This article (own work) was originally published in the gaming magazine 2old2play. Read other articles

For many a year now, game developers have been meddling with our games and placing Easter eggs in them. No, I don’t mean hollow chocolate eggs or rabbit ears; I mean virtual, hidden secrets inside our games. What else would a bored developer or team do other than hide messages, objects or special features in the games which we enjoy.

In video games, we refer to any occurrence in a game, which was programmed into the game by the developer, although is not readily accessible to players without entering a cheat, performing a special action or task, as a hidden Easter egg.

These hidden secrets are commonly referred to as Easter eggs, as once in our youth we were all eager to hunt for and find chocolate Easter eggs. Some, although not all gamers have a passion for finishing a game and getting 100% completion, unlocking that last character or collecting every item. It is these gamers, which hunt for these secrets in games, hence the title Easter eggs.

The action game Adventure (1978) for the Atari2600 was one of the earliest video games to feature a hidden Easter egg. By following a one pixel dot and leading it into a secret room, the hidden message, “Created by Warren Robinett” appeared. While not the first hidden Easter egg in media, this is believed to have been the first in a video game.

While most Easter eggs in games are usually a laugh or two to implement for the development team, not all Easter eggs have that same impact on companies. Sim Copter, released in 1996 by Maxis and Electronic Arts could be seen as the having the most controversial Easter egg in the past decade. One programmer, Jacques Servin who was working on the game obviously got bored, inspired or was just downright naughty and added unauthorized code to the final game. Sim Copter shipped with Servin’s code, with neither Maxis nor EA Games knowing. It was only days later when some players reported seeing males in swim trunks walking around kissing each other that heads were turned at Maxis. Servin had created an unauthorized Easter egg, where male people would kiss each other on certain days of the year. “I did it only partly because I thought it was a good idea, and a funny thing that would amuse a lot of people” - Jacques Servin. Needless to say, the game was recalled and Servin was fired.

Another good game by Maxis, which never received the recognition owing to it, was Theme Hospital. Even this great little game had an Easter egg in it. If you placed several staff members in an unoccupied part of your hospital and then trapped them in there by blocking their exits (with seats, etc) and firing them, interesting things would start to occur. Doctors would turn into headless females. Nurses would turn into headless males. Receptionists would turn into elves, and handymen would turn into people with the condition hairyitis, and require electrolysis.

Jamie Griesmer, an employee working with the Halo development team implemented the above Easter egg. Although this egg was never supposed to be released for public viewing, and was a private present to his girlfriend. A bullet lined “M” (the first letter of his girlfriends name) could be found on a red blood spattered background on the ceiling of a hidden room. Why this is a nice Easter egg to look at, it also contained a lot of consideration by the development team, and required you to complete no less than 20 complex steps to find it. Subtle hints were also “leaked” out onto forums, and several years ago now, a massive hunt began to find this Easter egg which is now so commonly referred to as ‘The Megg.’

The Megg Easter Egg leads us to ask the question of whether Easter eggs can be used as a marketing strategy. The Megg Easter egg is Halo, created a frenzy on forums, with races to try and be the first to find The Megg, and everyone wanted to see the Easter egg which was causing so much interest. Easter eggs generate interest in a game, for they make the player think as if they have found something which is rare, basically something that not your average run of the mill player would find or see, and something which may make that hardcore gamer feel enlightened. Hidden Easter eggs can defiantly be used as a post release marketing tool, with subtle hints given by game developers. Add in cash prizes to the first gamers to find these hidden Easter eggs, and you’ve got yourself a race and some great, cheap publicity.

Popular Easter Eggs

Halo 2 Eggs:
#1 Start a new game, and then proceed to load a previously saved game ten times. What occurs is unusual to say the least.
#2 In Zanzibar an interesting message can be read on a blue computer screen running Windows.
#3 Play as the Arbiter in single mode for the first time and enter the elevator surrounded by Floods. On the Flood spattered walls, you will be able to see the initials J.S., which represent Joseph Staten, one of the employees from the development team.

Original Zoo Tycoon Eggs:
#1 On the 31st of October, a witch will visit your Zoo, and a cackle sound effect will be heard. On the 25th December a bell sound effect is heard and Father Christmas is seen visiting your zoo. A plane will also fly over your zoo approximately once a year advertising Blue Fang, the company behind the original Zoo Tycoon.
#2 Rename a male visitor "Zeta Psi" and all males tops will turn yellow. They will also begin vomiting in your zoo.
#3 If you have the Marine Mania expansion pack, place a mermaid statue underwater and the mermaid will come to life and swim about. You can also purchase a snowman for your zoo exclusively on the 25th December.

Word of Warcraft Eggs:
World of Warcraft is one game with a lot of Easter eggs, ranging from pet chickens to NPC jokes, although for many it’s a long, hard process to access them. World of Warcraft also has hidden references to Bruce Campbell, Bob Dylan, and video games. References to the following video games can be found in World of Warcraft:

- Diablo 1 and II
- Mortal Kombat
- Donkey Dong
- Ultima, Ultima Online
- Fable
- Starcraft
- Super Mario Bros

Almost all games now days have an Easter egg, whether it is as simple as the initials of a developer hidden in the game, or hidden mini games, almost every game has one or more? Why, simply because they are either fun to find or fun to see if they are true and actually do work.

As for the future of Easter egg or two and it is unlikely there will be any stopping of them in the coming future, with most being relatively easy to code and implement, and providing fun for not only the player, but also the development team. While usually supplying a moment of light humored fun, hidden Easter eggs can be potential security threats, as was shown when Jacques Servin implemented unauthorized code into Sim Copter. While most Easter eggs are relatively harmless, there is always the potential for malicious or unwanted code to be added. Imagine if another bored, overworked employee decided to implement another so called Easter egg with malicious code. With unauthorized and often untested code, there is more than likely the chance that something will go wrong.

First Easter Egg 
The first Easter egg in Atari’s Adventure.

The
The "Megg" in Halo.


This article (own work) was originally published in the gaming magazine 2old2play. Read other articles