Most loyal fans of the Atari 2600 game Adventure are well aware of the game’s famous “Easter egg” — if you bring an invisible dot to a certain screen and place another object in the same room, you can move through a barrier into a secret room with a self-congratulatory message from programmer Warren Robinett.
But few players of the game know that this is really just the first part of the Easter egg!
If you bring the enchanted chalice with you into the secret room (a gift for Mr. Robinett, to show your appreciation for his brilliant game), then proceed to the entrance of the white castle, you will see the rest of the Easter egg.
You see, Mr. Robinett’s motivation for the Easter eggs in this game stemmed from Atari’s reluctance to give its game designers adequate credit for their hard work. (After all, it was the designers of the games who were directly responsible for Atari’s financial success, but proportionate compensation for their efforts would’ve eaten into the corporate fatcats’ stock bonuses.)
It is widely known that Mr. Robinett was only paid his paltry salary of $22,000 in 1978 for designing Adventure, a game that went on to sell one million copies, thereby earning Atari $25,000,000. But as far as the public (and Atari’s management) was concerned, games were cranked out by mindless machines, not painstakingly crafted by computer programming geniuses who managed to pack elaborate and engaging game concepts into a meager 2 kilobytes of code.
It was this lack of respect and recognition that led some former Atari programmers to start their own company, Activision — the first third-party software maker. Every Activision game boldly proclaimed the designer’s name right on the cartridge label, as well as a photo and gameplay tips from the designer in the instruction manual.
But those unfortunate game designers back at Atari were left to find other ways to get their well-deserved recognition.* Many resorted to Easter eggs containing their names or initials, inspired by the bold work of Mr. Robinett.
And now, at last, you can see the full Easter egg from Adventure. While Atari’s executives laughed all the way to the bank in light of this game’s resounding success, Warren Robinett, game designer and computer genius, left Atari to pursue… other opportunities. And his dragons did as well.
* Yes, I know Warren Robinett designed Adventure before Activision was founded, and he had already left Atari by then. But this entire article was all just a set-up for the visual joke anyway, so back off!