If you're reading this, the odds are good that you 1) hate your job and 2) can't really do much about it. But if you, say, were working on a project that would be seen by millions of people, then you could get creative about expressing your displeasure. We recently pointed out comic book artists who hid "screw you" Easter Eggs in their work, but really, nobody does this better than video game programmers.
Even if you don't give a shit about video games, you're probably aware that two of the most popular games of the past year were Skyrim and Minecraft, because anyone who plays either of them won't shut up about it. And while these two games are at the exact opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to graphics, they do have some things in common, like fantasy-inspired open-ended game play, gigantic interactive worlds and rabid fan bases prone to spewing out nonsensical memes on your Facebook feed (also an awesome lawyer-aggravating Easter egg, but we'll get to that in a moment).
After we finish methodically setting fire to teenagers.
But there is a less friendly connection between the games: Bethesda Softworks (Skyrim's publisher) is now suing Minecraft's creator over the name of his next game. Why? Because the game is called Scrolls, and they claim people could confuse it with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (even though it's mostly known as just Skyrim).
Whereas Minecraft is best known as "Where the hell did my week go?"
When Minecraft's creator Markus "Notch" Persson first heard from Bethesda's lawyers in August 2011, he offered to add a subtitle to his game or even flat-out drop the trademark, but Bethesda refused the offer and went on with the lawsuit anyway. Notch then proposed to settle the matter by playing a Quake 3 deathmatch (a Bethesda game -- an obvious show of good faith), but the other side didn't even acknowledge the offer. Clearly, Bethesda's lawyers weren't in a very friendly mood.
"And then we're going after The Legend of Zelda, for using the letters 'THE' and 'ELD'."
However, the part of Bethesda that actually makes the games feels differently ... and apparently went so far as to include a righteous dig at their own corporate legal department in Skyrim. At the top of a mountain called the Throat of the World, players can find something called the Notched Pickaxe, a pretty transparent reference to both the creator of Minecraft and the primary tool you use in the game. While the lawyers were doing everything possible to distance the games, the programmers actually brought them closer together.
If you turn it upside-down, it kinda looks like a middle finger, too.
It turns out that Skyrim's creator Todd Howard is still chums with Notch, who acknowledged the shout-out, tweeting: "Adding the Toddhowared Pickaxe to Minecraft." It seems that not even corporate law shenanigans can keep a good game-design bromance down.
In 1999, Sega launched their ill-fated Dreamcast console, the last one they'd ever make. The system had a number of problems that doomed it, one being that the games were extremely easy to pirate -- anything Sega put out would be posted online within days, and one hacker group, called Echelon, was behind the majority of it.
Until one day, Sega just stopped caring.
This all culminated with Sega Smash Pack: Volume 1, a rerelease of several classic Sega Genesis games that happened to come out on January 31, 2001 -- the same day Sega announced they were discontinuing the Dreamcast. Echelon didn't just pirate Sega Smash Pack -- they actually found a way to modify it so that it could be used to play pretty much every Sega Genesis game ever on the Dreamcast.
That's seven whole non-Sonic games.
They didn't crack one game. They effectively cracked hundreds at the same time, a feat for which they bizarrely gave thanks to one "Uncle Sonic." How is this even possible? Well, they had help. From the inside.
Years later, two gamers were going through some old Sega games when they noticed something odd: a file on the disc for Sega Smash Pack titled "ECHELON.TXT." Upon opening it, they found instructions intended for Echelon pirates explaining exactly how to use the game's files to play any Genesis game on the Dreamcast. The functionality was programmed in from the start, and someone at Sega had let Echelon know all about it ... as if they knew that no new games would be made for the console and wanted to give fans something to do.
Turns out that to win a console war, your secret messages have to be written on the hardware in blood.
The text file even asked the pirates to "pay your respects to Uncle Sonic" and was signed "Gary." Incidentally, the lead American programmer for Sega Smash Pack was named Gary Lake, and this was his last game at Sega, for some reason. Obviously, after this came to light, Lake was never hired in the industry again -- nah, just kidding, he's now the director of technology at Capcom.
Secret Writer's Society is an educational game that uses jaunty songs and videos to teach kids things like capitalization, punctuation and sentence structure -- it's like a digital schoolteacher, right down to the part where it occasionally loses its shit and yells curse words at the kids.
We're actually members of the Secret Writer's Society ... and yeah, it's mainly about teaching naughty words to kids.
You see, the game includes a text-to-voice tool that encourages kids to write down sentences and then reads them back to the players. If you type more than four lines, though, and click the text box twice instead of once, it spices up the message by prefacing it with random curse words like "cock," "asshole" or "masturbation."
The company that published it, Panasonic Interactive Media, blamed the game's Tourette's syndrome on a programming bug -- they said it was an error in the word filter, a list of curse words they compiled and banned from the game to prevent kids from actually having fun with it, which they then ... recorded and included in the disc anyway?
"Our marketing team is insisting we make our game accessible to the 8- to 12-year-old pimp demographic."
Here's a more likely explanation: RTMark.com, an activist collective who trolled big companies before Anonymous was a thing, released a statement saying they paid $1,000 to a programmer at Panasonic who was willing include this Easter egg to teach neglectful parents a lesson. The anonymous programmer claims he "wanted to wake parents up to reality -- here's what happens if you hand your responsibility to some machine," adding that "letting a third-rate piece of software take over for you is wrong."
"Teaching kids to say 'fellatio' is OK, though, because it's hilarious."
While he makes a pretty good point, what about all the children whose fragile psyches he permanently damaged when this game came out in 1998? You can probably find them populating YouTube's comments section today.