While playing the video game Fallout, junior Taelon Ratliff noticed a Futurama reference—a frozen dog named Seymour. Ratliff noticed a trend of hidden messages and recurring images in films and video games called Easter eggs and became inspired to create a website dedicated to them.
Ratliff created and named his website Wild Wasteland after Fallout which helped inspire the site originally. In Fallout, the term “Wild Wasteland” represents the addition of Easter eggs to the game.
Ratliff’s website will launch as a beta in January.
“I was so bored in my high school psychology class, and I was playing some video game at the time like Call of Duty or Fallout and started googling Easter eggs from the game,” Ratliff said.
Ratliff became interested in Easter eggs during his senior year of high school. For example, Raiders of the Lost Ark creators disguised Star Wars characters C-3PO and Darth Vader as hieroglyphics.
Ratliff couldn’t find a website with a comprehensive list of Easter eggs.
“I was super into the website Genius for music lyrics,” Ratliff said. “I thought, ‘Why isn’t there a Genius for Easter eggs? Why isn’t there a website all about Easter-egg-related things?’”
Genius provides music-lovers with explanations of song lyrics and allows users to post their own insights on the site. Ratliff modeled his website based on this format.
Ratliff’s work on the site began during his freshman year at Emerson. However, he was unfamiliar with coding and the process of creating a functioning website. He searched for a class or program on campus that could help him. Ratliff found a program designed to help student entrepreneurs called Emerson Launch. He met with Director of Emerson Launch Sanjay Pothen.
“Taelon told us he wanted to do it because he would be disappointed if someone else did it and didn’t do it right,” Pothen said.
Emerson Launch helped Ratliff turn the idea for the website into a reality.
Wild Wasteland will allow users to search for specific media, such as a movie or game, and see posts written about the film’s Easter eggs. Users can filter posts based on date published and number of likes.
Wild Wasteland will also launch with a mobile website that enables users to upload Easter eggs as soon as they discover them. Emerson Launch also assisted with this element of the site.
“Emerson has been helping me out through all the legal stuff, all the business stuff,” Ratliff said. “I’ve learned so much.”
Pothen said Ratliff’s unique idea clearly showed his passion for creating this site.
“We’ve been really impressed with his level of maturity,” Pothen said. “It’s exciting to see him turn this seed of an idea into a reality.”
The website’s development began by gauging public interest in the idea. He turned to Reddit and other websites where people already posted about similar topics. He began to message people about the idea, receive positive feedback, and connect with individuals who would use the site.
“I think Easter eggs are neat. If I was browsing and found this website, I’d use it,” Bobby Wilson, Emerson Esports organization member, said.
The design process began after a series of successful tests. Emerson Launch gave Ratliff MadValley Labs Co-Founder Garrick Gauch as a mentor. Gauch’s technical agency specializes in website and app production and worked to make Ratliff’s process as cost-effective as possible. Ratliff sold his father’s house after his death and used all of the money to create the website.
Ratliff designed the look of the website in conjunction with MadValley Labs prior to beginning work on the software behind it. The site’s layout resembles a blog
, with posts in the center and clickable content in the sidebar. It is currently in the coding process.
“I hope he gets a lot out of this from a learning perspective—that’s the most important [thing] for me,” Gauch said.
Ratliff hid stickers of the website’s logo, a broken Easter egg, around Emerson’s campus. He will post stickers featuring QR codes linked to the website closer to the launch.
“You’ll be able to find whatever you’re looking for,” Ratliff said. “It’ll be like a giant Wikipedia for Easter eggs.”