Although you may be unfamiliar with the term “Google doodle,” you’ll almost certainly have seen what it refers to. On notable dates, such as holidays and anniversaries, Google works hard to modify its iconic logo to fit with the relevant theme – using cool design to both help put the brand firmly in the public eye and prompt users to investigate the subject.
Since the first Google doodle was created for the 1998 Burning Man Festival, the web giant has gone on to create regular updates – and, from 2010, interactive versions. It could be argued that these are the most innovative, because they allow users to “play” the doodle by clicking the mouse or computer keys. Here’s our pick of the ten best interactive Google doodles.
10. 2012 Olympics
The London 2012 Olympics spawned several doodles, as the variety of events and the spectacle of the Games provided a fertile ground for inspiration. The basketball doodle, pictured, was an interactive game that allowed you to shoot hoops by hitting the space bar (harder than it sounds!). Users could also try their hand at slalom canoeing, hurdles and soccer. A total of one billion games were played on these doodles over just four days.
The playable doodles were able to inform people about sporting events with which they may not necessarily have been familiar, and they allowed everyone, regardless of age or ability, to engage in a bit of button-mashing competitiveness for free. Google didn’t sponsor the 2012 Olympics, so the doodles it created were simply a tribute.
9. Halloween 2012
Halloween may be based on pagan rituals, but in recent times it has spawned the child-approved practice of getting free candy while dressing up and scaring the neighbors. Google captured the spirit of the day with its interactive Halloween 2012 doodle, which revealed ghosts, ghouls and monsters lurking within the houses when you clicked on the doors.
Although Halloween is welcomed more enthusiastically in the US, it is enjoyed globally, and so Google took advantage of this by launching the doodle in a selection of countries around the world. Doodle designs can be tailored to different countries, so users don’t end up facing something that means absolutely nothing to them.
8. 46th Anniversary of Star Trek
In September 2012, the 46th anniversary of Star Trek was marked with a Google doodle. Progressive from the beginning, the show has spawned a huge cult following and is a beloved piece of historic popular culture.
The doodle itself showed the iconic bridge of the USS Enterprise, with the letters of the Google logo staffing the stations. Users could click through multiple scenes to reveal hidden goodies that ought to have appealed to both “trekkies” and non-fans alike. Most people are at least aware of Spock, Kirk and their friends, so caricaturing them with the logo was a good way to reinforce both brands with some fun design.
7. Frank Zamboni’s 112th Birthday
In January 2013, Google tipped its hat to Frank Zamboni with a suitably wintry doodle. The Zamboni machine, created by its namesake, is a device that resurfaces ice rinks. It may be a little bit esoteric, but it’s a staple of any ice-based sports.
On what would have been the inventor’s 112th birthday, Google designed an interactive doodle that allowed users to smooth the ice using their very own ice resurfacer. The logo formed the area of ice, which could then be repaired. It provided a fun way of amusing people, while teaching them what the object on the ice actually was. We certainly learned something from it!
6. Alan Turing’s 100th Birthday
Alan Turing is not as well known as he should be, but Google remembered him through a doodle in June 2012. Turing created a machine that was an essential part of code breaking during World War II, and the doodle allowed people to play puzzles on a version of his invention.
The impact of Turing on the world of computing is sizable, and his knowledge helped make many technological advances possible. It was an effective way for Google to raise awareness about an unsung hero, while demonstrating that it doesn’t underestimate its audience’s intellect.
5. Jim Henson’s 75th Birthday
In September 2011, to commemorate what would have been Jim Henson’s 75th birthday, Google launched a Muppets-themed doodle, in which characters replaced the letters of the logo. Jim Henson, originator of The Muppets and Sesame Street, loved to entertain everyone, young and old. The shows he created hold a special place in many people’s hearts, and even today, some can still name their favorite characters and relay lessons they learnt from them.
The doodle in question replicated the puppets, and clicking on them invoked a response. It was a whimsical way to mark the birthday of a man who was committed to his craft with some fun design – even if the “E” does look a little evil!
4. Robert Moog’s 78th Birthday
Robert Moog created a synthesizer in the 1960s that went on to become a feature in songs by The Beatles, Kraftwerk and The Doors and has since garnered an avid fan base among professional musicians. In May 2012, its distinctive sound was replicated in a Google doodle that allowed people to play a tune, without being a maestro, whilst adjusting knobs and dials to get a different tone.
For the first time, Web Audio API was utilized in a doodle through Google Chrome, while other browsers used Adobe Flash to run the specification. The “instrument” promoted both Google and its browser, and at the same time it entertained users. A win-win situation!
3. Jules Verne’s 183rd Birthday
Arguably the father of science fiction, Jules Verne is best known as the author of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in 80 Days, and Journey to the Center of the Earth. His detailed stories have been favorites for well over a century, and they inspired Google to honor him with a stylized doodle on what would have been his 183rd birthday. It was launched in February 2011 and was designed to imitate the Nautilus, the submarine from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Users could pull a “lever” to plunge the vessel to the depths of the ocean. There, they could investigate all the different marine life by peering through the portholes, or, if viewing on a handheld device or laptop, could simply tilt the screen to explore different areas of the sea.
2. Year of the Snake
To celebrate 2013, the Year of the Snake, Google created a doodle that featured Snake, the cult classic game that’s found on most Nokia cell phones. The Google logo appeared in the background of the doodle, with the revamped game itself having a definite Chinese feel to its music, as well as dumplings for the snake to gobble.
Each year in the Chinese zodiac is allocated a different creature, and people born within the timeframe are said to exhibit certain personality traits. This doodle was shown in several countries in the Far East that also observe the Chinese Zodiac. And in case you were wondering, the characteristics of someone born in the Year of the Snake include endurance, planning, and application.
1. Pac-Man’s Anniversary
In May 2010, Google globally launched its first interactive doodle in order to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Pac-Man. An icon of the 1980s, the Pac-Man game resonated with people who remembered playing it in arcades and on their home computers – although, thanks to Google, even the uninitiated could have a go at the addictive time-waster.
Players could cruise their little yellow friend around the maze, which was designed to resemble the Google logo. The doodle reinforced the Google and Pac-Man brands while entertaining and amusing the demographic (even if managers were less impressed with the wasted office hours!). It was a great way to keep users on the Google homepage for a little longer, before they actually carried out the search they came there to do. If you fancy trying your hand at any of the doodles featured here, visit www.google.com/doodles.