Pop Culture FTW

There can be only one.

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?

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2 responses to “Pop Culture FTW

  1. I think it’s a smart move. It’s always hard in games, to give extra meaning to basically average things, to make them more interesting. So why not take advantage of what players already know, have sentiments towards and link them to items in game.
    At a certain level those links work both ways as well. If you get a nostalgic feeling by finding the Zelda sword and think back at all the good times you had when playing Zelda: part of those feelings are now to some degree linked to WoW too.
    The tavern would seem a lot more bland if Haris Pilton wasn’t there…

    It’s an easy way to access emotions.

  2. I totally agree, Morfus, and excellent point. Those references give additional meaning the what otherwise would just be yet another quest or NPC. And that meaning, as personal as it is, makes both the game we’re playing and the one we remember all the sweeter.

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