Easter Eggs

After realizing that, if one clicks on the appropriate place at the appropriate time in the electronic work “RedRidingHood” by Donna Leishman, one can uncover a journal that fleshes out Red Riding Hood and the Wolf’s relationship, I began to look more into Easter eggs, particularly in video games.

An Easter egg, in regards to video games, is a special feature or image that is hidden within the game, only to be uncovered if one performs a specific action or series of actions (or, in some cases, just happens to have a keen eye).

I have concluded that Easter eggs have about four primary purposes:

  1. to open a mini-game or series of mini-games
  2. to alter or enhance game play
  3. to lend an inside joke or general bit of humor to the game, and/or
  4. to just generally confuse players.

 

1. In Left 4 Dead 2, a popular first-person shooter game, there are several mini-game Easter eggs that can be found in the Dark Carnival campaign. Two of the Easter eggs are simply typical, carnival-style games — a strong man test and a whack-a-mole game — that offer player achievements, but often go entirely unnoticed by many players, who assume the games to be non-interactive features of the setting.

“Are You Stronger Than Mustachio?”

The more major mini-game is called “Rescue Gnome Chompski” and involves a player winning a carnival shooting game to earn a garden gnome statue, which he or she will then have to carry throughout the rest of the campaign in place of a weapon. As I said, all of these mini-games will grant players achievements, but their purpose is greater than that: like the mini-games of old, such as the pipe-games in “Super Mario World” and hidden switches in “Kirby’s Adventure,” these Easter eggs exist to break up potential monotony and introduce level variety, especially for players who have played the campaign before.

“Rescue Gnome Chompski”

2. Another common type of Easter egg  is the one that will, in some way, alter the game. Some alteration Easter eggs simply change the costumes or overall appearances of the character, while others directly affect a player’s gaming  experience. In the mythological game “God of War II,” for example, there is a silly, little Easter Egg called “Cod of War” that can be unlocked by simply finishing the game, which allows the player to play the game again in a giant fish suit. It should be mentioned that the suit comes with a pair of giant fish hook weapons and doubles the value of any orbs that Kratos collects.

“Cod of War”

Similarly, in the Japanese horror game “Silent Hill 3,” a player can transform into Princess Heart by simply typing “Princess Heart” into the costume typewriter. The costume allows the wearer to run long distances without tiring and, should the player beat 333 or more monsters, will provide the power “Sexy Beam,” a special power-up that includes heat-seeking lasers and laser vision.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwVr_MRkq2Y[/youtube]

The primary purpose of these Easter eggs is to add fun to often dark games and act as incentive for players to further explore maps and pay more attention to details, so that they might increase certain skills or develop new abilities that will enhance overall game play.

3. Humorous Easter eggs are perhaps the most popular type of Easter egg. Unlike the previous, humorous Easter eggs don’t usually add anything to game play, other than a laugh. For example, in Saints Row 2, riding a jet ski to various islands in a specific pattern and pressing Y can result in the emergence of a giant, pink bunny rabbit.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EavLc3WIUgo[/youtube]

Similarly, if one were to enter a certain chamber in Gears of War 2 and break open a certain block, at a certain point in the dialogue, one would uncover a weird, purplish toaster out of which smoking toast pops.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZ73YHx15jA[/youtube]

Some funny Easter eggs can simply be found by paying attention to details — for example, in “Left for Dead,” there’s box of cereal titled “Orange Box” (a video game compilation by Microsoft)  lying on a kitchen counter, and, in the X-Men Origins: Wolverine game, the player can climb through various portals to uncover an achievement called “The Cake” (a reference to the video game “Portal”).

4. Finally, there are the Easter eggs that no one truly understands. They don’t change game play in any way, but aren’t quirky nods to other games or funny inclusions, either… They’re just there and are often genuinely creepy. A prime example of this can be found in “Halo 3,”  where, on the first playable level, on a somewhat remote ledge, sits a still family of monkey-people.

In “Hitman: Contracts,” going through the closed wing of a hotel and walking through a crime scene can result in a player’s finding of a bath tub full of blood and a eerie ghost in a bathroom mirror, despite the fact that the game itself is in no way supernatural and none of this is ever explained.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_z7AZR2euo[/youtube]

In conclusion, by researching Easter eggs, I’ve come to pay more attention to the smaller details of video games upon which designers work so hard in the hopes of uncovering more hidden content, and have thus developed an appreciation for the know-how, energy, and effort (and humor) that is truly put into the creation of this interesting branch of electronic literature.

Thus, if you have recently completed a game and see little purpose in playing it again, I recommend going back at least one more time with a keener eye to uncover some worthwhile (or just bizarre) features.

  2 comments for “Easter Eggs

  1. February 19, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Easter Eggs are good stuff, and this is a nice overview. I think Category 4 might be my favorite because of how creepy they are.

    I’d add another type, though, which is “signature” type. What most people know of as the first videogame Easter Egg (actually wasn’t the first, but it’s probably the most famous) was when Warren Robinett included his name in a secret room in Adventure. Interestingly, it also is sort of like your “type 2” easter egg in that its presence in the game world alters the way you play the game — instead of trying to recover the chalice, you try to access the secret room (which is much harder to do, by the way). I guess all Easter Eggs change the game in this way, though, because the fact that they’re called “Easter Eggs” and not “just some other part of the game” means that we’re playing a new, different game when we’re egg-hunting.

  2. Ariel
    March 16, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Yeah, Category 4 is probably one of my favorites. I felt like my post was already long enough, but I wish now that I had included the Easter Egg in Grand Theft Auto IV in which the player can visit the Statue of Liberty and discover that there is a giant, otherworldly heart suspended by chains inside of it. Really weird.

    And I never even thought of the signature type, but now that you mention, they can be found in a lot of video games. I’m not sure what category this would fit under, but the signature type makes me think of how, in a town in Silent Hill: Homecoming, the map’s streets are all named after famous horror movie directors, like Scott, Friedkin, Kubrick, etc.

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