This weekend, people around the world will be eagerly tucking into cocoa ovoids. At FutureLearn however, our favourite Easter eggs aren’t the chocolate kind. We prefer the unexpected features found in software, video games, movies and websites, which are also known as Easter eggs – the Konami code, for instance. Here, our team share a brief history of this other type of Easter egg and a few of their favourites.
1. an artificial chocolate egg or decorated hard-boiled egg given at Easter.
2. an unexpected or undocumented feature in a piece of computer software, video game, movie or any other media, included as a joke or a bonus.
A brief history of Easter eggs
The term “Easter egg” was first used in 1979 for a secret message hidden in the Atari game, Adventure, found only a year after the game had been released.
Players had to go to a sealed chamber, find the “Gray Dot” (which, in reality, was invisible since the background was gray), bring it to a specific corridor in the castle, and combine it with other differently coloured objects, all so that they could unlock a hidden room, where they would discover the words “Created by Warren Robinett” (pictured above).
At the time, Atari didn’t allow their developers to take credit for their games, but Robinett was so keen on adding his signature to the game, he used 5% of the game’s memory space to sneakily do so.
Since then, many developers have added Easter eggs to the projects they’ve worked on, some remaining hidden for years. For instance, in 2009, the developer behind Donkey Kong revealed it contained an easter egg that no one discovered for 26 years.
There are plenty of Easter eggs out there to find, but here are some of our favourites…
I’m a huge Disney fan, so obviously my favourite Easter eggs are Disney’s Hidden Mickeys. These are simple silhouette representations of Mickey Mouse (three circles forming his head and ears), which are not only sneakily hidden in Disney’s animations, but also in their theme parks and rides.
I love the Hidden Mickey in the ballroom of the Haunted Mansion – on the large dining table among the dancing ghosts, you can find a set of three plates arranged to form a Hidden Mickey.
– Melinda Seckington, Developer
Foursquare’s adorable puppies
I remember poking about in Foursquare’s email notification settings and coming across the option to “also include an adorable picture of a puppy in my weekly update.” I then forgot about it until, true to their word, the puppy arrived.
– David Thair, Social Lead
Last month I finished reading “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. The book follows gamers who are looking for Easter eggs within a virtual world, so they can win a vast inheritance. I liked how the book showed how the the last few decades of computer games might look to someone in the near-future. It is also special because there is an Easter egg hidden in the book itself.
– Chris Zetter, Developer
Excel 97 flight simulator
There used to be a flight simulator embedded in Excel 97 (I’m really showing my age now). I had a lot of fun one day telling a bored IT support guy in Ireland about it at the end of a call. I talked him through the series of keystrokes he needed to use to activate it and I could almost hear his jaw drop when it fired up.
I have no idea how I heard about it. It was somehow more exciting in those early days of the web, when such things were not so easy to seek out and verify with a Google search (like what I just did to find the video above).
– Matthew Shorter, Content Advisor
My favourite Easter egg is in the classic LucasArts adventure game, Day of the Tentacle. In one of the locations that you visit during the game, there’s a retro-looking computer sat inconspicuously in the corner of the room. If you click ‘”use computer,” you enter into a fully playable version of the game’s sort-of-prequel, Maniac Mansion – an embedded game-within-a-game in all its 16-colour glory.
– Richard Banks, Senior Partnership Manager
Films within films
Directors often have fun with what’s on at the cinemas in their films. The movie theatre in Gremlins has a double bill of A Boys Life and Watch the Skies, the working titles for Steven Spielberg’s ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Spielberg himself can’t resist an Easter egg either. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom starts at Club Obi Wan of all places. And where did the character name of Short Round in the same movie come from? A Sam Fuller film.
– Nigel Smith, Head of Content
If you do a Google search for “kerning,” you’ll find useful links explaining that it’s the word for adjusting the spacing between letters, to make words readable and aesthetically pleasing.
If you do a Google search for “keming,” you’ll find that it’s the word for when kerning goes wrong. Look closely, and you’ll notice that the kerning for the word “keming” is slightly wrong in all the results.
– Mal Pinder, Developer
One of the most elaborate Easter eggs I’ve ever seen is by the Dutch department store, Hema. Just rollover the blue cup at the link above and get ready for an amazing Rube Goldberg-style chain of events to unfold.
Highlights include a stocking that kicks a pair of socks into a toaster; a lamp that sets a frame on fire while simultaneously boiling a kettle; and many other clever interactions between a random page of products that gradually become obliterated.
– Lucy Blackwell, Creative Director
What’s your favourite Easter egg? Have you seen an amazing example that should be on our list? Let us know in the comments below.