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Feature: 'Persuasive Games - Video Game Pranks'

In his regular 'Persuasive Games' column, designer/writer Ian Bogost looks at the history of the prank in video games - from Easter Eggs through Sim
Pranks are a unique breed of humor somewhere between amusement and injury. As Bogost explains, part of the fun is the inherent risk -- getting caught in the act, or risking insulting the object of the prank. And yet, pranks have social power and the ability to foster bonds; Bogost uses the example of early developer Easter Eggs to explain -- like the hidden room in Adventure for Atari that contained the words "Created by Warren Robinett." "The process of discovering the hidden message was complex and unintuitive, although not difficult enough that it couldn't be done. Atari learned of the prank when a 15 year-old player wrote the company a letter about it. It was never removed from the game, and Atari even used the gag to their own benefit, spinning it as a "secret message" in the first issue of fan magazine Atari Age. Soon enough, higher-ups embraced the easter egg as a way of deepening players' relationships with their titles. Howard Scott Warshaw's inclusion of his initials in 1982's Yars' Revenge was fully endorsed by management." Of course, not all pranks left management with such a positive feeling: "A more controversial prank can be found in SimCopter, a 1996 Maxis title that lets players fly helicopter missions around the cities they create in SimCity 2000. Developer Jacques Servin secretly added speedo-clad male bimbos (Servin called them "himbos") who would meander the city and passionately kiss on certain calendar dates. Servin cited unfavorable working conditions as an inspiration for the prank, and he was subsequently fired." There are also player-created pranks that employ deceptively-complex game mechanics to create running gags, or new twists on familiar gameplay that act as pranks. And how will user-generated content affect this surprisingly specific game behavior? You can now read the full feature, which contains thoughts on questions such as these, and further details on the tradition of video game pranks (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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