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    What do Easter eggs do in video games?


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    What do Easter eggs do in video games?

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    Little surprises hidden in video games are called Easter eggs. Some gamers only find them by chance, others specifically search for the most original gags. Patrick Becher from the Hamburg Retro Games Club explains what lies behind this peculiarity of gaming culture.

    Funny, subtle, crazy, absurd: Easter eggs are everything but boring. We are not talking about painted or unpainted chicken eggs, nor about eggs made from chocolate, sugar foam or jelly. The question is not whether the chicken was there before, in this case you can actually rule that out. Because it's about virtual surprises that are hidden in games.

    Patrick Becher knows his stuff: He runs the Retro Games Club in Hamburg, a museum in which all sorts of games from the last 50 years can be played on the computers and consoles on display. And he regularly speaks to game developers in the “Retrokompott” podcast. Here he explains what the phenomenon is all about.

    In which game does an Easter egg appear for the first time?

    Patrick Becher: “Pretty clear. That must have been the case with the Atari 2600 game “Adventure” in 1979. When you performed certain movement sequences, you could open a secret room. And then you saw the name of the developer: Warren Robinett.

    What's the point of all this?

    So with the first Easter eggs it's easy to explain. At that time, programmers were not allowed to leave their names in games. There were no official credits like today, when you can see who was involved in films and games. The manufacturers were probably afraid that programmers would be poached if their names could be seen in games. And that is why the names of the developers could not or should not be revealed.

    Warren Robinett's Easter Egg was discovered at some point, of course, but by then it was no longer with Atari. But you could no longer remove his name. It would have been too expensive to redo all the modules again. And then the opinion quickly prevailed in the software departments that it would be a nice idea if people could leave their signature there.

    Shortly after the first Easter Egg, it was tolerated or even desired for programmers to incorporate something like that. Today it's more of a joke, I would say. So today Easter eggs are being incorporated to cheer people up.

    What are other well-known examples of Easter eggs?

    Mug: There are Easter eggs that are activated automatically, for example at a certain time or at a certain time of year. And there are the Easter eggs, which, like back in “Adventure,” you have to look at like an Easter egg that has to be found.

    The latter can be found, for example, in “The Secret of Monkey Island” (1990): At one point it is pointed out that you should please insert disk 22 and then the user notices that the disk does not exist at all.

    The game has fewer disks and the more you play around with it, the higher the disk number becomes. And at some point the character looks at you and says: “You won't find her.” According to the motto: The part hasn't even been programmed yet. I found that very entertaining.

    You can also find something in “Diablo II” (2000): If certain collected items are combined, demonic cows swinging axes appear completely absurd. And in “GTA V” (2013) you can take a drug that turns you into a chicken. And then you actually continue playing as a chicken.

    And then, as I said, on the other hand there are the Easter eggs, which are based on time or date. There are beautiful things about a very old game. It's called “Little Computer People” (1985). For example, Christmas songs are played at Christmas time when the main character sits down at the piano. And a quiz game that many remember is called “You Don't Know Jack” (1995), where the quiz master asks the questions differently depending on the setting and date.

    So there are really funny things and you can even find Easter eggs in applications. There is a flight simulator in Excel 97, very few people know that. And something you can always try out is Google. The search engine is full of Easter eggs. For example, you can play Pacman if you type “Pacman”, or you can do completely absurd things: If you type the English sentence “Do a barrel roll”, the screen rotates.

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