Ah, the Easter egg. It’s become almost a staple of modern gaming. For those of you that don’t know, an Easter egg is described as a message, item, graphic or sound effect that can be found in-game that can sometimes offer the player an advantage, but generally is for their amusement. Easter eggs have earned their spot in video game lore, as gamers are enticed to discover the intricacies behind these special secrets, and their relationship to not only the gaming environment, but the real world in certain cases as well. Below are some examples of some of the most notable Easter eggs that I have encountered throughout my gaming career:
Ok, so technically, I wasn’t born yet to experience to play this game in its entirety, but I think that it’s on appropriate to acknowledge this game as the birth of the Easter egg. This all stemmed from a disgruntled employee of Atari, Warren Robinett. At the time, Atari had no faith in Warren, and even when he went on to create the seventh best-selling Atari 2600 game of all time, they still refused to give him credit for producing the game. What Atari didn’t count on was Warren deciding to add his own name into the game as a producer credit, regardless of how Atari felt. Hiding his name into the code of the game, and making it accessible only through the most abstract of means, Warren had inadvertently created the first Easter egg, and began a trend that would transcend through all generations of gaming.
One of the more famous secrets to be found in a game, Reptile was an Easter egg that many players first stumbled upon at random in arcades, and eventually at home. Players were required to win two flawless victories on the pit stage (without blocking as well), with the second victory coming from a stage fatality. This all had to be done with a silhouette passing in front of the moon, which would happen only once every 8 times the stage was played on. Player found a lot of satisfaction in finally figuring out how to fight against Reptile (the home versions of the game included hints from Reptile himself on how to fight him), and he became so popular that he has been a regular character in the Mortal Kombat franchise since his inception.
Chris Houlihan Room (1991)
Another well-known Easter egg from the same era of gaming is perhaps one of the most famous of all time. For those who don’t know, Chris Houlihan was the winner of a 1990 Nintendo Power magazine contest, which allowed for his name to be put into the new Zelda game, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It was a dream come true for any child who was a fan of video games during that generation. Unfortunately for Chris, the only way to see his name was to abuse a glitch in the game. You had to run so fast that you skipped the screen you were meant to go to, and instead ended up in the Chris Houlihan room. In fact, the room largely remained hidden until emulation became available for the SNES, which allowed hackers to discover the room. Truly, it was one of the most well hidden Easter eggs in the history of gaming.
The Ice Key (1998)
Banjo Kazooie was a sleeper hit back on the N64, and also had its fair share of Easter eggs. After hackers were able to break into the code of the game, they discovered that there were a slew of hidden items in the game. However, the evidence of hidden content in the game was confirmed by the Ice Key in Wozza’s cave, which sat in plain view of the player, albeit behind an impenetrable wall of ice. This infuriated players, as it was obvious that the key could be collected, but there was no way of obtaining it. Once again, hackers managed to get into the files of the game to reveal a method to unlock not only the Ice Key, but also 6 coloured eggs. The real mystery behind these items was that they served no real purpose. They were supposed to be implemented for the rumoured ‘Stop n Swop’ feature, but when that was scrapped the items became useless, which led to wild speculation to the true purpose of the items. The items gained such notoriety that they were implemented in the sequel with an actual purpose.
No Easter Eggs Sign (2004)
At the time, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was heralded as the greatest game of its generation. For anyone that played the game, it was hard to find anything to fault it. It was a perfect mix of free-roaming mission structured gameplay that involved a wide variety of tasks in a truly enveloping game world. As such, Rockstar inserted a huge number of Easter eggs into the game, as a reward for the player who was willing to explore it to its very depths. One of my favourites was located on top of the bridge joining San Fierro and Las Venturas. If a player managed to get up there, they would find a sign stating, ‘There are no Easter eggs up here. Go away’. It was a legitimate laugh out loud moment for me, and made me appreciate the effort that developers put in to try and give the players extra content to find in their games.
As I stated before, Easter eggs have become so embedded into gaming culture that gamers expect them to be included in everything that they play. However, what is the true purpose of an Easter egg in a game? Personally, I think that it’s their way of saying thank you to the gamer for bothering to explore their creation. As gamers, we don’t fully realise how much work goes into developing what we love, so for those of us that try to get the most out of our games, we are aptly rewarded. Do yourself a favour, and go on an Easter egg hunt through your favourite game this weekend. The developer that made that game will appreciate you effort to fully discover their game, whilst you will feel a sense of achievement for uncovering the hidden secrets of your games.
Happy Easter everyone.