With this past generation, the most terrifying thing console owners could see was a small red or yellow light that meant their several hundred dollar console was dead.
Without a doubt, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 are amazingly complex pieces of hardware—each a powerful computer shoved into a tiny box. Unfortunately, as it turned out, the original versions of these consoles proved to be more than a little prone to overheating.
When one of these systems gets too hot—usually after years of use—the solders that attach the CPU and/or GPU to the motherboard melt and break the connection. This causes the system to no longer be able to boot up.
On the Xbox 360 this break in connection is indicated by the green ring on the power button turning red—hence the colorful name “Red Ring of Death” (or RRoD for short). On the PS3, you get the flash of a yellow light before the system automatically turns itself off—hence the name “Yellow Light of Death” (aka the YLoD).
I have had personal experience with these soul-shattering lights and let me tell you, there is hardly a worse feeling when you realize that your precious game system is now little more than a large, ugly paperweight. Worse yet was the moment I realized all my saved games from years of play were seemingly gone for good.