, Man! may work (especially in the stories where violence is always the answer), as may telling them to Quit Your Whining. The best thing that can happen to a hero suffering from a BSOD is meeting a friendly Warrior Therapist; the worst thing is meeting a hostile Warrior Therapist, as such a foe can ensure that the hero crashes completely, driving them over the edge into the Despair Event Horizon.
Even after regaining some function, a BSOD sufferer may evince a Thousand-Yard Stare, or go into 10-Minute Retirement. In the longer term, a hero may become emotionally comatose (entering an Angst Coma), obsessive and guilt-ridden, mute, or in really bad cases, a jaded violent amnesiac. A really long-term BSOD would be catatonia; Go Mad from the Revelation is the worst case. Those who remain functional but don't find a cure for the problem may eventually find Safety in Indifference or Emotion Suppression; other people may fear that they have become a Fallen Hero. Comedy and melodramatic uses of the trope are far less likely to lead to long-term problems; the character simply snaps back after a few minutes. A character in a slapstick comedy show may be thrown into several blue screens in one episode, as a Running Gag.
If opponents discover a character's BSOD trigger, they may employ it as a weapon — although if they over-use it, the victim may wise up and seek treatment. Even comedy characters can find that a BSOD leads to Character Development, marking the start of a series of new experiences, or causing them to revise their world-view. Hope Is Scary is a frequent reaction to the beginning of recovery for any character. He's Back often marks a character's full recovery, perhaps accompanied by a "World of Cardboard" Speech. Conversely, a character who never recovers has fallen over the Despair Event Horizon.
Compare Heroic R.R.O.D. (the physical equivalent), Freak Out!, and Deer in the Headlights. One common reaction is I Think You Broke Him. In Real Life psychology, this sort of thing is known as an acute stress reaction, or a mental breakdown, and is related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. If a character starts singing about their (or someone else's) Heroic BSOD, then it's also an example of B.S.O.D. Song
The trope is named in honor of an infamous Microsoft Windows error that indicates that the system has screwed itself big time (the technical term is "stop error"). A particularly literal version could involve a character (preferably a supercomputer or other Artificial Intelligence) literally displaying a Blue Screen Of Death.
Individuals afflicted with this trope are often seen exhibiting the classic Thousand-Yard Stare, with its blank, emotionless expression and unfocussed, empty eyes.
Examples go on subpages:
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- Real Life
- In Silver Crisis, this happens to Lucario and Lucas in Chapter 10. After his fight with Silver leaves him utterly defeated and unconscious, Lucario is trapped in his own mind with his emotions, also being unable to use his True Power by opening his door until he resolves his inner conflict. He then comes to terms that isolating himself is the wrong thing to do, and realizes how important it is to place trust in others and Humankind once more. This allows himself to finally wake up, only to see Lucas being consumed by his own Aura’s rage due to his belief that he will always be useless and can never become strong enough to save Ness. Lucario then convinces Lucas that he isn’t useless, and how his trust in Lucario was what really saved him, not just his own physical strength. Lucas then starts crying tears of joy at finally hearing that he has been helpful, finally snapping Lucas out of his funk as well.
- In the Unlimited Blade Works route of Fate/stay night, during his fight with Archer Shirou synchronizes with his future self and sees a vision of his death, alone and unmourned. Shirou collapses at the realization that his ideal will kill him but recovers to finish the fight.
- In the Fate route Kotomine attempts to force Shirou to remember his life before the fire. The trauma of reliving the fire and the fragments of memories about his family nearly breaks Shirou's will to resist when Kotomine offers him the Grail.
- Shiki in Tsukihime when Arcueid disappears. Throughout the day he's in a state of total shock and numbness, merely going through the motions at school. He's only at school because it was less effort than dealing with Akiha if didn't. He gets better when after sitting alone waiting for a teacher for several hours, Roa and Arcueid show up and start fighting to the death.
- One of the girls of Tokimeki Memorial 2, Kaori Yae, starts the game in the middle of one. Once a Genki Girl, she has been horribly betrayed one year before by her friends of her former school, who ostracized her after she Took The Heat for them, and as a result, she has lost confidence in both herself and the others, has shut herself off from everyone in fear of being hurt again, and is in a depressive state. It'll take the player 2 years of patient care and love to finally give her the courage to confess her past and allow her to recover from her emotional wounds. And if the player fails to have her enough in love with him by that time, she'll resign from school and her fate will be unknown.
- Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai!:
- Wanko after losing via double KO in the tournament, thus having to give up on her dream.
- Miyako when Yamato decides to temporarily put their relationship on hold. In both this and the above example Cooldown Hugs are eventually involved.
- In the anime, Momoyo in episode 8 when during her heated battle against a cyborg opponent, one of the missiles fired by the opponent and deflected by her ends up hitting Yamato and putting him in a coma. She even lets out a Skyward Scream after seeing him in the ICU.
