Just three days after the launch of The New Tetris, a Nintendo 64 update to the classic puzzler, hackers broke into the game and found something startling buried deep within the code. Game developers often hide strange messages in their games: usually dedications to family, taunts aimed at curious hackers, crude jokes, or corny sci-fi references. It’s basically digital graffiti, never meant to be seen by anyone. But it was something else entirely. It was a furious rant of epic proportions, in which the author personally attacked his fellow developers and outright declared the game to be crap.
You can read the full rant on The Cutting Room Floor, but highlights include claims that the game’s “useless” producer spent his days playing StarCraft instead of working; that a designer threw his fellow developers under the bus to avoid upsetting Nintendo; and how the finished game was a disappointment. “This game sucks,” the author wrote. “The music is great, but the game itself isn’t how we wanted it unfortunately.” It’s not all negative, however. The writer also thanks and praises many people and seems to have finally enjoyed his years at developer H2O Entertainment.
This long rant, the infamous Tetris Rant, was written by programmer David Pridie, who sadly passed away a few years after the game launched at just 29. memorial site written by a close friend and the main artist of The New Tetris. “But few people are aware of a secret message he slipped into the final code of a game he worked on. At the time, he had quite a bit of hot water with Nintendo. He thought it was his little piece of immortality, and no it would be found for years, if at all.”
He was wrong that no one found him for years, but he was right that he was becoming immortal – as this article, written more than two decades after the fact, perfectly illustrates. The Tetris Rant is one of my favorite bits of deep gaming lore, but it’s just one of many examples of weird, bitter, angry, or intriguing messages left in the finished code of video games. It’s not even the only rant. In Iron tank, a World War II-themed NES shooter, coder Yukio “KNT” Kaneda wrote, “It’s the programmer, KNT. Those Nintendo idiots are fucking assholes! Die! Do bankrupt! I hate the Famicom!”
In Erika to Satoru no Yume Bouken, an NES adventure game, a disgruntled coder known only as Hidemushi has hidden an incredible message in the code. “First, Kaoru Ogura, who ran away with a guy in the middle of the project. Yes, you bastard. Don’t show up at the office without showering after having sex 6 times the night before. Next , Tatsuya Ōhashi Arriving late on the day we ship the ROM You can give me all the porn you want: I don’t forget this one Yamagishi, who has sworn to leave the soaplands (Japanese brothels) until until the project is complete, get out there now.”
Some are more measured. “I programmed this game,” reads a hidden message in the 2001 platformer Kirikou. “If only there were more serious designers and less chaotic planning, it would have gone better.” In a shooter called Feedback, released in 1988 for the MSX2, a message from an anonymous coder reads: “Man, I’m so broke. Normally an employee would be entitled to ¥200,000 a month for so many ‘overtime. In reality, I’m getting more than ¥100,000.” It’s just one line from a 3,000 word screed about the author’s experience in making the game, ending with them calling the company’s president a “stingy miser”. for only giving them 2 days off.
Some of them make The Tetris Rant seem tame by comparison. There are many more examples out there, all immortalized on The Cutting Room Floor wiki and regularly shared via this brilliant Twitter bot. There is something fascinating, and slightly voyeuristic, about reading them. It’s like pulling back the curtain and revealing what the people who make games really think. It’s also a reminder that these things aren’t created by anonymous, monolithic companies: they’re made by people who get angry like all of us. But thanks to the nosy pirates, their secrets couldn’t last.
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