There aren’t many forms of media that are less appreciative of the lead creative staff than games. Books have their author’s name splashed across the front of the cover and are alphabetized by that name. Paintings of course are known by their creator. Even movies tend to get big directed by lines and key cast members have their names appear right in the front.
Games? Beyond the handful of developers who really made it big, there’s always been a struggle to be known. In the old days, and to some degree still ongoing, there was a guerrilla warfare like Easter-egg movement to hide your name in games. It started when Atari refused to allow developers to put their names in credits and has been an ongoing struggle ever since.
I thought it would be fun to grab just a FEW of these attempts by developers to ensure their names would stand the test of time.
Our journey begins with that same Atari problem and the 2600 developer of Adventure, Warren Robinett, who hid his own credit inside the game, making it the first publicly known Easter-egg in a video game.
Adventure, the first Easter-egg
The man who ported Donkey Kong, Landon Dyer, for the Atari 400/800 some years later added his initials as well, LMD, though getting it was quite a hassle. So obscure in fact it took 26 years before he himself revealed that it existed at all.
Donkey Kong - LMD Screen
Sierra was known for adding a lot of Easter eggs into their games, many times referencing the development team. My favorite is the ending of Leisure Suit Larry 3, where it not only ends with the characters crashing through Sierra Studios, but also with a conversation with Roberta Williams, co-founder of Sierra (and lead behind King’s Quest). Best of all, it ends with Larry programming Leisure Suit Larry 1 - which means Larry is… the creator of LSL, Al Lowe?
Leisure Suit Larry 3 - Roberta Williams
Some development teams added more than just the lead developer to the Easter-egg pile. Both Serious Sam 3 and the classic Chrono Trigger have areas with multiple developers to interact with.
And then, there’s the famous people, who were not so famous when they created these Easter-eggs, but somewhere between their need for recognition and the radical success they had after, have become household names.
In Half-Life there is the “Room of Gaben” with Gabe Newell’s face tiled on every surface.
Half Life - Room of Gaben
And maybe the most famous appearance of any game developer in their own game: John Romero’s head on a stick in Doom 2.
Doom 2 - John Romero's Head
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and my goal not to show every instance of this quest, but to highlight the secret struggle that game developers have been fighting for over 30 years, a fight to be recognized for their work within their own product.