- Katawa Shoujo:
- Rin Tezuka slips into this state in her route, when she desperately tries to gain inspiration as the expectatives places on her art get bigger and bigger. At some point Hisao finds her almost naked in her atelier, barely lucid, after attempting to paint for many days straight
- Hanako Ikezawa suffers a massive one in her own route, when she learns that Lilly and Hisao are planning to give her a birthday party, not knowing that her b-day is actually a trigger for her due to her past. It's so bad that she completely shuts down in class and has to be taken into the infirmary. The next time we see her is in her room: she's a little more coherent, but still bed-ridden and teary.
- In Shizune's route, when Misha begs Hisao to "comfort" her for one night (which is basically cheating), she's actually in the middle of one of these. The poor girl is unable to handle her feelings about Hisao and Shizune dating anymore — because she's actually in love with Shizune, and the pain of seeing her date Hisao (whom she cares for as well) is way too much for her.
- Shizune has a terrible case of Heroic B.S.O.D. in her beta arc due to Misha's suicide. She stops going outside, stops talking to Hisao, and barely even eats. She ultimately ends up hospitalized due to dehydration and will die in the Bad End when she removes her IV.
- In the science fiction visual novel Bionic Heart, the android requesting the main character's help finally discovers why she possesses memories of the 21st century when she was created long after that time. Once she realizes her memories are the product of her having a real human brain, and that that brain was harvested from a serial killer, she snaps.
- In Little Busters!, this happens to Komari whenever she encounters death or blood, as this triggers her repressed memories of her sickly brother dying in her arms when she was young. By treating a nearby person as her brother instead she's able to repress them again and go on with her life, but this still leaves the trigger there. Only when Riki forces her to accept reality is she able to stop the cycle.
- Arguably happens to Rin too because in Refrain she is mentally unstable due to the tests in the previous Rin route and can't even be near Kengo and Masato and doesn't even go to the same school anymore she goes to a centre where all her classmates are younger than her.
- Doki Doki Literature Club! has an almost literal example. When the player walks in on Sayori after she hangs herself, the sight is so shocking that the game actually glitches out and the background turns into a Ren'py error message.
- The game tops itself at the end of Act Two, when Yuri stabs herself to death in front of the player. The protagonist freaks out so hard he is rendered catatonic for an entire weekend, only capable of staring dumbly at Yuri's decomposing corpse.
- Ace Attorney
- Phoenix Wright has one in the final case of Justice For All when he finds out that Maya has been kidnapped by Shelly de Killer in exchange for a Not Guilty verdict for Matt Engarde. He basically spends the entire case desperately trying to obtain said verdict at any cost, even when he knows that his client is guilty as sin. It takes Edgeworth reminding him of his duty as a defense attorney to knock sense into him. He's unable to tell anyone about the circumstances he's in, which results in the court audience angrily shouting that he's a scumbag as his tactics become ever more desperate. When he finds himself backed into a hole, he experiences his only Freak Out! in the series, in a creepily similar manner to the Villainous Breakdown his opponents usually suffer from. And no one knows why.
- In Trials and Tribulations, poor Phoenix undergoes another, this time when Dahlia Hawthorne taunts him with the knowledge that the reason he can't find Maya is because she's almost certainly dead. Cue him crying and shaking at his stand, repeating that Maya can't be dead.
- In Dual Destinies, Athena suffers a few BSODs. A good indication of it is her eyes going wide and her Expressive Accessory Widget shutting off. They occur in the first case, when Gaspen pushes her to a point of helplessness, the third case, when the true culprit deems her unfit to be a lawyer, and in the fifth case, when she's accused of killing her own mother, and later when a revelation occurs that makes it seem like that she really did kill her own mother.
- In Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Phoenix gets this when Maya dies. He was EXTREMELY close to punching Barnham.
- In Ace Attorney Investigations 2, Sebastian suffers from one as the culmination of his Humiliation Conga from the end of the fourth case into the fifth. After Blaise's henchmen kidnap him (by mistake) and leave him in his father's garage, he's left feeling like everything he's done was meaningless, and has no idea what to do with himself. It takes a very long pep talk/Logic Chess segment from Edgeworth to get him back on his feet.
- In Dangan Ronpa, several characters go through this in the series:
- Kiyotaka Ishimaru suffers a massive one after finding out that Mondo Owada is outed out as Chihiro Fujisaki's killer and his subsequent execution. It's so bad that it borders on Despair Event Horizon-crossing, until Alter Ego snaps out of his funk by mixing his essence with Owada's soul and he becomes a new personality called Ishida.
- Byakuya Togami has one when he's being told by Junko Enoshima that the rest of his family has kicked it. Averted in the end when he refuses to give in to despair and instead focuses on honoring and restoring the Togami family.
- In Super Dangan Ronpa 2, the five surviving students goes through this when they find out that they are the remnants of SHSL Despair, but especially Hajime Hinata, whose actions as "Izuru Kamukura" caused the deaths of his classmates and the game's entire events in the first place. And if he pulls the plug on the program as Naegi intends to, he will revert to his "Izuru Kamukura" identity.