When you play old games, especially platformers, a common "special effect" is rapid blinking of your character when they are hit. Also, enemies often blinked before dying. Not all games did this, but it was very common, to the point in practically became a trope, and today many games that aim for the "pixelart" look also emulate this.
To me, this effect has always seemed quite jarring, like the system is kinda malfunctioning; or is being forced to do what it's not supposed to do, and this is a side-effect.
So, why was this so widespread? Was it simply because it was easier to do than anything else (and, you know, limited hardware of the day), or was it something else?