Expanding the Universe

Or ‘How we can expect developers to make games more social into 2010 and beyond

Some time ago now I spoke at an event in Marlow called ‘Six Degrees of Social Media’ – I talked through couple of social media for business case studies (mainly those of my own), and made it clear to the attendees that if there was a place for an online outreach programme within their business, then they should do it.
Obviously, the explanation was a bit more detailed than that, but you get the idea.

Anyway, after the talk (and subsequent Q&A), I remember getting into a lengthy conversation about how you could use hidden elements within video games to drive the gamer’s experience further into other mediums. The result of which would, in turn, either unlock further gameplay features or maybe, just simply expand the online world within which you’re playing.

Which brings me to Batman: Arkham Asylum

Arguably one of the best games to be released this year, Arkham Asylum is not some lame attempt at a movie tie-in, oh no. Instead what we have here is a well thought out action adventure game set inside Gotham’s very own institute for the criminally insane. With an original (and remarkably well-written) story, Arkham is a game that stretches across many different genres taking inspiration from such games as the Grand Theft Auto series, Ultimate Spider-Man and even Eternal Darkness.

One of the best parts of the game is that of the character of The Joker. Maniacal, murderous and just plain hilarious, the clown-faced villain is always with you – – he’s taken over the asylum you see, and as such has access to both the asylum tannoy and video screens. At one point, towards the end of the game during one of the Scarecrow sequences, a Joker ventriloquist dummy appears on screen and happens to mention a very specific URL.

The script is from a cut scene and as such, I can’t go back and replay it. But I think it goes something like this:

“If you think you’re going crazy and are in need help, then why not try www.ithinkimgoingcrazyanddressedlikeabat.com/idiot – BAH HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!”

See that URL?
Yes. That one.

The puppet says it so quickly (and so quietly), that if you’re not paying attention, you miss it. In fact, I did miss it the first time I played that section, but thanks to a rather unfortunate turn of events, I was forced to play through a second time.

Miss it again, I did not.

Leaning over to my Mac (I was 2screening, as usual), I typed the URL in from memory quick and was suddenly whisked away to quite possibly the most awesome website I have ever visited…

This, Ladies and Gentlemen, is – believe it or not – a user-generated ‘Easter Egg’. Possibly even the first ever UGC easter egg at that! In the website-owner’s own words:

“Many of you have written to say hello, and many more of you have written a few encouraging words… all the emails I’ve gotten have been positive and friendly. You’re a wonderful bunch of crazy bats!


The number one question seems to be, “Are you affiliated with Rocksteady or Eidos?” The answer is “no.” I’m just a fan who found this URL like any of you, except that when I went looking, the domain was still unregistered.


The number two question is, “How come Rocksteady or Eidos did not register it first?” The answer is, “I have no idea!” But I’m glad they didn’t, as it’s given me a chance to virtually meet and greet a lot of great people!”


So even thought Eidos went as far as to start such pre-sales online activity such as Arkham Care and Gotham City Digital, they actually managed to miss the one URL that appears in game. Astonishing.

Anyway – to my point…

One of my colleagues over at 1000heads recently blogged about the excitement born out of the ‘easter egg‘, the notion being that just by being ‘in the know’ about a hidden secret within something like a DVD or a video game (or even a fast food menu), you suddenly feel like being part of something incredibly exclusive.

Including such things in the video games of the future (given that we’re now talking about a multi-billion dollar industry), is only going to become more and more commonplace as we move into 2010.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait 😉