As we continue to host people in our quest line for the WoW study, one of the things that makes me inordinately pleased is when they pick up on the (admittedly silly) pop culture references we have in there. For me, there’s just something so very pleasing about that kind of meta-reference of game to game.
This isn’t something we invented on our own for our quest, of course. WoW is famously full of all kinds of references, from Haris Pilton to the Zelda sword to the “Bring me a Shrubbery” quest.
I wonder why these things make me so happy? Is it that I feel validated having this ginormous media product/company tell me they “get” me by referring to some kind of specialized geek knowledge? Is it that I’m proud of getting the references, demonstrating my exalted cultural literacy? Maybe it’s just that within the oftimes very serious world of WoW lore and history, making these little jokes is like “breaking the 4th wall,” letting me into the fact that actual human beings are there somewhere, writing this stuff.
These references are a kind of Easter Egg, a hidden special treat (that does nothing, usually) for players who take the time to seek them out.
Which leads me to the question of today: Why are easter eggs in games so pleasing? And why do designers, with a whole lot of other stuff to do, spend the (sometimes extensive) time to put them in?
Of course, the latter is partly the joy of marking a mark; just like spray-painting your name on a wall or carving your initials into a table, easter eggs often are a little signature of developers to make their voices known, even if only among the elite.
And the former… well, it’s pleasing to uncover secrets, even when someone tells you about them.
But do pop culture references fit this rationale? I’m not sure. What do you think?