Google Pac-Man Project – A Good or Bad Idea?

Design & Style Logo & Brand review

Pacman Gaming ConsolesPac-Man is one of the most famous and celebrated video games of all time. It was an integral part of many people's childhood. Most of us grew up with this game, spent hours playing this game and quite simply, loved this game.

Pac-Man is an arcade game that was developed by a Japanese company called Namco and it was first released in Japan on May 22nd, 1980. This year, in order to celebrate Pac-Man’s 30th anniversary, Google decided to release something special.

On any normal day, the Google website homepage consists of its colourful logo design and a search function. On special occasions such as Valentines day and Halloween, the Google team often releases different innovative Google logo designs on their website’s homepage. Up until recently, the most interactive logo design released by Google was a Halloween one where users could click to see more candy. This all changed on May 22, 2010 when Google launched their first-ever interactive and playable Google doodle : Pac-Man.

Here is what it looked like:

Google's PacMan Doodle

Google’s homepage version of Pac-Man was a fully-functional version of the iconic 1980s video game, complete with 255 levels. They even went so far as to recreate the bugs that appeared in the original game. For example, the original arcade game had a bug where if anyone completed the 255th level, they would hit what has become known as the "kill screen", where half the screen didn’t render properly and the machine essentially crashed. Google included this bug in their version.

Here is what the "kill screen" looked like:

Google PacMan's Kill Screen

The Kill Screen

So was it a good or bad idea that Google released this Pac-Man doodle?

A good idea?

RescueTime, a software tool used to measure how employees spend their time online, found that on an average day, most people spend an average of 11 seconds on the Google homepage for each search that they do. This average increased to about 36 seconds when Google placed the Pac-Man doodle on their homepage.

This simple Google doodle was a great success for Google. They broke new records in Google browsing and their idea quickly spread around the world. This one idea will undoubtedly add to Google increasing popularity worldwide and thus, reinforce their status as the leading search engine on the market today.

Furthermore, Pac-Man still has a hold on popular culture and by putting it on the Google homepage, Google allowed many people to relive their youth and have fun.

A bad idea?

Google’s release of Pac-Man on their website homepage lead to a loss of 4.82 million US dollars in productivity. The estimated total dollar loss was $120,483,000 based on the average Goole user salary rate being $25/hour. Thousands of employees spent their day reliving their childhood. This had a major consequence on the world economy and it has lead to an increase in the number of companies that have put bans on employee access to the internet during working hours.

Furthermore, some people were disturbed and annoyed by the Pac-Man sounds coming from the Google homepage. Some Firefox users even called tech support.

Here is a video of the Google Pac-Man doodle in action:

My opinion

Pac-Man was one of the first video games that I ever played (along with Space Invaders) and one of my all-time favourite video games. Being a child of the 80’s, I loved the cute yellow Pac-Man character that gobbled up all the dots as it avoided ghosts and made its way through the maze. It’s colorful and friendly design meant hours of entertainment and fun for me. So, do I think that what Google did was a good idea? Yes, of course. Even though putting together the Google Pac-Man doodle took a couple of months, I believe that it was worth it. I understand that on that particular day, many people wasted much of their employers time playing this Google doodle but how many employer hours are wasted every day on Facebook, Twitter and other video games. How is this any different? We are a computer culture and in recent years especially, with the advent of social media websites, we have become computer addicts. We must all come to terms with the fact that we love our computers. We work on them every day but they are also a major distraction in our lives. Society is an ever changing entity and I believe that we are slowly learning to both accommodate and capitalize on this fact.

Furthermore, PAC-MAN seems like a natural fit for the Google homepage and its image. Google is one of the most important cutting-edge businesses in the world. They have an enormous budget for innovation so they can push the envelop, challenge everyone and come up with controversial ideas; this being one of them.

Finally, yes, the release of the Google Pac-Man doodle did lead to a loss in productivity, but it also brought us back to our childhood. Their doodle reminded us of a time of pleasure and it smiles on our faces. Even if it was only for a few minutes, how can that be bad? Aren't happy employees more productive on a whole anyways?

What do you think?

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