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Google's Olympics Doodles: The Inside Story

All you wanted to do was a simple Google search, and 20 minutes later you’re still trying to beat your best time — and your friend’s top score — on today’s Google doodle game, which puts you in the shoes of an Olympic hurdler racing for gold.

But this isn’t a rare story. People love to interact with Google’s doodles, and that’s exactly what the search engine giant wants.

“Many of our users do in fact joke that they spend all day playing with our interactive doodles, but that’s probably an exaggeration,” Sophia Foster-Dimino, one of Google’s doodle artists, told Mashable. “Nonetheless, people have spent tons of time with our interactive doodles – for example, users recorded an aggregate 5.1 years worth of music playing with the Les Paul doodle, and recorded 56.899 years of music playing with the Moog doodle.”

Although the true popularity of the hurdle doodle is too soon to tell, Google has been “thrilled” with the results so far and noted a high number of people sharing the results with friends.

SEE ALSO: Shoot Hoops With Tomorrow’s Interactive Google Doodle
“Interactive doodles are very popular, especially when people have a chance to share what they’ve created,” Dimino said. “But we also get a lot of positive feedback for some of our beautiful static doodles, including recent ones we’ve done for Gustav Klimt, Amelia Earhart, Howard Carter, Robert Doisneau and Mary Blair.”

Meanwhile, some users on Tuesday tried to hack the hurdle doodle by adding Javascript that makes the runner go significantly faster.

“When planning interactive doodles, we do take ‘cheating’ into account and try to minimize it as much as is reasonably possible,” Dimino said. “Our hope is that people will want to play a fair game, but we also understand that for some people cheating is in fact an engineering challenge — its own kind of programming Olympics.”

Another way gaming fans are adding a touch of customization to Google doodles is by adding a gamepad controllers to computers. A Google engineer details how to do so here.

Although the doodles are typically a surprise to web users on the day they are revealed, the Google team — in many cases — have been working on the designs for months.

“We usually plan doodles at least three months in advance, but in the case of the Olympics, we started thinking about what to do more than half a year ago,” she added. “For some doodles that we do every year such as Mother’s Day, we can even start brainstorming them a year early.”

Others require a quick turnaround: “For example, in the recent javelin doodle for the Olympics, we made a subtle change in the background halfway through the day to celebrate the landing of the Mars Curiosity rover.”

Google still has “lots in store still” for its Olympic series, including an interactive basketball doodle to coincide with the men’s basketball quarterfinals.

Samantha Murphy
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