Yes, we’re finely tuned coding machines. Some call us nerds. But we have a sense of humor, you know?
Very long pause…
Developers like to have a little joke, too. And with the shelves of my local Target spilling with bunnies, baskets, and candy, it got me thinking about Easter eggs. Not the chocolaty-goodness kind; the media kind. Easter eggs are the sweet extra features, messages, gags or artwork hidden in plain sight in any work of media — from websites to movies to games to software.
While most Easter eggs are good for a quick laugh and a little procrastination, the best eggs are a way for brands to connect with audiences on a different level. Done well, they are an opportunity to move beyond the standard narrative and predictable user experience to create a surprising, playful interaction that connects, shows personality, and builds brand loyalty.
There are plenty of sites dedicated to documenting ALL the Easter eggs, but, just for fun, here are 10 classic Easter eggs, straight from the memory banks of my brain.
The origins of the Easter egg phenomenon are murky. HOWEVER, it is rumored that on the set of the Rocky Horror Show the crew had a literal Easter egg hunt for cast members (because of course they did!). Not all the eggs were found though, and some made it into the final frames. Fans of the show now search for the hidden easter eggs in the movie, and this may be what coined the term “Easter egg.”
After the game Adventure was distributed, players alerted Atari of a secret message hidden in the Black Castle Catacombs area. The message simply read “created by Warren Robinett.” So what, right? But back in the 70s, Atari didn’t credit its programmers, so this was Warren’s self-referential protest to his employers and a way to gain recognition. That recognition turned to fame, as Warren became the first ever known creator of a video gaming Easter egg.
This Easter egg actually predates Atari’s Adventure game, but was only discovered in 2004, making it one of the longest hidden eggs ever. Like Adventure, one of the programmers hid their name in the game. A rather complicated 3-step process creates an indestructible obstacle in the middle of the playing field spelling out “Reid-Selth.” Nice one, Reid.
NBA Jam Tournament Edition. For those who played it in the mid-90s, just mere mention of its name will put a smile on your face. The roster of real-life players was thrilling, but secret codes could take things to a whole new level with the introduction of 40 extra characters including Philly’s own Jazzy Jeff, Will Smith and Randall Cunningham. Bill Clinton dribbling past Hilary, and Prince Charles slam-dunking. Take me back!
One of the longest running Easter eggs was started by California Institute of the Arts alumni. A113 refers to the classroom many pioneering graphic design and character animation students used; many of whom went on to have massive, influential careers in TV and movies. You can find the characters “A113” EVERYWHERE from The Simpsons to The Hunger Games. If you have 11 minutes to spare, here’s every single egg from Chief Creative Officer of Pixar, John Lasseter, including a bunch of references to his old study room.
Back in the early 2000’s homestarunner.com gave fans an opportunity to look for new Easter eggs each week. Strongbad Emails (AKA sbemails) featured several eggs at the end of each of their weekly cartoons It also popularized the mouse-over Easter egg where the mouse curser changed when it was hovering over an Easter egg.
Overall, Easter eggs are playful. So it’s no surprise that a company like Google is responsible for hundreds of elaborate eggs across dozens of different products. And by elaborate, I mean they build entire, fully functioning video games. For example, if you go to Google image search and type “atari breakout” it turns the search result into the classic arcade game.
While not technically an Easter egg, many artists and programmers have secretly slipped 1980s mega munching arcade hero PacMan into their work. Google’s done it at least twice, once on PacMan’s 30th birthday and another time in Google Maps. References to the game are also found in the popular Elder’s Scrolls game Skyrim, and also had a brief cameo in the sci-fi classic Tron.
If you were surfing the Internet circa 2008 and found something that was too good to be true, chances are you were about to be “Rick-Rolled.” No one was safe. Clicking on a link to what you thought was the official trailer for a Legend of Zelda movie brought you red-headed Rick and his 1987 wonder hit, leaving you wishing it had just been a broken link instead. Haha, get it? Zelda. A broken Link. HA!