There’s one man out there who’s done more for Easter eggs than the Bunny itself. But don’t worry if you were unaware of his influence. Apparently, he was, too.
Odds are you haven’t heard his name, but Steve Wright has had a sweeping impact on pop culture that’s lasted for nearly four decades. Back in 1980, during his days at Atari, he coined the term “Easter egg” for messages and jokes that creators intentionally hide in various forms of entertainment media.
Today, those types of eggs are ubiquitous. You can find them in TV shows, movies, music, video games and just about anywhere else they can be hidden. If you can’t spot them yourself, you can just read the countless Easter egg analyses or watch YouTubers like Mr. Sunday Movies, who are busy picking apart footage to reveal the tributes everyone else missed.
Even Steven Spielberg’s latest movie, an adaptation of Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One, is devoted almost entirely to the fanatic culture surrounding Easter eggs.
I’ve been writing about Easter eggs at HuffPost for years now, but Wright, like my mom, apparently hasn’t been reading my work. In an interview last month, he revealed to HuffPost that, until recently, he had no idea Easter eggs had become such a pop culture phenomenon. His epiphany only came after the release of “Black Panther.”
“I just happened to trip over an article that was talking about the Easter eggs in the ‘Black Panther’ movie,” the Denver-based Wright said over Skype, adding, “So I go, ’Oh, wow. There are Easter eggs in movies. Now, that’s great.’”
Uh, what? That’s all you have to say?
When I professed my love of Easter eggs ― describing in detail how I’ve been searching for and writing about them for years ― he simply said, “How about that. What fun.”
Perhaps part of the reason Wright is so alarmingly chill about the whole Easter egg thing is because, well, he’s had a storied career otherwise.
While working at Atari, Wright taught himself how to program in order to become a game designer. During our interview, he explained that he was the person who first suggested that his company bring in actual musicians to provide the soundtracks for games ― and actual artists to do the art. He rose up through the Atari ranks, managing various game developments and special projects. Later, he ended up producing visual effects for movies, literally writing the handbook on it.
In Spielberg’s “Ready Player One,” a movie that centers on protagonist Wade Watts’ (Tye Sheridan) mission to find Easter eggs, you get a CliffsNotes version of the real-life story of their origin.
The film notes that a game designer named Warren Robinett, tired of programmers not getting credit for their work, hid his name in a secret chamber tucked inside a 1979 Atari video game, “Adventure.” After completing a specific sequence of moves, an “Adventure” player would stumble upon his name, in a message stating, “Created By Warren Robinett.” This is known as the first Easter egg.