For years, the 1978 game Adventure has been credited in popular culture for containing the world’s first in-game Easter egg. Not long ago, it was suggested that a game called Video Whizzball might actually hold that honor, but generally speaking, it was accepted that no game released before 1978 contained an Easter egg.
However, evidence suggests that another game may have beaten both of those titles to the historic punch.
During an interview with Atari engineer Ron Miller, former vice president of game publishing at Microsoft, Ed Fries, was surprised to hear Miller mention that he had once developed an accessible trick for the 1977 arcade title Starship 1 that, when found, would grant the player ten additional free games.
“That was the first and only game that I ever programmed and I think it was maybe one of the first games with a backdoor in it,” said Miner. “I didn’t tell people about this, even within Atari, for at least 30 years, but I had some code in there that if you did a certain sequence of controls it would say ‘Hi Ron!’ and give you 10 free games.”
Amazed, Fries attempted this trick for himself and found that if the player holds down the phaser and start button at the time that they insert a coin into the machine, they will see the “Hi Ron!” message and be rewarded with 10 additional lives.
By all accounts, this means that Starship 1 does contain the first Easter egg in video game history. However, you could make the argument that the trick required to unlock the additional lives also means that Starship 1 could be credited with containing the first cheat code in video game history as well.
That’s a pretty impressive legacy for a game that was loosely based on Star Trek ship designs, contained a singular goal, and has been largely forgotten by history until these recent revelations.