(KXNET) — Just because this gaming column differs from the usual fare on KX News doesn’t mean that there isn’t a way to tie it into the season. With today being Easter, there’s no better time to discuss an often-overlooked but much-enjoyed staple of video games over the years — appropriately known as ‘Easter Eggs.’
As the name would imply, an Easter Egg, in video game terms, is a secret feature placed inside a game that is usually hidden from the public eye until it is discovered by the players, often as a strange occurrence or joke from the game’s developers. And much like the treats inside a plastic egg, they can come in all forms, from extra imagery to voice lines, references to other shows and games, or even hints at what may lie further into the game or franchise. They’re distanced from the likes of cheat codes, anti-piracy measures, and bonus collectibles because while amusing, many Easter Eggs have little to no effect on the source material.
While they’re never essential to enjoying the main story or experience of the game, many people always enjoy hunting these special features down — as they can range from entertaining to intriguing, and at times can even change the game itself. They’re so popular, in fact, that they have spread to more than just video games, and many different websites and programs also have their own built-in secrets. But where did the trend of hiding these begin, and how far have they come in modern times?
Many believe that the first ‘Easter Egg’ to be placed in a video game dates all the way back to the 1970s and the first home gaming consoles. As the story goes, Atari programmer Warren Robinett was upset by the fact that the company denied crediting those who worked on their video games. While programming the aptly named game Adventure for the Atari 2600, he created a secret room (only accessible by a complex method) that featured the words ‘Created by Warren Robinett’, after being inspired by rumors of hidden messages in Beatles songs. In a later interview in 2015, the programmer noted that this was also designed as a sort of unofficial self-promotion — as Atari was paying very little in terms of royalties, and their policy to not credit programmers meant that they could not attempt negotiations or be scouted by other companies.
While this was eventually discovered after Robinett left Atari, the organization eventually decided to keep the message in the game, with Atari’s director of software development for their Consumer Division arguing that secrets like this encouraged players to continue exploring their games, and compared them to Easter eggs for them to find — thus coining the term that is used today to refer to in-game secrets. To this day, all reissues of Adventure (aside from one) still feature Robinett’s hidden room.
Since then, Easter Eggs have become far more than simple developer credits, and games of all sorts feature them in varying forms. Here’s a quick overview of some of the more unusual forms of Easter Eggs, as well as a few of our favorite examples of them.
Plenty of programmers are fans of things other than the work they’re currently doing — and when there’s no limit to what can be kept and hidden in a game, there are always ways to squeeze in characters or references to other games, books, movies, or anything that may be amusing. This can take many forms, but the most intriguing is when characters from other franchises make their way into the game at hand. For example, venturing into Mingende Jungle in Dead Island can force the player to cross paths with a survivor by the name of Jason — who takes after the famous serial killer from the Friday the 13th series, sporting a hockey mask, a machete, a superhuman level of strength and endurance, and even the ability to revive himself after death.
References don’t have to be out of anywhere, though franchises and companies have often included characters under their ownership in completely unrelated games. In the classic, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, angling the camera to a certain area in Hyrule Castle will reveal portraits of Mario and Bowser — who are the stars of their own wildly popular Nintendo series (and share the same creator as The Legend of Zelda).
Many have heard of the idea of a ‘self-insert character’ — one that is meant to be a stand-in for a real-life individual in their own work. Rarer than these, though, are times that the developers will actively write their own building or staff members into the game — however, they still show up from time to time, and have become a class of Easter Egg all their own.
The most widely known and perplexing of these is one that frequently appears throughout the Pokemon franchise. In many games, a player can actually visit the headquarters of Game Freak (one of the companies which share ownership of The Pokemon Company), where they can meet characters representing the franchise’s directors, animators, and designers — as well as receive rewards for their hard work and even battle veteran employees.
The most famous of these cameos is Morimoto — who has worked with the franchise since the earliest games, and is often one of the strongest opponents a Trainer can face in the games he appears in. In Pokemon Sun and Moon, he will even mention behind-the-scenes information about the early games, and reveal behind-the-scenes information about some of the Pokemon he designed (including Mankey, Tauros, and Mew from the original series) should you bring one with a special mark to him.
More often than not, video game Easter Eggs aren’t meant to hint at or suggest major aspects of the game — but every so often, one comes along which serves to offer a taste of what is to come, either down the path soon or in the far future. While these are few and far between, they can not only serve to paint a more diverse picture of the events leading up to or about to occur in a game universe. Sometimes, however, they can even be a teaser for an entirely new project.
2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum (which featured a dark, atmospheric version of the superhero resulting in the deaths and injuries of both heroes and villains) possesses perhaps one of the most famous instances of this kind of Easter Egg. By blowing up a wall in the Warden’s Office, players can come face to face with what appear to be plans for a massive, city-sized prison in a secret room, complete with concept art and a stamp of approval. While this is not referenced in the game itself, 2011 saw the release of Arkham City — a sequel that dropped Batman into such a location. It would appear that the idea was in production long before the game was made a reality.
This wouldn’t be the only time the Batman series of games would have a story-spoiling Easter Egg, though. Arkham City brought its own unexpected secret in the form of a truly unexpected quote from date-obsessed villain Calendar Man. Typically in the game, players can access special dialogue from the villain by setting the console’s internal clock to certain days in 2012 (including Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day, as well as more unexpected dates like Labor Day or the Feast Day of St. Roch in August). There was even an achievement for stopping by to see him once a month to learn about his themed crimes. However, years after Arkham City was released, it was discovered that he had one more speech that slipped by most players.
By setting the date of your console’s internal clock to the date Rocksteady was founded (December 13, 2004), one can unlock a secret speech from Calendar Man — one that both parallels the company’s growth and hints at a major plot point from the next game in the series. This slipped under the radar for years, and only came to the public’s attention in 2014 after a mysterious video highlighting it surfaced on the internet — one that was actually put out by Rocksteady themselves.
if you’re looking for a video game secret that’s fitting to the season, don’t worry: KX News has you covered — at least if you own a copy of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
With a game franchise such as GTA, which is known for its massive open worlds, it only stands to reason that there are plenty of secrets to be found lurking across the map — including sharks, sunken submarines, a guest appearance by the Village People (almost), and a replica of the apartment from Scarface. However, if you’re hoping to find a secret in the spirit of the season, you’ll want to make your way to the roof of the 8-10 VCN News Building. After jumping towards a cream-colored building from the roof, you’ll phase into the wall, and come face-to-face with…
Surprise! It’s an Easter Egg in both the figurative and literal sense. As an added layer to the joke, paying a visit to the other game set in the same area (GTA: Vice City Stories) not only brings the return of the Easter Egg located in the exact same spot but features it ‘under construction’, fitting as the game takes place before the original Vice City.
There are many secrets in games that have taken on lives of their own, but those are stories for another day. The next time you’re playing your favorite game, take a closer look at the backgrounds, hidden passages, and any out-of-the-ordinary objects you might come across. They could very well be an Easter Egg ready for you to discover.
Have you ever encountered an Easter Egg in one of your favorite video games? What’s your favorite unexpected reference or spoiler from a game, website, or piece of software? Be sure to let us know on Facebook!