My Two Gils

Easter Eggs For Dummies

Easter was just around the corner, time to resurrect Holiday themed columns, right? Wrong. Eggs had started to invade us for a while now, from chocolate to painted plastic. However, with the influx of retro-style indie games and the upcoming Pixels movie, it seems Easter Eggs’ other meaning is attempting a barbaric invasion as well. With so many people trying to shove references in our faces, xenomorph style, and so many other begging for them, the gaming scene is quickly turning into a Royal Rumble, make that a Royal Scramble-(d eggs). It’s a shame so many are missing the mark more often than duck hunters on an LCD screen. Few are the ones who were able to cook up a rock solid recipe for references and Easter Eggs. I’m not saying I’m an expert on the matter, but if you have some time, stay a while and listen.

There’s no tutorial on Easter Eggs, no walkthroughs or beginner’s guide. You can be tempted to lower your head and go in, hoping there won’t be too much recoil. But it’s not that simple. One does not simply drop Easter Eggs. That’s why it’s important to know the basics. Wikipedia defines Easter Eggs as “intentional inside joke, hidden message, or feature in a work such as a computer program, video game, movie, My Two Gils article, book, or crossword puzzle.” If you already knew that, très bien. If you didn’t, keep this definition in mind because it embodies the multiple facets of an Easter Egg. We’re going to explore this deep dungeon soon. For now, remember that the world of Easter Eggs is an open world, not a linear brown corridor. If you insert only one kind in your media, you’d really be putting all your eggs in the same basket. Please note that a pun is not automatically an Easter Egg.

Hoy! Small Fry! You think you can get away with only the basics? You’re not a 1000 year old wise guy, are you? How well do you know your subject? You wouldn’t want the readers to think you’re one shard short of a full crystal, would you? Hit the books and make sure you know your subject from grassland to volcano world. Make sure you’re as comfortable with your game as you are wearing shorts. Furthermore, try to expand your horizon. Grab your hovercraft or helicopter and explore all the worlds you can. With this knowledge, you’ll know what reference to use. After all, you can’t go Up Up Down Down B A on a controller where X takes the Square.


Good research brought Pixels producers as close as possible to what Pac-Man from 1982 looked like in 3D

 Oi Nutter! Once your introspection is done, it’s time to return to the main quest. After all, you’re not alone.  The right idea in the wrong place can make all the difference. As stated above, an Easter Egg can be an intentional inside joke, but will people get it, or will it only be between you and Id? Try to scan your audience. Are they a boy or a girl? How much can you sock piano references in your work? Will they need an Epoch to grasp the concept you throw before them? Inside jokes are often used as Easter Eggs, and for good reason. They’re basically as effective as Bomb Arrows. However, try not to make them the main protagonist of your content, to ensure you’re still welcoming to new challengers. Should you fail, your classic piece will barely reach Clu Clu Land level of glory.

How about cultural context? While some badly translated references can seem pulled by the hair, others just won’t generate the Tranquil Revolution you’d be hoping for. Furthermore, not everyone has historical or current knowledge of your region or generation, this isn’t the Daguerro Library. World events are not projected in the sky like falling meteors and some younger gamers might not be impressed by your fanny pack of 90’s jokes, no matter how gnarly they are. Also remember that some games were not released in every region. You wouldn’t want to crack a joke at the Genesis in Mega Drive country. Make sure some of your audience is in a geographical and cultural context that will help understand these references, or the atmosphere could feel heavier than a metric ton of poutine in your stomach.

Genre context also needs to be considered. You might want to make a sports game reference in a platformer, but wouldn’t that be like sending Gino Odjick on the powerplay? That would be like having Dennis Rodman as a political consultant. Experienced players are usually initiated to the style of games they buy. You can expect them to get smart, fast when you reference the same genre. You can try and throw a curveball at the player, but you might end up only spilling water on a Gremlin. Once you secure the perimeter of the joke and use the appropriate detonation context, you’ll have the desired effect, even if you forgot your bazooka at home.

The audiences of Pokémon and Dragonball Z are similar… right?

Hey! Listen! While classic Easter Eggs will reach a wider public even from the back row, abusing cliches will make you lose charm points faster than you can say: “Fuzzy Pickles.” Why are you aiming so low if all it’ll get you is an arrow to the knee? Try to barrel roll your list of ideas. If people use a door, go down the chimney. Back yourself in a corner and using your loyal crowbar, open up Pandora’s Box. Grab your ideas by the hip and shake them until you awaken their fighting spirits.  If you manage to do that, a winner is you.

 Look at the names of these guys! How clever! And he’s preparing a Kamehameha too! That’s too cute!

Dropping a huge Pac-Man and Space Invaders in the middle of New York City, right? Too obvious. Name dropping the Gloomy Gulch as you’re crossing the knoll? Too subtle.  So how do you decide? Of course, you don’t want your Easter Eggs to stand out like a bear wearing a marshmallow, but they need to be easier to find than a straight line in a puzzle wall. Most of the time, when you aim to please a wide audience, including some filthy casuals, try to make the reference fairly obvious, but still posing a challenge to find. For example, I hid an Easter Egg within the first few paragraphs. Think you can find it? Wikipedia could help you *wink*.  Sometimes, however, presenting an Easter Egg without any kind of subtlety can work. It may fit the mood of your creation like a glove. It’s so bad, it works.

Remind me of someone, he really does.

The last advice this old Kong can give you is to ensure proper pacing of your inclusion of Easter Egg. There’s no need for a Zerg rush. Too many could confuse the reader/listener/watcher/player more than a N64 platformer game camera. There’d be no way to catch ‘em all! Once you crack an Easter Egg on the recipient, let him restore his health before you give him another one. It’s all about timed hits. If you know the right timing, you’ll punch his/her/their lights out! After all, if your reader/player/watcher/listener wanted to be bombarded with poorly referenced memes and lolcats speech, he’d be on Cheezburger, right?

Conglaturation! You’ve passed the first course in Easter Egg and reference insertions! Thanks for reading! You are a Super Player! See you in two weeks, ya?

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