Screamers, or scary flash pranks that unexpectedly jump out at the viewer, have been around since at least 2002, and they're still going strong today; especially that Scary Maze Game. How has such a simple premise managed to stand the test of time? Let's take a look at the evolution of the Screamer meme to find out.
Screamer: Optical Illusions
One of the first screamers that I personally remember coming across was this "Optical Illusions" game from the Sabotage series on Liquid Generation in 2002. Google wasn't quite tracking your every move just yet, so finding out precisely where these "make you pee yourself" bait-and-switch games originated is difficult. It's likely that there were few early on, because there's no shortage of screamers from 2003.
Albino Black Sheep Color Deficiency Test
The Color Deficiency Test by VSU is a popular classic from 2003. Albino Black Sheep still has a nice gallery of classic prank flashes, including the infamous What's Wrong With This Picture.
Screamer Kikia
Screamers went international almost immediately. Kikia , a Chinese flash, begins as a beautiful story about a child pondering life. Don't worry: I won't give away the ending.
Scary Maze Game
The most well known of the screamer genre, The Scary Maze Game where Linda Blair makes you pee yourself was created by Winterrowd in 2003 and is still the most popular example of its kind today.
Lots of imitators soon followed, like the Britney Spears striptease maze game first posted to the site Extreme Funny Pictures in 2003. (Britney was the bait, not the punishment.) Today, EFP is still around, with almost the exact same game, now teasing with Katy Perry.
Maze Game Popularity Graph
The same prank, refined.
Today, the screamer art form has matured a bit. The old classics have become the subject of parody in this Scary Screamer Game from Newgrounds user Mikko69. Although the premise is being satirized, the genuine article hasn't fallen out of practice. A common place where a person might be tricked into clicking a screamer is when closely studying a "When You See it, You'll Sh*t Bricks" image, straining to find out what's wrong with an image, only to find the familiar old hellspawn making your speakers crackle. (protip: before staring long and hard at an image, check if it's actually a JPG and not an SWF.)
Even though this all began with Flash, there are plenty of screamer apps for the iPhone. Sticking with what works, Scary App from Cyoshi Games begins as a ball maze, but the challenging tilt control is thereal clincher. Not only is tilt control the kind of feature one would expect from a modern game, but watching your friend focus intently on keeping a steady hand makes the delivery that much more satisfying.
Scary App iPhone Description
The Looks on Their Faces
One of the first lessons we teach our children is the importance of sharing. As such, the web as we know it today is all about facilitating that. But scare pranks are best shared the old-fashioned way: in person so that you can savor the look on your victim's face.