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What We Can Learn From Games – Easter Eggs!

It’s close enough(ish) to Easter for me to release this – so let’s discuss Easter Eggs in E-Learning and games in a wider sense.

What is an Easter Egg?

An Easter egg is an intentional inside joke, hidden message, or feature in a work such as a computer program, video game, movie, book, or crossword. According to game designer Warren Robinett, the term was coined at Atari by personnel who were alerted to the presence of a secret message which had been hidden by Robinett in his already widely distributed game, Adventure. The name has been said to evoke the idea of a traditional Easter egg hunt.

Easter Eggs in this post refer to hidden surprises and extras within games, they are usually pop culture references but in truth they can be anything, which is the beauty of them. They are aimed at people who like to explore (Free Spirits) as they reward people for just looking around and digging a little deeper than some others.

In games Easter eggs have been around for a really long time. Easter Eggs are not hard to unlock, instead they reward the user for their engagement and exploration within the game.

Here are some examples (Images courtesy of Cracked.com):


Players in Dead Space were given the games parting thoughts. The highlighted starting letter to each chapter gave the answer…



Even Google Maps gets in on the act, quoting a character if you wish to go to Mordor.

So what can we take from this in E-Learning? Well we’re probably not going to impress our SMEs if we want to deviate away from the content to start playing a great new version of Space Invaders. However there are several things we can do to make the learner smile. Easter Eggs can also provide a great propulsion through the dopamine cycle (if you haven’t checked this out yet be sure to go and see my last post available here). By introducing a sense of mystery, intrigue and discovery you can actually create a more engaging course for the learner.

One way of introducing Easter Eggs in E-Learning is through the medium of popular culture. I’ve worked on several courses where we had permission to mimic the names of famous celebrities in the course (or slightly change them). Those boring and dull cut out characters become a lot more interesting when they’re called ‘Polly Darton.’

Narrative is another great example; I always bang on about how much time you should spend working with your text and using Easter Eggs requires you to do that. Make sure that you think about how it’s possible to integrate popular culture references through your text or if that’s a step too far for your SME use facts about the company. I’ve used facts and figures about a company blended in to background images, think about when you have a scene or a background, you can have a poster with facts on that the learner can click on to look at. These are small simple things that promote the company and potentially their ‘values’ but give the learners a sense of ‘oh look, cool!’

Larger Easter Eggs are probably unrealistic within E-Learning as there simply isn’t the capacity, software or desire to create them. But this doesn’t mean that small simple approaches cannot be taken to raise a small smile from the learner.  With the added benefits of perpetuating the dopamine cycle there is some real power to be had, consider adding the following ideas to your course:

  • Name your characters after celebrities – I’ve been through a Health and Safety course where each of the characters was named after Breaking Bad characters.
  • Hide small facts about the company on posters or leaflets throughout the module.
  • When you use scenarios – use familiar or popular culture settings for them.
  • Get creative. One idea might be to have the Easter egg display a redemption code for a free drink or treat, redeemable at the Training/HR Department.
  • Or maybe each Easter egg contains the clue to a riddle that leads to another.
  • Use video, if a user finds an Easter Egg that you’ve hidden you can support this by changing the media used to support a nice change of pace to the content.

Think about Easter Eggs the next time you’re crafting your course, it’s just another small way to introduce game content into your work.

Have a great week all, I’ll be back at the start of next week to post an article featuring a new game and what we can learn from it!



  1. I love all your post! I too am inspired by games specifically game design and mechanics.
    I am currently a learning content developer, previously an elementary school computer instructor, I fell in love with teaching and how learner’s learn. In order to engage the new generations of learner’s and cater to their needs and craving for mobile learning and interaction I begin to venture into gamification. I am an avid gamer myself playing mostly MMO like Guild wars 2 for 2 years, the game mechanics from the game has inspired me in many ways.
    I wrote a post about it here http://tinyurl.com/gw2learning
    One request I may ask, what tools do you use to create your e-learning? I am exploring Articulate storyline 2, it will be nice for you to share a demo like the one you mentioned in the Paper Please article.
    Thanks and keep up the good writings!


    • Thank you for the kind words – I do indeed use Articulate Storyline 2 although my passion is truly on the writing behind the development now. I would highly recommend picking up the trial and checking out the community there, it’s fantastic.

      I was also a big MMO player, I joined WoW during the beta and played on the US servers as they got the release first.

      I’ll be sure to check out the post and once again thank you for the kind words.


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