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What was the first Easter egg in a game?


The concept of Easter eggs originated in video games in the 1970s and 1980s. An Easter egg is an intentionally hidden message, inside joke or secret feature placed in a video game by its designers and developers. The practice has since become commonplace not only in video games but also across all media including books, films, TV shows, and more. However, the first video game Easter egg has its origins in the Atari 2600 game Adventure, released in 1979.

What was the Atari 2600?

The Atari 2600 was one of the first home video game consoles. It was created by Atari and released in September 1977. The console popularized the use of microprocessor-based hardware and ROM cartridges containing game code. This allowed games for the system to be updated easily by swapping out the cartridge rather than replacing the entire game system. The Atari 2600 was hugely successful and went on to dominate the home video game market in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It introduced an entire generation to home video gaming. At its peak, the Atari 2600 accounted for over 75% of the global market for video game consoles. Some of the most popular games for the system included Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Pitfall, and River Raid among many others. The Atari 2600 was instrumental in establishing the legitimacy of the video game console as a mainstream home entertainment platform.

What was Adventure for the Atari 2600?

Adventure was one of the first action-adventure games and among the first video games to feature an open world design that players could freely navigate. It was programmed by Warren Robinett for the Atari 2600 and released in late 1979 and early 1980.

In Adventure, the player controls a small square avatar whose quest is to explore an open world kingdom and locate and retrieve the Enchanted Chalice from inside a castle. Along the way, the player must navigate through corridors, collect keys to unlock castle doors, and avoid or slay three dragons that roam the kingdom. The entire game takes place across just one single still screen, with areas of the kingdom hidden from view until scrolled to. But despite the simple graphics, Adventure was praised for its innovative gameplay and nonlinear open world design which gave players freedom to choose their own path through the adventure.

Over the decades, Adventure has come to be recognized as one of the most important and influential early video games. It laid down concepts like open world exploration, physics-based simulation, and collecting items to unlock access to new areas, that would become staples of the action-adventure game genre.

The Secret Room

Unbeknownst to players, Warren Robinett hid a secret room with a secret message in Adventure as an Easter egg inside joke.

The method to access this secret room is convoluted and extremely unlikely to be discovered by chance. First, the player must pick up a single invisible dot known as the “Gray Dot” in one specific part of the map. Then, they must bring this Gray Dot to another specific castle in the kingdom. After this, they must use the Gray Dot to pass through the wall in a precise location to enter into a hidden secret room.

Inside this secret chamber is a simple flickering message displayed in the center of the screen that reads:

“Created by Warren Robinett”

This secret room with Robinett’s hidden name message is considered the very first intentional Easter egg to be implemented in a video game. It was Warren Robinett’s way of secretly inserting his name into his work at a time when video game designers did not receive public credit for their games.

Why Robinett created the Easter Egg

During the 1970s and into the 80s, Atari did not credit the individual designers and developers of the games released for the Atari 2600 system. The games were advertised as being created solely by Atari itself.

At the time, there was little prestige associated with video game development, which was seen more as commercial product development than artistic creation. So game designers were not pushing for personal acknowledgment or recognition.

However, Robinett wanted some way to identify his work on Adventure. In an interview in 2000 he said:

“I didn’t write my name on that game because it was the game designer who was supposed to be invisible.”

He added:

“But I was invisible enough, so I decided to sign my work.”

Thus, he added his hidden room message as a way to leave his personal signature in the game.

Robinett described the secret room as:

“A signature, like at the bottom of a painting.”

He viewed it as a meta “microwave oven” joke and Easter egg for the player who discovered it. The idea of hiding something for later discovery by a more dedicated fan or viewer was directly inspired by Robinett’s experience with computer text adventure games of the era such as the popular Colossal Cave Adventure from 1976. These games commonly had secret words or hidden Easter eggs built into their text parser commands.

Reception and influence

Robinett’s secret room and message in Adventure is recognized as the very first Easter egg to be intentionally implemented in a commercial video game title. For this reason, it represents a landmark moment in video game history.

Of course, given the obscurity and complexity of how to even access the Easter egg, barely anyone knew about its existence for several years following the 1979 release of Adventure. It was essentially an inside joke from Robinett to himself and any of the most dedicated players who might randomly stumble upon it.

Word of the hidden room gradually spread over time among early video game fans. In 1986, Steve Wright published a book of tips and tricks for Atari 2600 games called The Adventurous Atari 2600. This book helped publicize Robinett’s hidden secret to a wider audience.

The presence of Robinett’s Easter egg on the Atari 2600 established key precedents in video game development. It proved that extra hidden content or messages could be implemented in games as a way for designers to express their creativity, leave a unique mark, or even mildly protest against policies of the game companies they worked for.

Robinett’s pioneering idea directly inspired future game developers to carry on the practice of hiding Easter eggs and secrets in the decades of video games that followed. Countless games have included hidden rooms, developer in-jokes, and other Easter eggs as a result.

Other early video game Easter eggs

Robinett’s Adventure Easter egg in 1979 kicked off a trend among game designers to hide secrets in their games throughout the 80s. Here are some other notable early Easter eggs:

Year Game Details
1980 Missile Command Atari programmer Dave Theurer hid his and other developers’ initials in dots on the score screen.
1982 Raiders of the Lost Ark Programmer David Crane hid his name in hieroglyphics that appear on the background wall in a level.
1983 Dragster Activision programmer David Crane included a hidden keypress sequence (Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A) that caused the screen to display the message “Hi Ron!” as a greeting to Activision executive Ron Stringari.

These kinds of developer signatures, messages, and inside jokes became more common as the practice of including Easter eggs spread. Players also began discovering and sharing the secrets, forming a bond between developer and audience.

Legacy on Easter eggs

Warren Robinett’s hidden signature room inspired so many future Easter eggs and secrets hidden across all types of media. Here are some examples of the legacy and influence of Robinett’s pioneering video game Easter egg:

– Movie directors and writers started hiding literal Easter egg props in the background of films. The 1985 movie A View to a Kill contained a hidden Easter egg saying “Warren Robinett” on a sign, as homage to his influence.

– DVD menus and content contain Easter egg jokes and bonus features. For example, the DVD for Fight Club has a hidden menu option to view unused Ed Norton vs. Brad Pitt fighting footage.

– Many TV show DVD collections contain Easter egg commentary tracks, bonus clips, or hidden interactions buried in the menus and select screens. Lost was well known for including Easter egg commentary and bonuses.

– Video game developers regularly insert Easter eggs even today across almost every game genre and franchise. These range from hidden developer jokes to unlockable content via button codes.

– Easter egg hunts in software development became a common practice. Tech companies like Google, Apple and Amazon hide virtual Easter egg hunts and games in websites, operating systems and devices.

– The trend spread to everyday consumer products. Toys and foods now contain hidden Easter eggs and messages. For example, Midnight Moonlight Doritos had a hidden gothic message under the bag lining.

– Entire subcultures have formed around dedicated communities searching for obscure media Easter eggs. This includes finding hidden content in classic video games, films, and other properties.


The Easter egg hidden by Warren Robinett in Adventure for the Atari 2600, while small and simple, ended up having a vast influence and legacy that still continues today. It helped pioneer the concept of adding hidden secrets for fans to find across all forms of media. Modern video game developers in particular now regularly follow Robinett’s example by leaving their own virtual Easter egg hunts inside the games they create. This helps form a special bond between creator and audience. So Robinett’s clever idea brought us countless delightful surprises and sparked enthusiasm in many player communities over the decades since Adventure first released. It all goes back to that one hidden room that said nothing more than “Created by Warren Robinett”—and yet meant so much more.