Intertextuality in the form of Olivia Newton John

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.

Works Cited:

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/&gt;.

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4 Responses to Intertextuality in the form of Olivia Newton John

  1. bagelbite13 says:

    Interesting post. As I’m a casual gamer who doesn’t necessarily focus on the detail, this is eye opening. I never pick out things like this and I’m curious to see what or if I pick up on these allusions later on.

    Like

  2. rivaiheichou says:

    I like how Easter Eggs in video games have evolved from being a way of being recognized for making the game (as it was in early games, since developers never had their names credited) to a nod to a pop culture reference, or even a way of testing the perceptiveness of a player.

    Aside, the first Easter Egg I found in this game was a quote from Firefly in a quest involving dumping murloc pheromones on a rat while wearing a shrubbery as a disguise. The murlocs attack the rat, and the rat yells, “Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!”

    Like

  3. adeledazeem says:

    I’ve run into a few of them myself but hadn’t noticed the tellers – very interesting! Why do you think it’s important that the game blends in popular culture? What do you think it adds besides humor? I’ve also noticed that a lot of the references are a bit dated. I’m wondering whether that speaks to the age of users, the age of the developers, or to something else entirely.

    Like

    • newtonscradle7 says:

      I think it blends with popular culture because it has become a big part of popular culture and role playing games seem to adapt these references for my guess is a play on the real world. Other than humor, I think these Easter eggs act as an aesthetic link between the real world and the virtual world. Seeing those references gives the players a sense of overlap between a virtual and physical space. The references do seem a bit dated, even though many are still being added with every update, but I think they are dated partly because of the age of the developers, but also to show popular culture from a wider range of history. It gives it breadth instead of only being a game that holds significance with our current pop culture. I think it would take away from the references if they were only from the time the game has run.

      Like

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