Before learning how to sell goods looted to make room in my bags, I would spend a decent amount of my time playing running back and forth to the bank to deposit items. While spending so much time in the bank, I stumbled upon something at the bank and thought it was just a coincidence, but thinking back to how Easter eggs work in media, I knew it was done on purpose. After entering the bank, the three bank tellers to the right shared one common trait, their names. The furthest banker is Olivia Burnside, then Newton Burnside, and finally, John Burnside. All of a sudden, I noticed that the bank tellers were named for Olivia Newton John, a popular actress that starred in the movie Grease. After this realization, I immediately went to the Wow Wiki to see what other pop culture Easter eggs were in the game. As a popular game, World of Warcraft draws many references from popular culture to develop itself as a game that builds off of our culture. World of Warcraft and other MMOs use Easter eggs to include references to popular culture as a way to preserve other media and also establish itself within popular culture.
Ian Bogost in his book How To Do Things With Video Games dedicates a chapter where he discusses the pranks that exist in video games and other media. Bogost discusses the convention of Easter eggs, “a hidden message in media of all sorts, from movies to games”, and how they are employed by developers and players to prank others (37). The insertion of the three bankers by the developer reveals to the player the prank that three characters in a game could be named after an actress in a movie. When stumbled upon during gameplay, the player, like myself, gets a sense of humor and realization about how such a game could make these pop culture references. It is not a prank as in deceiving someone else, but a prank that the developer got one by the player. Videogames are employing these ideas to hide Easter eggs within them and further linking them with our culture. World of Warcraft uses many Easter eggs to show how in tune with popular culture it is.
After finding one Easter egg within the game, I went to the WoW Wiki to see how many other Easter eggs were within the game, even more specifically just in Eastern Kingdom. The page contained many references including a NPC named Algernon that has flowers in his right hand, a reference to the story “Flowers for Algernon”, two chef NPCs named Robby Flay and Bario Matalli, named after two popular chefs Bobby Flay and Mario Batalli, and Crystal Lake with an NPC nearby named Jason, a reference to the movie series Friday the 13th. The list goes on and on, and that is just for Eastern Kingdom. To see all cultural references in the entire game would take an incalculable amount of time. Nevertheless though, the developers included all of these references for players to stumble upon and link the game with their lives and our popular culture. Some Easter eggs are even offered up by the players and sometimes petitioned just to get that cultural reference into the game. For example, after the death of comedian and actor Robin Williams, who was an avid gamer, players of World of Warcraft and other MMOs started a petition so that an NPC could be created in his memory. After receiving more than 11,000 signatures, the developers agreed to create an NPC for him (“Robin”). This addition continues to show the importance of pop culture in MMOs. These games use Easter eggs as a way to acknowledge other media and assert the game as an extension of popular culture. After stumbling upon the Olivia Newton John bankers Easter egg and seeing all of the other Easter eggs contained in the game, I will definitely be on the lookout more for other popular culture references.
Bogost, Ian. How to Do Things with Videogames. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 2011. Print.
“John Burnside.” WoWWiki. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.
“In-jokes and references/Eastern Kingdoms.” WoWWiki. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.
“Newton Burnside.” WoWWiki. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.
“Olivia Burnside.” WoWWiki. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.
“Robin Williams to Be Memorialized in ‘World of Warcraft'” Variety. N.p., 13 Aug. 2014. Web. 06 Apr. 2015. <http://variety.com/2014/digital/news/robin-williams-to-be-memorialized-in-world-of-warcraft-1201282195/>.