Easter Eggs

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Surprises in the game that are not related to the game diegesis.

Easter Eggs are surprises put in games that do not directly affect gameplay nor does necessarily advance any story. Often they do not even fit within the reality of the Game World. The design of Easter Eggs started as programmers' and game designers' ways of protesting against management but soon turned into a gameplay value, encouraging people to explore and replay the games.


The first documented Easter Egg was the text "Created by Robinett." in the game Adventure. It was put there by its programmer and designer, Warren Robinett. To find it, players had to find an object a single pixel large that had the same color as the background of the game and was located in a room that was inaccessible unless you used a special bridge. This object then had to be carried to a specific wall to let the players enter a secret room which contained the message.

Easter Eggs can vary considerably in sizes. The Super Mario series included entire levels as Easter Eggs, including an underwater world that is seemingly endless. Topping this, the whole game Maniac Mansion is included as an Easter Egg in its sequel Day of the Tentacle. Star Trek: The Next Generation is worth mentioning since it is a Pinball Game with a Breakout-like game as an Easter Egg.

Game series that repeatedly make use of Easter Eggs include the Dragon Age, Grand Theft Auto, Halo, and Super Smash Bros. series.

For more examples, see the site GiantBomb which has a listing of games with Easter Eggs[1].

Using the pattern

Designing Easter Eggs consisting of what they should contain, where in the Game Worlds they should exist, and making sure they are Optional Goals. Easter Eggs are typically Secret Resources or Extra-Game Information (often humorous) but as the Day of the Tentacle and Star Trek: The Next Generation examples show, they can also be Minigames. To make them a challenge to find, they are often put in Secret Areas which also helps maintain the Thematic Consistency until they are found - this lets players make a choice between searching for Easter Eggs and probably experiencing thematic inconsistency or ignore these and probably not have any thematic inconsistencies. Minigames that are Easter Eggs do not need to make use of Secret Areas since they instead change the game presentation (or part of it) when players have found the ways of activating them; this is typically through having them "hidden" in Installations or other Game World objects that can be found by sufficient Game World Exploration.

Clues can by game designers that wish to make it likelier for players to find their Easter Eggs.

Diegetic Aspects

Easter Eggs typically break Thematic Consistency since they often take the form of Extra-Game Information.

Interface Aspects

Since Easter Eggs is mainly about surprising players and reward them for exploring, it is an.


Easter Eggs are a way of providing Surprises in games by hiding secrets in Game Worlds. They are often a form of Extra-Game Information that breaks Thematic Consistency, but do encourage Game World Exploration and Replayability. They add social components through creating Meta Games of finding the Easter Eggs before others, something that can lead to both Game-Based Social Statuses and Bragging and through this to Social Interaction between players. While this can occur in all types of games, the effects are more profound in Single-Player Games since these may otherwise not have the patterns. The actual description of Easter Eggs and their locations are a form of Trans-Game Information between players.

While they most often are hidden within Secret Areas these are typically harder to find than other Secret Areas in the same game are thereby support Challenging Gameplay to complete the Optional Goals of finding these. This of course assumes that players have reasons to believe they exist (which can be either due to Clues or due to Trans-Game Information between players).

Knowledge about their existence provides Optional Goals of Exploration and may stimulate Social Interaction between game sessions to pass Trans-Game Information.


Can Instantiate

Bragging, Game World Exploration, Game-Based Social Statuses, Meta Games, Optional Goals, Replayability, Social Interaction, Surprises, Trans-Game Information

Can Modulate

Challenging Gameplay, Game Worlds

Can Be Instantiated By

Extra-Game Information, Secret Resources, Secret Areas

Minigames together with Game World Exploration or Installations

Can Be Modulated By


Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Thematic Consistency


An updated version of the pattern Easter Eggs that was part of the original collection in the book Patterns in Game Design[2].


  1. Page on the GiantBomb web site for Easter Eggs.
  2. Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.