Horror games, you say? Feh, hardware can be scary too. One time I turned on a power supply and it literally went up in a cloud of smoke. Last year I cut my hand on a CPU cooler radiator. And did you see how dusty my PC was before I cleaned it? That’s basically body horror.
Apparently ignorant of their products’ ability to frighten and maim, PC gaming hardware makers sometimes try to manufacture an imposing aura by giving them big, bad names. You’ve probably seen these already: keyboards named after swords, laptops christened as mythical animals and the like. But some go full spooky, consulting the Halloween kids’ costume pantheon of creatures and creepers. Is an eerie moniker enough to strike fear, even before it has the chance to cause minor injuries or force you into a tedious warranty replacement process? Let’s find out.
AMD Wraith coolers
Ghost and ghost-adjacent names are usually pretty good matches for CPU coolers. Most ghosts are, allegedly, cold and quiet: both qualities you’d expect and demand from a cooler, even dinkier ones like AMD’s Wraith series.
However, ‘Wraith’ specifically? Not so great. Wraiths are vengeful spirits – again, allegedly – which means they’re more of a ‘haunt you into insanity’ kind of undead than cheerful Casper types. And such haunting would be hard to do if they kept quiet instead of tormenting your to your face, the big incorporeal jerks. All this name suggests to me is that if I use a Wraith cooler, it will boil my CPU rather than cool it, or spin the fan so fast it breaks off and lodges itself into a nearby ancestral portrait of a relative that looks exactly like me. To conclude: scary, but not for the right reasons.
PowerColor Red Devil graphics cards
Unfortunately these have the same issue as the AMD Wraith series: a name that invokes power (yay) but connotes qualities that are nevertheless undesirable for a computer component (boo). Once again you can see what they were thinking, as devils are tough and powerful, so a graphics card named after one must be tough and powerful too. There’s never been a Radeon RX 6600 XT Fluffy Cloud or a GeForce RTX 3070 Koala Bear, after all.
Still, ‘Red Devil’ makes me think of two two things in particular: Satan, and the football club Manchester United. Which means this graphics card is either going to be far too hot and smell of sulphur, or will spend every Sunday afternoon and occasional Thursday night disappointing me.
3dfx Voodoo Banshee AGP
This is more like it. A combination of vaguely spooky nouns with so little else in common that’s impossible to overthink a drawback to it, applied to a graphics card with only one small fan, opening up for a laboured joke about screaming and loudness. And what a card it was: built on a 350nm process, the Voodoo Banshee could tap into 16MB of memory and boasted a widowmaking 100MHz clock speed.
3dfx probably thought this would have Nvidia, Matrox, and the rest of the 1998 graphics scene covering their ears. Alas, the Voodoo Banshee was met with mixed reviews, and by the end of 1999 had effectively been replaced by the far less interestingly-titled Voodoo Velocity line. As an example of Halloween-worthy branding, however, the Voodoo Banshee remains one of the industry’s better attempts.
Razer BlackWidow keyboards
There’s no shortage of needlessly aggressive Razer names to choose from, as they mostly insist on borrowing from deadly animals. Not even cool, fictional ones either – think real-life bastards like snakes, sharks, and insects. It came down to the BlackWidow or DeathStalker for inclusion on this list, the former winning out because it’s a spider, and I’ve never seen felt scorpions in the seasonal decorations aisle at Sainsbury’s.
They get flack sometimes but I generally like a Razer keyboard, including recent models like the BlackWidow V3, though this is another case of a creature/product mismatch. Black widow spiders are small, light, and almost never actually release their venom when biting humans; mechanical keyboards are big, heavy, and could totally kill someone if you slathered neurotoxin all over the WASD keys.
Still, I’m gonna give Razer a spookiness point here for completing the full set: it’s a real animal, that’s still somewhat scary, and is appropriate to this time of year. More so than a scorpion, anyway.
Intel NUC Beast Canyon
Okay, forget the name for a sec. See that skull? That’s Halloween. That is proper, unequivocal, October 31st, fun size Milky Way-grade iconography, and earns Intel NUC systems our attention even if it may just be a reference them being ‘barebones’ PCs. If it is, I only just got it. Don’t laugh at me.
Anyhow, Beast Canyon is a relatively recent generation of these mini PCs, which are something of a halfway point between laptop and desktop where you supply the graphics card yourself. Yet again, it’s a name that arguably flatters the hardware – actual and/or mythical beasts are unlikely be as concerned with minimising desk space footprints or removing fan noise, as the typical NUC enthusiasts might be – but at least ‘Beast Canyon’ has a certain unsettling, unknowable quality to it. What kind of beasts are we talking? How wide is the canyon? Are there hiding places? Sounds rough, I’m out.