A viral TikTok reminds us that the chap who created Xbox also created bread from 4,500-year-old Egyptian yeast

Sourdough Loaf with the X symbol
(Image credit: BBC Good Food)

What you need to know

  • A video on TikTok by creator Adrianna Pater has racked up 3.5m views in 24 hours with an interesting piece of Xbox trivia.
  • Seamus Blackley the man behind the design of the Xbox console, also baked a 4500-year-old Egyptian sourdough. 
  • The short video pokes fun at the similarity of the Xbox symbol to sourdough bread.

Gaming and carbs go together like yin and yang, and next time you're chowing down on your favorite gaming snack, you can think about this interesting bit of Xbox trivia brought to my attention by Adrianna Peter on TikTok, whose video on the creator of Xbox's other eccentric hobby of baking sourdough had racked up over 3.5 million views in the space of 24 hours.

The story is a simple but fascinating one. Seamus Blackley, known for designing the groundbreaking 2001 Xbox, is not only a video game luminary but also an Egyptologist and a fervent baker. His special interest led him to take samples of yeast from ancient Egyptian pottery and bake his own unique sourdough bread. 

Is the Xbox symbol inspired by sourdough?

(Image credit: Adrianna Pater on TikTok)

Although Blackley's Egyptian baking escapades aren't breaking news, the TikTok video has sparked renewed interest, especially with its playful comparison between the iconic Xbox logo and the X-shaped cuts on sourdough loaves. While the similarity is undeniable, the truth is a bit less poetic.

The Xbox X symbol didn't draw inspiration from sourdough, but rather emerged from the name 'DirectX Box.' Crafted from Dell PC spare parts, the original Xbox prototype underwent various name changes before settling on Xbox, complete with its distinctive acid green colors to boldly differentiate it from the PlayStation. This brand evolution predates Blackley's ancient sourdough experiments, and the more rounded X symbol only made its appearance in 2005 with the launch of the Xbox 360.

Seamus Blackley, the man, the myth, the master baker

Seamus Blackley's Egyptian loaves (Image credit: Seamus Blackley)

Seamus Blackley, an enigmatic figure in Microsoft's lore, is more than just the man behind Xbox. His quirky baking pursuits, are rooted in his unconventional approach to life. Rather than stumbling upon a sourdough recipe in a traditional cookbook, Blackley, with his penchant for Egyptology, deciphered the secrets through studying ancient hieroglyphs. The 2019 project, spanning a year, involved the meticulous extraction of yeast from 4,500-year-old Egyptian pottery.

Surprisingly, yeast can lay dormant for centuries, prompting Blackley to faithfully recreate the ancient recipe. Employing a 'fracking' method, he injected liquid into ceramic pots, extracting it with a syringe to preserve the ancient yeast. This yeast, lovingly revived with Emmer flour, a dense grain used by the ancient Egyptians, resulted in a true-to-form ancient sourdough loaf.

A lot of effort you may say, but Blackley was passionate about recreating the loaf exactly as it would have been intended by the ancient Egyptians, rather than using modern ingredients and methods resulting in an ancient sourdough imposter. Never one to mince his words, “People come out with a bad result and say, ‘Oh, look at this disgusting food, the ancient world must have been terrible,’ but anyone who’s studied this knows that’s utter bullshit,” says Blackley. “They were master bakers.”

Bill and Seamus having a loaf of fun (Image credit: Microsoft)

While I knew nothing of Blackley's exploits as a baking enthusiast prior to this enlightening TikTok, the quotes I uncovered from him around the project raised a chuckle due to their similarity to other famous Blackley pearls of wisdom. Another tale from the vault of Blackley is how his lack of filter got him in hot water with both Bill Gates and Steve Balmer when he was quoted as comparing the hobby of video gaming to masturbation. “Everybody does it. Nobody wants to talk about it.” 

His controversial quote was in regard to multiplayer gaming, which was where Xbox stood out against its competitors and carved its way into the console industry. His comments weren't completely off the mark either, gaming amongst adults has often been a taboo subject outside of the hardcore gaming circles we know on Twitter and Reddit and other corners of the internet. A pursuit for children, despite the average age of a gamer in the US being 35 years old, as reported in research by the Entertainment Software Association.

The best story since sliced bread

In the end, Seamus Blackley's story is a fun tale of a gaming innovator and his limitless culinary curiosity. And I couldn't resist looking further into this legend of gaming and carbs. It's certainly another window into the creative minds of those steering our favorite consoles. In the world of Xbox, and indeed life itself, it's the unforeseen combinations that often yield the most intriguing and... delicious results.

Jennifer Young

Jen is a News Writer for Windows Central, focused on all things gaming and Microsoft. Anything slaying monsters with magical weapons will get a thumbs up such as Dark Souls, Dragon Age, Diablo, and Monster Hunter. When not playing games, she'll be watching a horror or trash reality TV show, she hasn't decided which of those categories the Kardashians fit into. You can follow Jen on Twitter @Jenbox360 for more Diablo fangirling and general moaning about British weather.