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How Video Game Easter Eggs Were Invented

Video game designer Warren Robinett explains why he built a secret into 'Adventure.'

by Jason Koebler
Jun 2 2016, 3:39pm

There's a passage in the popular novelReady Player One that sets the rest of the action into motion: "The guy who created Adventure, a man named Warren Robinett, decided to hide his name inside the game itself ... This was the very first videogame Easter egg. Robinett hid it in his game's code without telling a soul, and Atari manufactured and shipped Adventure all over the world without knowing about the secret room."

Robinett's Easter egg was real, not just a plot device for the novel. It not only inspired the virtual reality treasure hunt that makes up the bulk of that book, it also inspired all the secrets, cheat codes, and Easter eggs you can find in the bulk of games made since Adventure's release in 1979. Robinett has told the story before, but Great Big Story has made a nice short video with Robinett that's the best distillation of his motives, how the Easter egg worked, and its legacy. Well worth your two-and-a-half minutes.

I bring up Ready Player One because seeing Adventure reminded me that Steven Spielberg is turning it into a definitely-going-to-be-a-smash-hit movie, which made me excited to check in on its progress. Good news: The very hilarious TJ Miller is going to play an online troll, which is a role he was born to play. Bad news: It's not coming out until 2018. Bummer.

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Warren Robinett