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Insert Coin, Play Pac-Man — In The Google Logo! A 30th Anniversary Tribute

Over the years, I’ve played Pacman on platforms from the original coin-operated arcade game, to my PC, my Xbox, my PSP, my Nintendo DS and the iPhone. I never expected I could add playing Pacman inside the Google logo to the list. Now I can, and so can you, in a special Google “Doodle” out today.

Today’s Google Pacman logo goes far beyond any special logo that Google has done before. Believe me, I know. I’ve been up close and personal with Google logos as part of my recent story, Those Special Google Logos, Sliced & Diced, Over The Years. This is the first time people have been able to interact with the logo. To play a freakin’ game!

It’s in honor of the 30th anniversary of Pacman (or Pac-Man, for purists who prefer the hyphenated spelling). Pacman launched on May 22, 1980 in Japan, then came to the US in October of that year.

But today’s May 21st! Google’s a day early!

Yes, but that’s so the logo can run for a full two days from when it went live at 8AM Pacific today. That’s plenty of time for anyone who wants to test their skills battling against Inky (the blue one), Blinky (red), Pinky (seriously?) and Clyde (orange) and reach the end, level 256. That level shows what’s known as the “kill screen,” one only partially rendered due to a programming bug in the original Pacman. The Google-version recreates this.

To play, click on the “insert coin” button that’s below the search box and to the right of the “Google Search” button. That’s another Google first. Normally the right-hand button says “I’m Feeling Lucky” and when pushed, automatically takes you directly to the first site that Google otherwise would have listed as part of your search results. Google’s had its quirky “I’m Feeling Lucky” button since the very beginning. It has never been replaced, until now.

You can also play by doing nothing for 10 seconds. After that time, the game will automatically begin.

Google’s had an animated logo before, exactly once, on January 4 of this year. That was in honor of Sir Issac Newton’s birthday and showed an apple falling from a tree (our Google’s Issac Newton Apple Tree Logo story has a video of this, or you try it yourself by clicking on the archived logo here, at Google).

An apple falling is a far cry from today’s interactive glory. Behind the scenes is Googler Marcin Wichary, a senior user experience designer and Pacman lover. He handled the programming, working with Google logo artist — “doodler” — Ryan Germick.

By the way, get a high score? Make a screenshot. There’s no high scores leaderboard, Google tells me. Darn. It would have been pretty cool to leave your initials on the Google logo.

Happy Birthday, Pacman!

Postscript: Click Insert Coin twice for two player mode with Ms Pacman (via @madhava). At the same time! To control Ms Pacman, use the W for up, S for down, A for left and D for right (via Josh Weinberger & others). On the iPhone or iPad? You can play there, too. Just swipe with your finger in the direction you want to go. It works — barely.

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